UKC

Scottish Highlands and Isle of Skye hiking trip - August 2023

New Topic
This topic has been archived, and won't accept reply postings.

Hi guys, it's my first post on the forum as I am trying to get a handle on what is undoubtedly a vast topic! 

In the last couple of years I have done some great trips in the UK - I am originally from South West Ireland - Tralee, Co. Kerry and have recently realised how diverse and amazing Britain is for hiking. I also purchased a BMW 640 earlier in the year and want to get in the thing on long road trips as much as I possibly can! Beats getting on a plane and getting screwed by the tanked pound!

In recent years I've done the following trips - mostly hitting the mountains with some scrambling (but mainly just strenuous hikes) but I am absolutely game for lower level hikes also. Happy to go longish distances and have done a couple of 15 milers. But I aim for about 12-15K as a good day out if there's decent elevation change and happy to go north of 20k with less up and down. I loved Haystacks, Helvellyn and Scafell (not Scafell pike) in the lake District but also enjoyed some lower level hikes like a nice pleasant walk around Ambleside via Wansfell pike for example. Stuff through forests and woodland bores me to death but I can take it as an essential part of a varied and interesting hike. Far too many walks in places like the Surrey Hills have these types of settings and I wish there were more interesting open air walks near where I am. 

Recent trips include: 

West Cork in Ireland, The Lake District, Peak District, Yorkshire Moors, Kerry in Ireland, various day trips from my home in Wimbledon to South Downs etc and next year I am planning 6 days in Cornwall, 6 days in Yorkshire Dales and at Christmas time I'm doing 5 days in Snowdonia.

So, my next big trip is going to be Scotland and Scottish Highlands seems like an obvious place to start. I wanted to spend most of it in Fort William but it looked like not a particularly attractive place to base myself for 11 or 12 nights so I figured I'd mix it up. I came up with the following itinerary:

3 nights in Pitlochry at the Knockendarroch Hotel (access to Cairngorms and it looks like a really neat little town - also hotel looks lush)

3 nights in Fort William at the Achintee farm hotel - obvs Ben Nevis but apparently there's loads in that region. 

5 nights in Isle of Skye at Cuilin Hills hotel in Portree - the obvious one which is not a long hike by any means - only looks about 7K is the Quiraing walk but absolutely spectacular.

I am looking for advice from those that have covered these areas what are the must see hikes in terms of spectacular setting and a feeling of remoteness? Also, I don't necessarily want to go from one spectacular "peak" to the next. I'm happy for random / interesting other walks in different landscapes and anything that is specific to a certain area that marks it out as unique for example. I really enjoyed walking in the Yorkshire moors with that big desolate feeling expanse of heathland. I am partial to lovely non "big day hiking" type chilled days too - Country houses are much of a muchness but Chatsworth house near Bakewell was a real visual feast for me and I loved it so am open to any suggestions on this score.

I guess I'm looking for the bones of a trip in terms of obvious ones: "oh you're staying in Pitlochry, well X and Y are no brainers" and "X, Y and Z are no brainers in Skye" - I appreciate I might get pushback on this as everyone has different preferences - I'm OK to put up with crowded places for the likes of Ben Nevis and the Quiraing walk but prefer remoteness and a special feel - away from families, prams, kids  or general riff raff etc!!

Thoughts??

6
In reply to briansy:

The Quirang is definitely worth a hike, but if you're spending 5 days on Skye and want to experience the best of it in terms of remoteness and amazing landscapes, you'll want to spend most of it in the Cuillin, which is nearly an hour's drive from Portree. 

I would stay a night or two in Glen Brittle, it's a lovely spot and perfectly located at the start of many of the best scrambles in the Cuillin. There's nowhere in the UK that feels quite like being up on the ridge, you would definitely be missing out to do a tour of the Scottish highlands and skip it! There are several good hillwalking coire rounds and routes that don't require serious scrambling.

Edit : I avoid Skye in the summer, but I imagine the Glen Brittle road is a total pain in the backside in the morning with all the sheep going to the fairy pools.....*much* better to kip overnight at GB campsite and avoid it.

Post edited at 12:09
 Doug 30 Sep 2022
In reply to briansy:

Pitlochry isn't really a good base for the Cairngorms (somewhere in Strathspey would be much better) but it is reasonable for some of the Perthshire hills

 henwardian 30 Sep 2022
In reply to briansy:

Sorry to say this but I don't think you've done yourself any favours here by saying that Ft Bill looks ugly, talking about driving around in your sports car and staying at very expensive hotels, characterising other tourists as "riff raff" and by writing a really big wall of text. All you really needed to write in your OP was "Looking for recommendations for hikes and cool things to see and do for a few days near Pitlochry, Ft Bill and Skye. Prefer open areas rather than forested walks. Am experienced at scrambling and tougher hikes".

If you don't know it already, the walkinhighlands website has a good variety of walks in all areas of Scotland, from short to long, easy to very technical and from nondescript to spectacular. 

2
In reply to midgen:

> The Quirang is definitely worth a hike, but if you're spending 5 days on Skye and want to experience the best of it in terms of remoteness and amazing landscapes, you'll want to spend most of it in the Cuillin, which is nearly an hour's drive from Portree. 

> I would stay a night or two in Glen Brittle, it's a lovely spot and perfectly located at the start of many of the best scrambles in the Cuillin. There's nowhere in the UK that feels quite like being up on the ridge, you would definitely be missing out to do a tour of the Scottish highlands and skip it! There are several good hillwalking coire rounds and routes that don't require serious scrambling.

> Edit : I avoid Skye in the summer, but I imagine the Glen Brittle road is a total pain in the backside in the morning with all the sheep going to the fairy pools.....*much* better to kip overnight at GB campsite and avoid it.

Thanks so much, midgen, great stuff - can you offer suggestions on specific hikes / links to routes? Circular day routes are what I'm after. A day out but dinner and a nice kip in a comfy bed at night. So I wouldn't do camp sites but an hour each way driving I don't mind as much. But I will look for better bases closer to the Cuillin. 

In reply to henwardian:

Thanks henwardian. Thanks v much for alerting me to that site - I have seen it but I figured I would get a bit more of an initial steer by posting here. Sorry to offend you, just speaking honestly and giving people an idea of what I'm up to - on reflection I think you have a point - maybe not the best look for me there!!  To avoid offending additional people I will amend my original post. Edit: Looks like that's no longer possible. Oh well. 

Post edited at 12:39
 henwardian 30 Sep 2022
In reply to briansy:

In the Cuillin

From the Sligachan, the walk South up Glen Sligachan is very pleasant and on a good path, from Camasunary you can walk round the coast to Loch Coruisk (with a tricky bit on steep rock above the sea) and then back over a pass into Glen Sligachan and back to the start point (p-shaped walk). The scenery is impressive and it doesn't have much ascent.

From Glen Brittle, The walk into Coire Lagan is popular (not close to Storr or Quiraing levels of popularity) and easy. There is a grind up the screen slope at the back of the coire which isn't very long and is a little tougher as it gets quite steep and tricky towards the top. This leads to spectacular views from the ridge.

Also from Glen Brittle the walk up to Coire a Ghrunnda is very nice, route-finding is markedly harder though and there is some easy scrambling as you get closer to the lochan. From the lochan, it is a short way up to the ridge behind but not a clearly defined path and again needs scrambling. Again great views from the ridge. This route is much less popular than the Coire Lagan one.

From either of the above points on the ridge, going to summits on the ridge is possible but requires involved scrambling where you wouldn't get away with a fall.

Blahbeinn is a fairly popular summit and the easiest munroe on Skye with a well worn path most of the way up and then some fairly easy scrambling for the final section (there are a couple of options). Fantastic views and the satisfaction of reaching a summit.

The Trotternish ridge is another option which is quiet, lower than the Cuillin and generally gets slightly better weather and more cloud-free days than the cuillin and has continuously fantastic views. It's a very long way to do the full ridge in a day but something like making an early start up to the Old Man of Storr from the Old Man car park would mean you'd get it without other people there, continue up to the Trotternish ridge above and then follow the ridge to the Quiraing car park. No scrambling, just easy walking but mostly without much of a path. Probably arrange a taxi to bring you back to the start point at the Old Man car park (or thumb a lift).

For shorter and easier days there are options for circular coastal walks like Rubha Hunish and Dunvegan Head and others.

In reply to briansy:

> Thanks so much, midgen, great stuff - can you offer suggestions on specific hikes / links to routes? Circular day routes are what I'm after. A day out but dinner and a nice kip in a comfy bed at night. So I wouldn't do camp sites but an hour each way driving I don't mind as much. But I will look for better bases closer to the Cuillin. 

In addition to the routes henwardian mentioned...Bruach Na Frithe and Fionn Choire are nice routes which you can start from Slig or the Fairy Pools parking.

"The Cuillin & Other Skye Mountains" by Tom Prentice has loads of good circular days out around Skye, definitely worth picking up.

 Harry Jarvis 30 Sep 2022
In reply to henwardian:

For a quiet day on Skye, you could do worse than take the ferry to Raasay (possible sightings of dolphins) and walk up Dun Caan, or round to Hallaig. Spectacular views all around, and very few people. 

 ScraggyGoat 30 Sep 2022
In reply to Harry Jarvis:

Ssshhh …. the reason it’s quiet is that people don’t talk about it, or instagram it. The walk past the fairy pools was nice till muppets started saying look at me aren’t I clever, I am here at the Fairy pools on social media. 
 

In reply to midgen:

> In addition to the routes henwardian mentioned...Bruach Na Frithe and Fionn Choire are nice routes which you can start from Slig or the Fairy Pools parking.

> "The Cuillin & Other Skye Mountains" by Tom Prentice has loads of good circular days out around Skye, definitely worth picking up.

Purchased!!!

 Myr 30 Sep 2022
In reply to briansy:

From Pitlochry, Beinn a'Ghlo would I think tick boxes in terms of being a classic circular hillwalk with a sense of being on the edge of a remote area. Slightly further afield (1hr drive), the Tarmachan ridge near Loch Tay is a fantastic day out, while the Glas Maol/Cairn of Claise/Carn an Tuirc loop from Glenshee ski centre is a great introduction to the southern Cairngorms.

Also, if you are irritated by families, prams, kids, riffraff, Fort William, woodland, etc you might be even more irritated by midges. Going in May might be better than August.

 Harry Jarvis 30 Sep 2022
In reply to Myr:

> From Pitlochry, Beinn a'Ghlo would I think tick boxes in terms of being a classic circular hillwalk with a sense of being on the edge of a remote area. Slightly further afield (1hr drive), the Tarmachan ridge near Loch Tay is a fantastic day out, while the Glas Maol/Cairn of Claise/Carn an Tuirc loop from Glenshee ski centre is a great introduction to the southern Cairngorms.

The last time I drove past the car park for the Tarmachan ridge a few weeks ago, it was absolutely heaving with cars up and down the road for a considerable distance. I agree it's a grand day, but if the OP is keen to avoid the crowds, I'd give it a miss. 

In fact, if the aim is to avoid the crowds, I'd suggest avoiding Munros completely in the summer, at least all those south of the great Glen. As an alternative, the list of 20 best Corbetts recently published here gives a splendid collection of days out on less-frequented hills. 

Hi guys, the Skye portion of the trip has me most excited. I am going to do the Trotternish Ridge and love the sound of the day trip to Raasay - I've ordered the book on walks in the Cuilinn so I think that part of the trip feels like it's sorted.

Re: Pitlochry and the Cairngorms, for some reason I really liked the sound of staying there as it looks like a pretty and neat town to have a wander around and the hotel is awesome. It looks close to Cairngorms on the map but now I look further it doesn't look a great base. I am not wedded to the idea of bagging Munros every single day - I'll be up there after a very long drive from London for 11 days. I will need some down days too and wondered if there were any interesting recommendations for days more generally around Pitlochry at the start of my trip? Or is the view that Pitlochry just isn't worth staying in, doesn't have enough to offer v an Aviemore or somewhere like that?

 henwardian 30 Sep 2022
In reply to briansy:

The fife Arms hotel in Braemar might be worth a look in place of Pitlochry.

Braemar is picturesque, in the heart of the mountains and has a huge number of fantastic day walks in the hills within just a few minute's drive.

In reply to henwardian:

I'm treating myself a bit with the Skye and Pitlochry bits but Fife arms is too rich for my blood sadly. But good to know it's there in case my situation improves!!

 Bog ninja 30 Sep 2022
In reply to briansy:

You should check out Great Mountain Days in Scotland by Dan Bailey (of this website), there’s some good routes in there of the areas you mentioned including a few areas you didn’t that are cracking (Torridon, Glen Affric, Fisherfield, Assynt and the mountains of the far north and the complex of hills south of Strath Carron- maybe for future visits ). It’s not in the Highlands,and they are not Munros, but Galloway has some lovely hills too. A fellow Kerryman

 Mike-W-99 30 Sep 2022
In reply to briansy:

Pitlochry is very , very touristy. Good brewery & bar at the Moulin Hotel mind you.

In reply to Bog ninja:

That's funny, Bog ninja (love it for a fellow Kerryman!), I actually took delivery of that book today - it's awesome even if some of the walks are insanely long. Need to look at what I'm capable of at 43. Defo gonna do the 22 mile Skye ridge one though it looks absolutely immense!

In reply to henwardian:

> In the Cuillin

> From the Sligachan, the walk South up Glen Sligachan is very pleasant and on a good path, from Camasunary you can walk round the coast to Loch Coruisk (with a tricky bit on steep rock above the sea) and then back over a pass into Glen Sligachan and back to the start point (p-shaped walk). The scenery is impressive and it doesn't have much ascent.

> From Glen Brittle, The walk into Coire Lagan is popular (not close to Storr or Quiraing levels of popularity) and easy. There is a grind up the screen slope at the back of the coire which isn't very long and is a little tougher as it gets quite steep and tricky towards the top. This leads to spectacular views from the ridge.

> Also from Glen Brittle the walk up to Coire a Ghrunnda is very nice, route-finding is markedly harder though and there is some easy scrambling as you get closer to the lochan. From the lochan, it is a short way up to the ridge behind but not a clearly defined path and again needs scrambling. Again great views from the ridge. This route is much less popular than the Coire Lagan one.

> From either of the above points on the ridge, going to summits on the ridge is possible but requires involved scrambling where you wouldn't get away with a fall.

> Blahbeinn is a fairly popular summit and the easiest munroe on Skye with a well worn path most of the way up and then some fairly easy scrambling for the final section (there are a couple of options). Fantastic views and the satisfaction of reaching a summit.

> The Trotternish ridge is another option which is quiet, lower than the Cuillin and generally gets slightly better weather and more cloud-free days than the cuillin and has continuously fantastic views. It's a very long way to do the full ridge in a day but something like making an early start up to the Old Man of Storr from the Old Man car park would mean you'd get it without other people there, continue up to the Trotternish ridge above and then follow the ridge to the Quiraing car park. No scrambling, just easy walking but mostly without much of a path. Probably arrange a taxi to bring you back to the start point at the Old Man car park (or thumb a lift).

> For shorter and easier days there are options for circular coastal walks like Rubha Hunish and Dunvegan Head and others.

Hey henwardian, I have the link / gpx for Trotternish ridge, would you have links for the others by any chance? If I do Trotternish, a quieter, more chilled day in Raasay and one day where I don't exert myself at all (non walking sights perhaps), that only leaves 2 days in the Cuilinn to do which I think I'd look to be between 6 and 10 miles depending on terrain. I've got the book by Tom Prentice but it's so hard to choose! I guess you chose what you did for a reason though so will be keen to check out the pics online.

Have you done Marsco and Ruadh Stac? That's looks amazing 

Post edited at 12:19
 peppermill 01 Oct 2022
In reply to briansy:

All good suggestions but one thing I would say is be extremely flexible with your plans!

August can be very unpredictable weather wise, with spring and autumn being far more reliable

Oh, bring a head net and fck tonnes of Smidge. 

 morpcat 01 Oct 2022
In reply to ScraggyGoat:

Might also have something to do with VisitScotland putting it in their "Top 10 things to do on Skye" for many years 

 Rob Parsons 01 Oct 2022
In reply to briansy:

> I guess I'm looking for the bones of a trip in terms of obvious ones: "oh you're staying in Pitlochry, well X and Y are no brainers"

Walk up Schiehallion.

> Defo gonna do the 22 mile Skye ridge one though it looks absolutely immense!

If you mean a complete traverse of the Cuillin Ridge, then don't underestimate it.

Meanwhile: pray for decent weather; and/or be prepared to completely change your plans when the weather craps out.

 henwardian 01 Oct 2022
In reply to peppermill:

> All good suggestions but one thing I would say is be extremely flexible with your plans!

Agree completely with this, weather is very changeable and while you might get vaguely reliable forecasts on the mainland, for the west coast and any islands of the West, it is very hard to predict the weather. In unsettled periods I would only put any trust in the weather forecast for the same day, anything further in the future than about 10 hours or so is pretty much guesswork.

> August can be very unpredictable weather wise, with spring and autumn being far more reliable

Ehhhh, hmmm, uhhh, indecisive noises... I'm not sure I can agree with this, which month or week is stable and sunny and which week/month has chaotic is really unpredictable, all the more so because it's changed significantly in the last few years due to climate change. May always used to be the best month in the West but the last few years April has been much better and May has been pretty rainy. But overall I would say to expect a lot of changeable weather, whatever month you pick, just cross your fingers.

> Oh, bring a head net and fck tonnes of Smidge. 

Yes, but don't overly panic about midges if you are walking during the day and staying in a hotel at night. Midges are slow. If you are walking then the only time I've had issues with them are a) when you stop and b) if you are walking on a path with a lot of other people, so the midges already rose up to meet the meat ahead of you. One of the benefits of Skye is that usually there is enough wind to stop them being a problem and even if it's calm, they are much less of a problem in the middle of the day when you are actually walking than in the early morning/evening when you will be in the hotel.

 henwardian 01 Oct 2022
In reply to Rob Parsons:

> If you mean a complete traverse of the Cuillin Ridge, then don't underestimate it.

Pretty sure it's the Trotternish ridge.

(But yes, the Cuillin Ridge is a very serious undertaking and not one I'd recommend to do solo or to do without rock climbing experience).

 henwardian 01 Oct 2022
In reply to briansy:

> Hey henwardian, I have the link / gpx for Trotternish ridge, would you have links for the others by any chance? If I do Trotternish, a quieter, more chilled day in Raasay and one day where I don't exert myself at all (non walking sights perhaps), that only leaves 2 days in the Cuilinn to do which I think I'd look to be between 6 and 10 miles depending on terrain. I've got the book by Tom Prentice but it's so hard to choose! I guess you chose what you did for a reason though so will be keen to check out the pics online.

> Have you done Marsco and Ruadh Stac? That's looks amazing 

Glen Sligachan:
I can't find this walk on walkinhighlands. The route follows an obvious path the whole way and the path is marked on maps too. Hopefully my description is enough to see where it goes on a map.

Coire Lagan:
https://www.walkhighlands.co.uk/skye/sgurr-mhic-choinnich.shtml
But my suggestion stops when you reach the ridge. Continuing on to the summit of Sgurr Mhic Choinnich is much more serious.

Coire a Ghrunnda
https://www.walkhighlands.co.uk/skye/sgurrnaneag.shtml
Again my suggestion stops when you reach the ridge. Continuing on to either top is more serious.

BlaBeinn
https://www.walkhighlands.co.uk/skye/blabheinn.shtml

I picked these walks because I think they have some of the best views on Skye and get you to some of the most impressive scenery. I didn't suggest going to any of the tops in the main Cuillin ridge because of the combination of exposure, technical difficulty and navigational difficulty on the ones I can remember doing.

I've not done Marsco or Ruadh Stac but they both look nice.

Hi again, 

Just focusing on the Fort William bit where I am staying 3 nights. I'd plan on doing Ben Nevis on 1 day and I will have one full day for a longer hike and another either hike or some other interesting nature related activity for a few hours in the morning before driving up to Skye.

It just seems there is so much to go at in all directions so want to try to hit as high quality an experience as I can without doubling up on what might be a very similar feel to Ben Nevis (this last bit might be a bit of an ask as ultimately it's hill walking - just a bit of variety I guess).

Cheers,

Brian

 peppermill 01 Oct 2022
In reply to briansy:

Appreciate how much fun it is planning a road trip but I'd say you're overthinking it now. 

Scotland can be infuriating on the weather side of things, you're honestly better planning a driving route and going by the forecast the night before, using walkhighlands and the books mentioned as a vague guide for each area.

Yeah I always over think it!!! The comments on Moshe's are very concerning also!! Make me wonder if I should wait til early October. Thoughts?

 peppermill 01 Oct 2022
In reply to briansy:

>Thoughts?

Go on your trip and just take it as it comes ;p

In reply to briansy:

> Yeah I always over think it!!! The comments on Moshe's are very concerning also!! Make me wonder if I should wait til early October. Thoughts?

Sorry, this should read Midges not moshes! I can't imagine it would be a major problem in Skye by the coast? Or up in mountains when the wind will likely be up? Just wondering if folk think they're bad enough to look at October to go instead of August.

 Mike-W-99 01 Oct 2022
In reply to briansy:

Been badly midged most parts of scotland, coastal areas & mountains are not immune.

russellcampbell 01 Oct 2022
In reply to Myr:

> From Pitlochry, Beinn a'Ghlo would I think tick boxes in terms of being a classic circular hillwalk with a sense of being on the edge of a remote area.

As an introduction to this, Ben Vrackie is a nice hill which can be done in about 4 hours from centre of Pitlochrie, 3 hours if you drive up to car park at Moulin. [Somebody mentioned pub / brewery here. Ideal for a pint on way down if you are not driving.] If visibility is good view of Beinn a'Ghlo from Ben Vrackie is excellent. Beinn a'Ghlo is a complex group of hills and view from Ben Vrackie gives you a good idea of what to expect. However, Ben Vrackie likely to be busy. Not much of a hardship for such a nice hill in my opinion.

 Rob Parsons 01 Oct 2022
In reply to briansy:

> ... Midges not moshes! ... Just wondering if folk think they're bad enough to look at October to go instead of August.

henwardian has already given you a good answer on that above.

 henwardian 01 Oct 2022
In reply to briansy:

October: Short days, colder, wetter, windier, fewer tourists, no midges.

August: Longer days, warmer, a bit dryer, a bit less windy, more tourists, high midge season.

There is a possibility that snow will be on the munroes at least in October too, whether that's a plus or a minus depends on what you want really.

If you want to avoid midges and tourists, April is an option; it's been dryer than normal the last few years, it has 2 hours more daylight per day than October and if you avoid the school Easter holiday dates, it's quiet enough. But higher ground and munroe tops would still have quite a lot of snow.

If you go up Ben Nevis I'd highly recommend going from the South via the Carn Mor Dearg Arete and descending via the tourist route (descend to the West) if you want to encounter fewer crowds. Ascending via the tourist route will be very busy and it's not an interesting way up either.

Really appreciate that advice on Ben Nevis, henwardian. I was debating whether or not to do it but think I should really - follow your advice and also go at Dawn.  I looked at some options around that area and the Mamores also look great. 


New Topic
This topic has been archived, and won't accept reply postings.
Loading Notifications...