Summer 2017 – off the beaten track

3rd September 2017
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It has been widely reported in the media recently that Skye cannot cope with the increasing number of visitors arriving each Summer. There can be no denying the severe lack of public toilets and parking, especially at the most popular attractions, and in the Summer months journeys do take a surprisingly long time due to the number of leisurely drivers enjoying the incredible landscape on the winding, and in many places, single track roads.

Here in Sleat, South Skye we don't see the large numbers of people, as the hugely popular attractions are located in the Northern half of the island. Even in the height of the Summer season almost no tourists venture down our road, and it's just as peaceful in August as it is in the depths of winter. From the Bothy you don't see another house or the road - its a perfectly secluded haven.

Below we've listed our personal top three favourites for exploring off the beaten track in the Summer months and avoiding the large crowds visiting the Fairy Pools, the Quirang, Neist Point and the Old man of Storr (these are best avoided unless you're visiting Skye in the Spring or Autumn - and Winter days can be the best of all for enjoying the incredible beauty and wildness of these places).

1. Point of Sleat

A 5 mile return walk to the Southern tip of the island. Even in Summer you can have this beautiful bay, with turquoise water and white sand, all to yourself. The honesty cafe is a welcome relief on both warm and cold days.

2. Raasay

Take the Ferry to Raasay and arrive on a perfectly peaceful and sleepy island. Otters, White tailed Eagles and Great Northern Divers can be seen from the Jetty and Black Guillemots, Gannets and Shags can be seen on the crossing With the Sound of Raasay boasting the deepest British inland waters there's always the chance of a marine mammal sighting on the crossing. Drive Calum's Road and hike to the flat topped volcano Dun Caan, (the chimney top that is seen from almost everywhere on Skye). 

3. Lochalsh

We love a day out exploring in Lochalsh. Drive to the stunning Coral Beach (pictured left), saying hello to Highland Cows milling around Diurnish on the way and enjoying the National Trust for Scotland traditionally managed crofts, with their high numbers of wildflowers and invertebrates. In the afternoon take a stroll in the woodlands at Balmacara, finishing with cake at Beths Coffee Shop.

Which Eagle?

There are two species of Eagle on Skye and during a stay on the island you have a good chance of seeing these iconic species, we've seen both species from the croft in the last week. I've been doing Eagle surveys over the summer and quickly discovered that knowing which Eagle you are looking at is trickier than it seems!

The most obvious feature should be the tail colour, however White-tailed eagles don't develop a fully white tail until they are adults, and young golden eagles do have a white tail (with a black band along the outer edge). The varying plumages of juvenile and immature birds can make things confusing...

One feature that can be useful is to look at the proportions of the head and tail. A White-tailed Eagle has a short wedged shaped tail and a fairly long neck. If the Eagle you are watching has a similar length of head and tail its likely to be a White-tailed Eagle. Golden Eagles have relatively long tails (about as long as the width of the wing). I have found this to be the most useful feature when distinguishing between the two species.

On the right is a photo I have taken on Skye this Summer. Answers on a postcard - Golden or White-tailed Eagle?

Arrive by train

I recently drove to Glasgow and was reminded of the incredible landscapes that lie between Skye and the Central Belt -including Glen Shiel, Glencoe (pictured left) and Loch Lomond - remote, rugged and heartbreakingly beautiful at any time of year.

As an alternative to driving to Skye it might be worth taking the train to Mallaig from Glasgow, catching the Calmac ferry over the sea to Skye and hiring a car for your trip (which you can collect from Armadale Pier). Arriving on Skye relaxed and rested, having enjoyed possibly the most spectacular views in Scotland with none of the frustration of driving the five hour journey.

Scotrail have a fantastic information page on the West Highland Line, detailing the many highlights of the journey including The Glenfinnan Viaduct (for Harry Potter fans) and the Uk's highest altitude train station, Corrour (featured in Trainspotting).

Witch Light by Susan Fletcher would be a brilliant book to read on this journey - the story of a wild, young girl Corrag, who witnesses the Glencoe Massacre.

Let the train take the strain :)

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