Sunday, 27 March 2011

Skye and Loch Cill Chroisd

Turning left at Broadford, from the main A87 road to Portree, is one of the most scenic roads on the island. The B8083 weaves its way slowly around loch Slapin before climbing the hills to end at the little harbour village of Elgol.

I will never forget the first time I took that road on my motorbike in ’75. The scenery really is something else. Even my photographs from the year I spent on Skye dont do the journey justice.

Its worth stopping at the little grave yard of Cill Chriosd not far from Broadford. It offers splendid views of Beinn na Caillich.

The ruined church is hidden behind a wall of ivy. Its believed that Christianity was preached from this hillock as early as the 600’s. This church was used until 1840when it was replaced by a newer one in Broadford.

Skye marble was excavated in the hills to the east of Loch Cill Chriosd. This photo captures some of the light and shadow as the clouds skim the hill tops.

A late spring rainbow appears as the last of the year’s yellow flag iris starts to drop its petals.

However my favourite time of the year at the loch is in winter when the reeds have died back and turned yellow and gold. Beinn Na Caillich is clearing its head of clouds in this early morning scene.

Frost is still on the shore of Loch Cill Chroisd early on a cold but sunny winter’s day.

Bla Bheinn, sprinkled with snow, is quietly reflected on the golden edged loch

The cloud clearing from Bla Bheinn as rain still falls on its reflection in Loch Cill Chroisd

And the views get better as you go....

Saturday, 26 March 2011

Skye, Broadford and Beinn na Chaillich

Heading further down the main A87 road you will come to Broadford. Its not as pretty looking as Portree but its my favourite village on Skye as it is less busy than the island’s capital town. You cant help but notice Beinn na Chaillich looming impressively over the Broadford.

It was a lovely summers evening and I had just finished work, scoffed a greasy fish supper, and was wondering what to do with myself. I had often looked at Beinn na Chaillich and wondered what it would be like trying to run up its rocky sides.

That night I thought it would be a great way to work off the fats of the slowly digesting lump of fries lying in my stomach, so without further ado, I was off at a trot and heading for the hills.

The fries bounced gently in my gut as I jogged along the road towards Old Corry. Then they turned a couple of times as I crossed the heather towards the base of the Caillich. I could feel my internal digestive engine working like a well filled washing machine as I worked myself into a lather on the ever steepening slopes. When I started jumping from stone to stone on the steep convex sides my digestive juices really started to flow. It was now becoming hard work as my supper seemed to enter the spin cycle.

The rocky flanks of the Chaillich are steeper than you think ..could they avalanche ?

Eventually the slope started to ease and so did the weight in my stomach.
As I looked back down the slope towards loch Cill Chriosd, I could feel the chips sink slowly to my lower intestines.

A little further on and I paused to look back over Broadford. It was a wonderful view on such a beautiful summers evening but I was a little surprised there was not a breath of wind .... yet.

Finally I made the summit and it surprised me that it was only a couple of hours since eating the first few chips. The cairn looked as big as the mound of fries did when I first unwrapped my supper in village far below.

Looking over the red Cuillin towards Portree I though I could feel the first puffs of wind billowing softly in my face in the cooling evening air.

As the sun started to set over the distant Cuillin, I couldn’t help but wonder if that was a muffled rumble of thunder I heard ?

Things can change quickly on the Scottish hills. You have to be prepared for all kinds of weather and emergencies.

A little later, I ran all the way back to Broadford with a skip in my step. I felt a lot lighter and happier following my exercise. It was now time for a pint or three in the Dunollie before bed.

The next morning I stopped and smiled to myself as I took this photo of the Chaillich reflected in Loch Cill Chriosd. I was thinking of the old legend that there is a Norwegian Princess buried under the summit cairn.

Hmmmm ..I know there is something else buried under that pile of stones

Tuesday, 22 March 2011

Skye and Ord

It was the splendid views from the beach at Ord looking over to Bla Bheinn (or Blaven as its often refered to) that inspired me to paint this watercolour

Im also pleased to see that the seakayakphoto blog of my brothers is up and running again :-D

Skye and the Torskavaig Road

Heading further down the road towards Armadale you pass the Isle Ornsey and its light house. On the other side of the Sound of Sleet is the entrance to Loch Hourn. Beinn Sgritheall is the mountain that dominates the horizon.

I found that even spending a year on Skye, it wasn’t enough time to get all the photographs that I wanted for my collection. The area around Armadale is missing, partly due to the trouble of having to navigate a major roadworks on the road and when I did go there , the weather didn’t to the scenery the justice it deserved. This is the only photo I have of Armadale sea front.

However there is a single track road that runs the length of the Armadale peninsula on its west side and I had more luck on that route. It offers great views towards the Cuillin hills and Bla Bheinn.Its a very narrow twisting road that has some very steep gradients on it so its really only suitable for smaller vehicles, but the views are great.

Looking across Torskavaig Bay towards the Black Cuillin of Skye.

The sandy beach at Torskavaig

The Black Cuillin seen across Loch Eishort from the village of Ord

Bla Bheinn from the village of Ord

Sunday, 20 March 2011

Skye and the road to Armadale

Heading back to Broadford on the main road, the next road on the left is the main road to Armadale. There is a ferry terminal there which connects with Mallaig on the mainland.

A tip if you use such devices as Sat Nav etc, but many people from the south set their route to Portree on Skye and unknown to them it calculates the shortest route which is via the ferry from Mallaig to Armadale. They arrive at Mallaig before they realise their mistake and then find the next ferry is in the morning so have to backtrack a hundred miles or so to cross by the Skye Bridge. I know several southerners who have done this so know its a common error.

When I stayed in Broadford I often got up for the sunrise and headed for the Armadale road. The sunrises over Loch Airigh on the moors and Loch Na Dall on the coast were stunning, especially in the winter when the sun rose around eight AM.

Saturday, 19 March 2011

Skye, Kylerhea and Sgurr na Coinnich

Around half way from the Skye bridge to Broadford you will see a narrow single track road branch off to the left. It heads up over the hills to Kylerhea where there is still a small summer ferry crossing the Kyle Rhea sound to the mainland near Glenelg.

There is a short walk near Kylerhea that leads to an Otter Haven, an observation post overlooking the shore. You can often see otters swimming in the sea here. I saw the otters on several occasions but always found it a bit disappointing as the hut is so far from the water that binoculars are a must.

The trip to Kylerhea doesn’t disappoint as it winds its way up the hills then crests the Bealach Udal which offers great views over to Glenelg.

Looking back down the single track road towards the islands of Pabay, Scalpay, Longay and Raasay in the distance with its distinct peak of Dun Caan.

Looking towards Glenelg from the Bealach Udal. The steep slopes of Sgurr na Coinnich are on the left. I climbed to its summit twice during by stay on Skye. The first time was when the tops were shrouded in mist.

Looking over the Bealach Udal towards Ben Aslak from half way up Sgurr na Coinnich

Looking towards Glenelg from half way up Sgurr na Coinnich. The photo was taken just below cloud level. I climbed the rest of the way in a blanket of mist.

I didn’t have a map or compass with me as it was a spur of the moment walk, so followed my instinct. I hoped the north westerly wind wouldn’t change direction as I watched the way the cotton tuffs were blowing and kept the wind in my face to hopefully prevent me walking in a circle.

I made the summit but there was no views. I memorised the slopes and steep parts on the way up as there was no path to follow either. I returned safely too but I wouldn’t recommend others doing it without a compass or map. I should mention that I had studied the OS map closely and even surveyed the steep slope from the bealach the week before when the summit was clear, so knew what to expect and look out for.

Because I had missed out on the views because of the mist, I returned the next evening and it was completely different conditions. The views were superb.

This one is looking over Kyleakin and the Skye bridge towards the Kyles of Lochalsh on the mainland.

But the best view was undoubtedly looking towards the main Cuillin hills over on the west.

Friday, 18 March 2011

Skye and heading for Broadford

Most visitors to the Island will make a right turn once they cross the Skye bridge and start heading for Broadford ,Armadale , Portree, or wherever. The road is quite straight and fast so people tend to miss the quiet backwater and little bays of the coast before the islands airstrip. Its when I take the time to explorer places like those bays that time seems to slow down again.

I find that a camera is a great tool for relieving stress. It forces me to slow down and look for the scenic parts of the world. Nowadays, I can’t imagine going a walk without a camera. It would be like a fisherman going to a loch without a rod or a golfer going to a golf course without a set of clubs.

A couple of the little bays heading for Broadford after crossing the Skye Bridge.

Lovely views start opening up of the Red Cuillin and hills around Broadford as you drive along the road. Its not always lovely sunsets.. in fact .. its often just a sea of mist.. but when it is clear it is wonderful.

However when the sky starts to turn red at the end of the day.. you know you are in paradise.

Thursday, 17 March 2011

Kyleakin and long days of long ago

There are some journeys that we will never forget during our lifetime. One that I will never forget, was my first visit to the Isle of Skye. It was in 1975 and I travelled from Ayrshire with my elder brother and a friend. Our transport was by our motor bikes which were among some of the first Japanese machines to hit the UK.

I drove a Yamaha DT175 Trail bike and felt like I was sitting on an Easy Rider hog special. It took from very early morning to late at night to reach Skye. In those days it was still an Island. Access was by a ferry from the Kyle of Lochalsh to Kyleakin. In fact we went on a couple of ferries as the bridge at Ballahulish was not yet built.

There was always long queues of cars waiting to cross by ferry and we loved driving past them on our bikes because the ferry crew fitted us between the cars already on board. However it didn’t stop harassed drivers still waiting in the queue from throwing us the dirty looks much loved by rebellious youngsters

In those days, time seemed to last forever, just like that journey to Skye. Now it only takes around five hours to do the same journey in this modern fast paced world. Sadly, those long days of old when time seemed to stand still also seem to go much faster.

I cant decide whether it is because Im older or whether it is the modern pace of life that has shortened my days but I want to find a way to slow things down again so I can enjoy the scenery passing by instead of watching just a blur flash by. I have had enough of fast cars and fast foods to last the rest of my life.

I work in an industry where everyone wants everything done yesterday and they start throwing tantrums if its not done. Its all my fault that it wasn’t done even though Im positive they didn’t know what they wanted done in the first place. Im sure if I can get rid of that stress then my days will slow down to a pace that I can enjoy again.

Nowadays Kyleakin is just a quiet backwater. In fact many visitors to Skye hardly see it. In the days before the bridge, it was one of the busiest town on the Island as harassed drivers threw dirty looks at bikers as they queued the length of the town waiting on the ferry.

Looking across the harbour at Lochalsh towards Kyleakin on Skye. Most drivers turn right when the cross the bridge so don’t even know of its existence.

The ferry ramp is often covered in lobster pots and fish boxes. The queuing cars have long caught the last ferry home.

The local inhabitants must still reflect on those days of old. The passing visitors brought their bread and butter.

Now they have to fish for it. Its still a busy little fishing port on a good day

The ruins of Dunakin Castle must have see a lot of boats at anchor since the days the Viking longships moored in its shadow, before heading for the battle of Largs. That would have been a long slow journey too. I wonder if they suffered from industrial stress ?

Wednesday, 16 March 2011

The Magic of Skye

A couple of years ago, I thought I had won the lottery. No.... It felt better than winning the lottery.

The company I worked for asked if I wanted to do a year’s work on the Island of Skye. It had always been a dream of mine to retire there so I jumped at the chance. I wasn’t thinking about the work aspect. I was thinking about the photographic experience of capturing the Island in all kinds of weather and lighting conditions. I was dreaming of walks in the hills in the long light evenings of summer. I was longing for the peace and solitude of Broadford far away from the claustrophobic rat race of the city.

I hope to post many of the photos that I took of the sights that I saw as I made my way round the Island, by car, foot and boat. The magic journey starts on the mainland at the Kyle of Lochalsh.

Looking across Loch Alsh towards Sgurr na Coinnich on the east end of Skye

Boats moored at the Kyle harbour

The glass bottomed boat at the Kyle Pier. The Skye bridge in the background

The Skye bridge from the Kyle of Lochalsh

The Skye bridge bathing in the afterglow of a summer sunset