Friday, 21 September 2007

Last Day on Skye

Strangely, although there were no dramatic weather fronts to trouble me, my last night in a tent was probably the worst of all. I slept only fitfully, while Fisher and Bridie snored merrily away. So did Baffie, tucked up at the bottom of Phid's sleeping bag. In fact, Baffie was the only member of our little band to sleep unconcerned through every night, and her Boeing 747-like snores were the background music to our camping.

On waking, our first task of the day - after a breakfast of leftover food, fried together by Phid in a very tasty mess - was to pack up the tents and load Keith. It was raining and cold, but in the end it wasn't as painful a task as expected and we were able to set off for our last walk only an hour or so behind schedule!

We'd had much discussion as to whether to do Macleod's Tables or not. Phid and I were keen, but I was also sheepishly conscious that my fitness levels weren't up to my expectations - and that Janus and Koios really weren't that eager to climb the flat-topped hills we could see dominating the skyline. There was also the matter of the weather, which had turned walks with a bog factor of 1 into quagmires, and the lousy visibility which would render a difficult navigation all but impossible. Therefore we decided, wisely, to forgo the Tables and head instead for Macleod's Maidens - a 9 mile coastal walk to see three stacks and some beautiful coastal scenery.

We found our way to the start of the walk and headed off, full of optimism. The weather wasn't great, but visibility was ok and the area really was beautiful. We started off on an excellent forestry-comission road, which led us to the braes. The path remained good, and we started climbing happily. The ascent was only 300 metres or so in total, but even so it built up a pleasant heat, and got the lungs working.

The walk to Macleod's Maidens is one I'd recommend to anyone. The path is truly beautiful, overlooking an island-strewn stretch of water and rolling up and down hills carpeted in ochre-tinged ferns. We passed through Rebel's Wood, dedicated to Joe Strummer, which is more of a tree nursery than a wood, as yet, and took a pointless diversion in search of what Phid's book described as a view 'spectacular even by Skye standards.' Unfortunately we turned off at the wrong point and laboured through bog and fern for 10 minutes only to see nothing at all. This put us off actually seeking out the real diversion, and we headed onwards.

It took around 2 1/2 hours to reach the half way point, and by the time we neared the tip of headland where the Maidens were purported to be, I was fair done in! Had we not stopped for lunch at that point, I think I may have fallen down and refused to move. I wasn't the only one in dire need of sustenance, either. Janus had pushed herself beyond mental endurance, and everyone was looking forward to a bit of a rest. We decided to eat first, and cover the last few hundred yards in search of the maidens afterwards.

A 15 minute break for my sandwich, crisps (most of which I poured over my face, much to Phid's amusement) and Penguin saw me quickly restored to life, and with the wind blowing an icy gale on top of the cliffs I was quickly ready to get moving again. The break had done us all good, so off we set, seeking out the Maidens. Unfortunately, we'd stopped a little further from
the suggested viewing point than we were prepared to go - but Koios and I braved the cliff edge and got a pretty good look at them anyway. Very nice. Probably not worth walking 9 miles for, but very nice anyway.

Macleod's Maidens
We were lucky to catch the view when we did. Not five minutes after turning back, the mist really rolled in, obscuring everything. The rain began to fall in earnest, and on the whole the walk back to the car was far from pleasurable. We did, however, have one thought with which to sustain ourselves: that night we ate and slept at the 3 Chimneys!

With this in mind we battled onward through the filth. I really don't know why, but I found the return journey one of the hardest things I've done, mentally, in my life! My lunch seemed to last only 15 minutes before energy leeched from me in a draining flood. The road seemed endless; my stomach churned, threatening the promise of a 3 Chimneys treat; my spirits reached rock bottom and if ever I've come close to getting all weepy, that was the moment. Luckily, Janus came to my rescue with a Dextrose tablet, and the change was astonishing! A sugar boost, coupled with the promise it was only a couple of miles more, lifted my doldrums completely and the remainder of the walk passed, if not enjoyably, then tolerably.

The sight of the forestry road was akin to sighting land after 6 months at sea. The final stretch of sheep path, even downhill, seemed interminable to Phid, who later told us she was sure it had been only half as long on the way up. I was in auto-pilot by this stage, my aching feet taking me to Keith of their own accord, and when I actually saw Keith I couldn't help but call out to him with a wail of joy. I wasn't the only one, either, and as I said at the time, had Keith's headlights turned on and the engine roared to life at the sound of our voices, I wouldn't have been at all surprised.

I love Keith.

And so we survived. Soaking wet, aching, we stripped off our sodden waterproofs and bundled them together in a plastic bag, to save Keith's upholstery giving discomfort on the morrow. At last I clambered into the driving seat, whacked the heater on high, and off we drove ... to salvation! The 3 Chimneys called, seductive as a siren, and we answered without qualm or guilt. We'd earned every lap of luxury it had to offer.