Friday, September 7, 2018

My Hike to The Old Man of Storr ~ Isle of Skye

The Trotternish Ridge and The Old Man

This is what I couldn't wait to see. The Old Man of Storr. Only, you have to hike up to it so I spent months hiking in Griffith Park so I wouldn't get half way up and have to turn around. It's rated "medium" difficulty but if you are completely out of shape (which I had been) it would be rated higher! I had sent photos of the actual hike (from the internet) to my parents and they decided to sit this one out.

It's only 4km but of course, it's up hill.

We'd seen it from the road on our way up to the Quiraing the night before and if you look closely you can see what looks like a little finger pointing up from the side of the mountain. It sure didn't look very far from this angle.

We knew it was supposed to start raining by about 1pm so I figured that I should leave no later 10am from the car park. It should only take a couple of hours. First breakfast. We headed just off the town square for a big Scottish Breakfast and I put a protein bar in my pocket. 

I knew I should be very hydrated but I also knew there would be no bathrooms and possibly nowhere to hide my fanny in an emergency bladder situation. So, I drank a ton of water before bed and then again when I woke up in the morning. I also made sure not to drink tea or coffee. For the most part it was a good plan. 

My parents dropped me at the bottom and headed to the grocery store and said they'd be back in a couple of hours to wait for me. Doubtful the phone would get a signal. 

It's kind of a perfect hike because it starts out with only a tiny incline. My boyfriend says to start at a grandma pace and then after a bit gradually pick up your pace. It's good advice. People were blowing past me in the beginning and I past them later.

Mind you, this was the second half of August, which I read is already considered going into fall. I had on a wool Hanro tank, a long sleeve zip neck ski t-shirt, a patagonia vest, wool leggings under my hiking pants and my lightweight down patagonia jacket. You can see that at this point I didn't need the fleece (which is tied around me) yet but with the cool breeze I definitely need the wool hat and scarf. (I got that hat for 5 pounds in Edinburgh!)

Already the views were beautiful!

The incline picks up a little but then it flattens out again at this gate.

Apparently, much of this area was forested but not with native trees so they were felled. Now they've started planting native trees as you can see indicated on the sign below.

This might have been the 3rd or 4th gate. When you hike in Scotland, always close gates behind you! Often you are keeping sheep out or in and protecting the land. 

Because this area flattens out it becomes quite muddy. My mom said later that the bottom of my hiking pants looked like I was working in the oil fields. They were black. Very boggy.

And now you head up.

Looking back down you can see the wet boggy area reflecting the light.

The views were gorgeous and thank goodness. It's the incentive I needed to keep going because at this point I was feeling it in my quads and calves. Thankfully, I had the added incentive that I'd told all my friends I was doing this hike! Of course, no one wants to have to tell folks they wimped out. It was all part of my master plan!

There was a tiny worry that I wouldn't even see the Old Man of Storr if it was too socked in with clouds or fog. On the way up you can't really see it anyway because of the angle but I finally caught a glimpse at some point and that gave me the energy to keep going. Obviously, the above vantage point was not it but you can see why I had a little concern.

Yay!!! You sort of have to get past it to really see it really well. The highest pointy part in this next photo is the Old Man of Storr and for size reference you can see tiny humans between the rock formations.

By this time, I was over the moon elated! I'd made it. It's not the longest hike but there is a bit of an incline. I knew at that point I could make it to the lookout where I'd seen so many photos taken, so I followed some other folks along a trail to the right of the Storr ...

This was it ... this is what I had done all those Griffith Park hikes for. This was the view of Skye I had hoped to see. Magnificent.

The Storr, which is made up of crumbling basalt, was created by a massive ancient landside! It's called the Old Man because the pinnacle is said to have a profile of a man. Maybe from the other side?

There were three young Frenchman trying to take a selfie on the lookout plateau. I offered them help and they reciprocated. As you can see, I was a little excited.

As you can also see, the wind was now blowing pretty hard!!

And then the rain started.

Climbing down off the plateau rain started to hit my face and glasses and the wind was crazy! I pulled a plastic rain poncho out of my pocket but the wind made it almost impossible to get over my head as it whipped around me! 

The wind was blowing everything sideways and I was getting all wet anyway! My clear plastic poncho was flapping about so crazily it was actually loud in my ears and doing nothing to help shield me from the rain. I must have looked like I was being attacked by a mad plastic garbage bag!

My glasses were completely covered with water and with what seemed to be plastic wings flapping about me, I couldn't see a thing. I figured I'd rather be wet than thrown down the mountain by my supposed rain protection so after couple hundred feet I ripping the thing off and shoved it in my pocket. 

At this point most everyone was trying to find the quickest way down and it was getting progressively muddier but I managed to find an actual trail!

Here are are a few video clips of the hike, after a couple of other snipets! As you can hear, the wind is hilariously loud on the video and I had to try to keep the camera from shaking! 

It was feeling hot with all the excitement and when the rain started to subside I finally pulled my hat off! I realized the hat hat been helpful in keeping my hair somewhat in control. By now I was just laughing my way down the mountain trying to be mindful of every step, as most accidents happen on your way down! 

Glaciers and lava flows have made Skye into a place of otherworldly beauty. 
I just love it!

Then light began to peak through the clouds. I was almost done.

And it was totally worth it.

My pastel of the Storr isn't finished but it's fun to play with! I might have to do an oil painting of it for my December art show!

Day dawns with a wind from the west
and clouds that sit halfway down the hill.
How long, my dear, have we known this place?
Let's say more than fifty years, to be safe,
fifty years, five decades, six hundred months plus,
and the weeks and the days and the hours
must accrue uncounted, for calculation
adds little to the balance of life's experience.

Things seen and done add to memory,
are shuffled like cards in a pack, 
come to the top in ways we can't determine.
Remember this then: that here we stand,
together, once and fifty times, and this remains.

~Colin Will
from The Night I Danced with Maya

Friday, August 24, 2018

Eilean Donan and Over the Sea to Skye - Magic Hour on Kilt Rock the Quiraing

Somewhere along the Scottish coast
And emerald island lies
And I will steer my sailing boat
Unto the Isle of Skye
~Andrew Peterson

Eilean Donan Castle

We'd left Inverness that morning and had already been to a highland games and driven through beautiful Glen Shiel. We were almost to the Isle of Skye but had to make one last stop! It's one of the most famous images of Scotland ... Eilean Donan.

My Travel Journal

The tide was high and so was the sun, so it wasn't exactly the optimal time for photographing the castle but still ... 

From their official website:

"The name Eilean Donan, or island of Donan, is most probably called after the 6th century Irish Saint, Bishop Donan who came to Scotland around 580 AD. There are several churches dedicated to Donan in the area and it is likely that he formed a small cell or community on the island during the late 7th century.

The first fortified structure was not built on the island until the early 13th century as a defensive measure, protecting the lands of Kintail against the Vikings who raided, settled and controlled much of the North of Scotland and the Western Isles between 800 and 1266. ...Over the centuries, the castle itself has expanded and contracted in size.

...Eilean Donan also played a role in the Jacobite risings of the 17th and 18th centuries, which ultimately culminated in the castle’s destruction…For the best part of 200 years, the stark ruins of Eilean Donan lay neglected, abandoned and open to the elements, until Lt Colonel John Macrae-Gilstrap bought the island in 1911. Along with his Clerk of Works, Farquar Macrae, he dedicated the next 20 years of his life to the reconstruction of Eilean Donan, restoring her to her former glory. The castle was rebuilt according to the surviving ground plan of earlier phases and was formally completed in the July of 1932."

It was a warm afternoon by Scotland's standards but even so we stopped for coffee in the visitor's center. There was also a good size gift shop. Not a bad view, eh?

My dad took this of me up on rock ...

It felt so nice walking out in the sunshine after being in the car and having a bit of crazy weather in and around Inverness.

If the castle seems familiar, it's been in many films including Highlander, James Bond-The World is Not Enough, Elizabeth the Golden Age and others. I believe it's also been on a whole host of items including cookie tins and postcards. You can tour the inside or even have a wedding there! Can you imagine?

We left the loveliness of the castle and went round a bend expecting that that was our last stop but then ...

Yet another beautiful view! I took probably 80 photos from this vantage point of the castle!  That would include this selfie with my iPhone -in my Edinburgh hat and Clan Cameron Scarf! (It was my Christmas Card last year.)

What could be more fitting music than the Skye Boat Song? Some of you may know the tune as the theme to Outlander but with different words. It's actually an old song about Bonnie Prince Charlie going "Over the Sea to Skye ...!" In fact, when I first watched Outlander I thought that sounds familiar. Well, I'd played the song on the harp when I was a wee lass! Well, maybe 11 or 12. 

This version is without lyrics but is so beautiful and gets me a little weepy. It also goes perfect with the scenery!

The weather on Skye as we drove onto the island was dreamy and magic hour seemed to stretch on and on! After you cross over the big Skye Bridge and drive along the main road you will come upon two smaller bridges side by side. The first you drive over ...

And if I recall correctly, most people just walk over the second.

As you can see, our first views of Skye were stunning!

Look at the beautiful heather!

Because we had such beautiful skies we took advantage of the moment! I'd seen the forecast for a blustery following day so I didn't want to take a chance on losing out on this glorious light! So, we blew past the town of Portree and our little AirBnB and continued on the little road north.

We stopped at Kilt Rock which is named for the sea the cliffs that look like pleats of a kilt! I couldn't quite see the bottom of the falls without falling over the rail so I stuck with this view! Not bad!

Across the road from the cliffs and sea ...

We then hopped back in the car to see if we could make it to the Quiraing before the sun went down! I had seen photos of it, films of it, and even helped a student who brought a Googled image do an acrylic painting of it!

We found a sign for the Quiraing and got on a rather small one lane road. "Are you sure this is right?" my dad asked. "Um, I don't know but ... let's see!"

We met some fuzzy friends along the way but the Quiraing is famous for its incredibly beautiful geological formations.

I love this photo below and had a few friends remark, that because the plant life look like miniature trees, the sheep looks enormous!

This next shot is out the windshield.You can see the road going up up up! We were hoping we were almost there and also hoping no one was heading back down!

Oh, hello.

And then .... tadaaaaaa!!! 

It was everything I hoped for. It was magnificent.

At this point, after taking in one of the most gorgeous views on the planet, we remembered we had a dinner reservation and had to get back to Portree. The summer is very VERY busy on Skye and so are the restaurants. On top of that, don't expect to find a last minute place to stay in the summer months. Many months ahead all the hotels were booked (except for some very swanky 5 star joints). We were lucky to find our AirBnB. So, plan ahead unless you want to just spend the day ... or bring a tent.

Our dinner was at Cuchullin Restaurant down in the main little square.

By the way, the Skye Red Ale was delicious. I think I had mussels and a fish cake. I remember whatever we had was great but I had such anticipation for my hike the next morning that it's a bit of a blur!

OH! And I've been so busy I forgot to mention I'm getting ready for a solo show in December! It's called "Over Time and Place: Five Decades." The latter part of the title referencing my birthday I'll be having exactly one week after my show. 

Anyway, I've gotten started on this piece which, coincidentally, I worked on last night and today! More work to do but the bones are there.


That's it for now! I can't believe I was in Scotland a year ago! Yep, I left for Scotland in August. Right now I'd be heading to Inverness. 

My next post is of my hike up to the Old Man of Storr! Definitely one of my biggest highlights of that trip ... or any trip!

Hope you are all doing well!
Blessings and light!