Over my easter break I visited the Isle of Skye with my Dad and twin brother, Pat. I’ve been numerous times in my life but it’s only on our recent visits there in ’09 and ’11 that I’ve been old enough to appreciate the spectacular scenery of this magnificent island (long words are loooong). The skyline from pretty much anywhere on Skye is dominated by the Red and the Black Cuillin. Rising straight out of the sea and culminating in thin ridges and small, exposed summits with lethal drops in every direction. There are few mountain ranges in the world as jagged as these (so I’ve read).
Out of the 6 days we were there I rode a few solo XC loops and climbed, with Pat, Sgurr Alasdair (tallest of the Black Cuillin, 5th highest summit in the UK and highest point on Skye) and Glamaig (tallest of the Red Cuillin). From these points we were able to sample some of the most impressive views in the UK.
So, for the riding. The day after we arrived I fancied stretching my legs after the long drive up from Bourne (my insipid hometown near Peterborough) so went for a quick 20km spin on-road, then off-road following above the coast, then back onto another road and home. However, due to the map being about 10 years out of date, the path I was expecting to ride wasn’t exactly there anymore. Neither were about 40 square kilometers of trees I was expecting to ride through. Ahhh well!
The next day we went out to the Sligachan Glen, where I would ride the Sligachan trail. There was a loop suggested, however I decided just to ride the 12ish km section to Camasunary bay and then come back on myself to the Sligachan hotel as Pat and my Dad were walking in the area. I was looking forward to this trail as I had heard good things about it on t’internet.
The trail started well with a few undulations but still gradually gaining gradient along the glen, I was looking forward to riding it in the opposite direction with gravity aiding me slightly. It was fairly tough going, having to keep pedalling hard to carry momentum to make the techy sections more fun and flowy. This didn’t really give me time to take in the scenery so I decided to have a break.
Here’s what I saw:
Not bad eh?
I continued onto Camasunary which had a nice, steepish descent from a loch and then levelled out to the bay. I stopped here for lunch and to take a few more snaps. I also tried to get some self portraits but they turned out shit and they make me feel like a sad and lonely bastard…
So here’s one of my bike instead:
The route back to the Sligachan hotel was equally as hard going as the way out despite having an overall downhill gradient once I’d reached the level of the loch. On my return I bumped into 2 pairs of riders and chatted to them for a bit. Turns out both pairs were from Sheffield! I also spoke to another bloke who’d been quite unfortunate and had had at least 2 pinch punctures I seem to remember. He was a fan of ThisiSheff and was looking forward to my article (I hope he still is!!). What a small world.
Unfortunately, this track just didn’t live up to my expectations and I wouldn’t recommend it if you want something fun and slightly challenging to ride.
Right! The Quiraing loop. This was absolutely ace! Some really tough rocky sections, not even rideable in places. It was a nice quick loop, about 15km in total I guess, so I decided to do it twice. The views were epic, from both below and from the top of the sheer, monstrous cliffs:
The loop starts off from a car park at the top of the last road climb. As I got going I went by a few small groups of people all saying similar things like “Good luck!” and “You’re mental”. It turns out that the trail narrows to about 20cm wide in places with steep slopes down the side. Also, there are some quite big and tricky rolling rock drops and off camber sections which definitely test your nerve. My advice is to just stay off of the brakes and worry about it after something goes wrong… that way you have some momentum to get through sections instead of slowing up and having to dab onto thin air.
The track splits about half way along. On my first lap, not knowing where I was going, I took the left fork and continued to stay beneath the cliff face and climbed the path at the end to get a view over the top. The wind was quite strong when I reached the highest point of my ride, luckily it was blowing me away from the edge…
I went back to the fork and took the right hand line. This was the start of a fast, rough and challenging descent through a few big rock gardens. I was holding on tighter than I ever have before, the front end taking massive hits and my hands and wrists rolling back, almost losing their grip at times!
Once I’d reached the bottom I thought “Right! I’m doing that again!” so I did. This involved riding along the road into a head wind then heading up the steep climb to the car park, but I thought it would definitely be worth it!.
And yes it definitely was worth it. I would highly recommend the Quiraing trail both for the epic scenery, the challenge it presented me and the big grin on my face at the end of it.
I need to get back to revision!
Set including full size versions and a few bonus pics can be found here: http://www.flickr.com/photos/ru_ra_ri/sets/72157626683593100/with/5703743721/
Bye for now.