More Skye lights

So, lighthouse bagging season begins again…

At the end of March, we made the most of the long Easter weekend and booked a trip to Skye to discover a bit more about what goes on south of the bridge. We’d both been to the centre of the island a few times, but seen very little of the south. We booked ourselves into an annexe at Tigh Na Cairdean in Duisdale, owned by the lovely Emma and Jon. They very kindly left us some fresh eggs (as well as chocolate eggs) on Easter Sunday!

The forecast wasn’t looking great so we decided that the relatively “dry” day would be the best day for a walk to the Point of Sleat, the very southern tip of Skye. We set off on the five-mile walk from Aird of Sleat – all kitted out in waterproofs, which we didn’t actually need for the first hour or so and even after that the rain wasn’t much more than drizzle. The path was initially quite good and we happily splashed through puddles in our wellies – partly to entertain our son, but mostly because it’s what you do when you’re wearing wellies (isn’t it?!)

The path got a little more interesting after we began heading south off of the main track. Due to the amount of rain in recent days, the path was pretty wet and muddy and we were both even more glad of the wellies at that point. The track passes by the secluded Camas Daraich beach, which we chose to save for the return journey. Past the beach it felt like we were heading out further and further without making much progress, but once we’d spotted the lighthouse at the very end of the point and navigated our way down a slope, we arrived.

Point of Sleat lighthouse

Being a “flat-pack”-style lighthouse (as I often refer to them), the structure lacked the beauty of the traditional lighthouses, but the surroundings certainly helped to make it appear better than the average “flat-pack” lighthouse. Although the cloud was low, we were able to see across to Eigg and it’s little neighbouring island of Eilean Chathastail, which we had visited last year, and to the east at various points of the walk we could see the mountains of Knoydart.

We stopped for lunch near the lighthouse, with Bob pulling a 4-man group shelter out of his bag for us to sit under. It’s essentially like being in a tent, but you use your heads to keep it up at either end and sit on it to keep the weather out. All in all quite a fun little picnic!

On our way back we stopped off at Camas Daraich beach, which may not have looked its best with the grey skies, but would certainly be quite a find on a nice, sunny Scottish day! The walk back went well and we stopped off at the Clan Donald Centre at Armadale Castle on the way back to warm up and dry out.

Eilean Ban lighthouse

The following day we had some time to kill in the morning – we were waiting on the tide, you see to get to the next lighthouse. We decided to pop to Kyleakin for a ride on Seaprobe Atlantis, a glass-bottomed boat that offers various tours of the local area. Fortunately, the trip we were on took us north underneath the bridge, providing us with another view of the Eilean Ban lighthouse and the cottage we stayed at last year. We’ve now seen it from above, from inside, from the island itself and now from the sea. I don’t think we can do much more to improve on this one! Watching the underwater wildlife from the bottom of the boat was really quite fascinating. Not being a particular fan of being submerged in water, it’s not something I’d experienced before, so it was a great little trip.

Now, back to that tide and the plans we had during low tide. On my lighthouse tour I’d been to Isleornsay and looked across the water at the lighthouse on Eilean Sionnach, but the tide had been in, so there was no chance to get across to it. Even if the tide had been out, I would have been hesitant to wander on over. My theory with any tidal island is to make sure you do your tide research first, unless you fancy getting stranded overnight! [2021 edit: the cottage is now available as a holiday let which actually makes being stranded there sound idyllic].

Fortunately, Bob had done the research this time so I didn’t have to. The realisation that the clocks had changed overnight came as a bit of a shock and led to some confusion (for me anyway), but we got it sorted and set off across to the tidal island of Ornsay to then wander along to the further tidal island of Eilean Sionnach. It’s not often that you get the opportunity to walk across to a tidal island to then walk to an additional one. It also means you need to be extra careful with your timings though!

As we walked across, for a change we were attempted to the stick to the seaweed rather than the soft sand. We’d learnt earlier in the day on the Seaprobe Atlantis that seaweed sticks to rocks and doesn’t have roots in sand as we had previously thought. So, treading on it (although it may have been slippy) was preferable to sinking into the sand. We made it across the first stretch of exposed sand and then across to Eilean Sionnach. There is a house on the island, the former lighthouse keepers cottages, which are currently being renovated. We made a mental note to keep an eye on it. If it becomes available as a holiday let then we’ll be there!

Eilean Sionnach lighthouse (bigger than my usual pictures, so you can appreciate it)

Unlike the lighthouse at the Point of Sleat, this one is a traditional Stevenson lighthouse, first lit in 1857. What I find particularly interesting about this one is that, unlike many of the others within Scotland (and the Isle of Man for that matter), it is not monitored remotely from the Northern Lighthouse Board’s headquarters, but instead relies upon an observer to let them know if there are any problems. The most amazing thing about this lighthouse though has to be the fantastic views across to the Knoydart mountains. We found a small mound a short distance from the lighthouse that provided a panoramic scene of the lighthouse with the mountains in the background – we were obviously both happy with that.

Fortunately, we decided to leave the lighthouse after a short time to make sure we got back across the sand before the tide came in. Our return path was a little less direct due to the already incoming tide, so once we reached the mainland of Skye we hugged the coast a little more closely and made it safely back.

We had a great weekend and were really pleased to be able to explore a part of Skye that had been fairly unknown to us beforehand. Since we took a trip there last year and another this year, I’ve informed Bob that it should now be an annual tradition. We’ve still got Waternish Point to get to after all! 🙂