“My heart’s in the Highlands, my heart is not here, My heart’s in the Highlands a chasing the deer; Chasing the wild deer, and following the roe; My heart’s in the Highlands, wherever I go.” Robert Burns
My first day on/in (not sure if I was on the Isle of Skye or in the isle of Skye) didn’t exactly go to plan. For starters I didn’t know that during the winter and due to the Isle of Skye being so northern that the days are a lot shorter with sunrise not happening until after 9am. Almost an hour later then home, the advantage of being so far North is that Skye does have longer, lighter Summer days, although that didn’t help me much in December. So I arrived at the Old Man of Storr in the pitch dark not a problem because I had my head touch with me but it did knock the timings of some of my hikes out the window, espically the ones where I hoped to catch sunrise.
However no amount of planning can mentally prepare you for a bad mood. For starters my first day was the only day of the whole trip it wasn’t meant to be raining and guess what, some of the worst rain I had seen of the year! Secondly I always find that my first day of hiking somewhere new fills me with worry and self doubt like have I made the right decision, what if I hate it, what if its not for me. Like clockwork a weeks hiking follows a very straight forward line of emotions starting with self doubt ending with that was the best experience of my whole life, usually taking the whole week to come full circle on it.
And finally (you can tell I was in a bad mood because I’m ranting) I find walking like a dream, all the things you didn’t even know were bothering you soon come to the surface and pop into your head like a unconscious slap to the face. With every step unearthing a new thought that I had no idea was even bothering me let alone becoming the only thing I could focus on. But I guess this is one of the reasons I hike, its like free therapy!
The spectacular ridge of hills (the result of a massive landslip) that runs for about 30km, form the backbone of the Trotternish peninsula in the north east of Skye contains one of the islands most recognisable landmarks, the Old Man of Storr (in Gaelic ‘Bodach an Stòrr’).
Taking its name from the escarpment on which it stands, the Old Man of Storr is the most famous of the rocky basalt pinnacles which dot the landscape. Standing at an elevation of 2,359 feet and at a height of about 160 feet, its prominent position and strange shape have over the centuries given rise to a number of stories which even today imbue the landscape with a sense of mystery and romance.
Legend has it that the Old Man of Storr gets its name because the rock outline and the protruding pinnacle resemble that of the face of an old man. “Storr” itself is Norse in origin and is thought to mean “Great Man”. This seemingly unclimbable pinnacle was first scaled in 1955 by English mountaineer Don Whillans, a feat that has been repeated only a handful of times since.
Although there are many legends around this beautifully formed piece of landscape one of my favouirte stories is the legend has it that in the early years of Christianity in Scotland, a dispute raged over the exact date of Easter. In order to put an end to the quarrel, a priest from Skye decided to travel to Rome and speak to the Pope himself. Climbing the Storr early one dawn just as the sun began to rise, he performed a spell which raised the devil and transformed him into a horse. During the journey, the devil questioned the priest about the reason for the journey. The priest had to use all his wits to answer the questions truthfully but at the same time avoid mentioning the name of “God”, which if uttered would break the spell resulting in the devil disappearing and the priest falling into the sea. The priest was successful and despite the devil’s trickery, arrived in Rome, learnt the date of Easter and returned safely to Skye. The devil was so impressed with the cleverness of his adversary that on leaving he was heard to utter the ominous words: “until we meet again”.
Despite the mood I still on a smile on my face! I think it was the coat keeping me smiling!
To continue the mood of the hike which even a third of the way round was hanging over me like a dark cloud, now sorry if you are a boy or anyone who gets offended easily about periods but they happen and apparently happen half way up climbing a bloody windy hill (no pun intended). Whilst ranting to myself about being in a bad mood I noticed that my underwear was slightly more wet then it should have been (rereading this not sure how wet it should have been), not being in any pain or with non of the tale tell signs of an up and coming monthly visitor I didn’t even consider it could be my period starting. Past the Old Man of Storr and hiking up to a higher point I found a rock to wee between and check everything was ok and low and behold Aunt flow had come to town! First things first on a pretty exposed hill I had to deal with that, luckly I carry a emergency supply of tampons and hand santizer! Secondly I sat down ready to cry, cracked up my emergency can of full fat coke and bar of chocolate and let the sugar take over. It felt like the final straw and almost convinced me that I had made a mistake by coming to Skye.
At this point I fully wanted to give up I figured it would be quicker to go back the way I had come but something inside me either my spirit or the full fat coke now running through my blood wouldn’t let me go back. So I picked myself up and figured that either forwards or backwards I would need to finish the walk, so forward it was!
I am so glad I decided to go forward!
Was not expecting the snow to be deep!
The views even cloudy views were stunning! Most of the time I had no idea if I was looking at the sea or a loch!
If in doubt attempt to hump the trig point!
By the end of the walk the weather had become as unpredicable as my mood the grey sky not just hanging over me but over the whole Isle had disapperead. The sky was blue and I was finally thinking happy thoughts again! And very excited to squeeze in a second walk of the day!