Visiting the Isle of Skye: The Quiraing

Some people seize the day by waking up early. I prefer to live during night and sleep in the mornings, but there is something fresh about mornings (besides, part of being a landscape photographer is waking up before sunrise). During the sunrise it feels like the earth is clean and ready for a new day, whereas at sunset, our planet is dusty and tired. For me the difference is made by the magical dew and absence of people early in the morning. Today was a day for photography so I woke up early to start my hike at 4:30 A.M.. Today’s hike: The Quiraing, or in Gaelic, Cuith-Raing, a must do hike for photographers when visiting Skye.

Quiraing

You’ll run in to all sorts of impressive landscapes while hiking The Quiraing.

As I reached the foot of the Quiraing, the sky turned deep purple, exactly like the day ended yesterday. The silhouettes of the rocks formed an impressive view against the colourful, yet still very dark sky. Because it was still night (twilight), I could not see what the landscape in front of me looked like. With my head torch I hiked safely up the hills, while the sun slowly started to rise.

Quiraing

Make sure you are quick, light can change incredibly fast!

After a couple of kilometers, the first daylight hit the country and visibility was good. As quickly as the colours appeared in the sky, so did they disappear. The sky was boring and grey, but what a view! Left of me there was nothing but mean looking rocks, while right of me the green hills seemed unreal.

Skye

The grey clouds diffused the light. Not many harsh shadows, which works great for a landscape like this!

The hills in Skye have an unique shape. On one side it is a slow curve that gets exponentially steeper and on the other side there is a sudden drop. No wonder that Skye is a perfect location for Hollywood movies (films like Macbeth and Stardust are recorded here). In fact, I started to believe that Skye is so beautiful, that anyone can take a beautiful picture here, even if you have absolutely no knowledge of photography. Everywhere you look the landscape is different and gorgeous.

Tieme on the Quiraing

Me enjoying my hike.

In the meantime, the climb up the hill got a bit more difficult because the slope got steeper, and the surface I hiked on was nothing but loose rocks. This is a hike that the Guide of Skye considers “Medium” in length, and “Hard” in difficulty. I guess this was the hard part. But the hike with Ian prepared me well (check my blog on that by clicking here), and with care I proceeded my way on the bank of scree towards the top of the rocks called “the Prison” and “the Needle”.

Quiraing

Scrambling my way up to the Needle and Prison.

After the Prison, a damp track with grass and a little mud took me to the turning point of the walk, where the walk is parallel to the first half of the hike, to the top of Quiraing. But before going on I decided to have a little break and take some long exposure photos. Here is a free tip for you: the reason I took a break is because the wind had picked up. No wind means no midges! So if you think about having a break within a few minutes, and there is a little wind, take the break now, rather than maybe finding out that the next hour you won’t be able to hide from the midges.

Quiraing

A long exposure on the Quaring. The shutter is open for 300 seconds.

Quiraing

A second long exposure to extend my break a little.

On top of the hills, you get the chance to see a rock formation called “the Table” from up top.

Quiraing

“The Table”

And before going down again, I took a quick peek at the parking lot in the distance. Five hours before I was the only one at the parking lot, now it was very busy! Bagger, tourists… Always good to start early. The tricky part of the hike is going down back to the car park of the Quiraing. A steep slippery slope takes you back. As it has been raining the night before, it was extra slippery. Here is another free tip: good waterproof boots are a plus on this hike. Even if you don’t need to cross any streams, the moorlands are damp and I am sure normal shoes gets you wet feed.

Skye

The tourists are back.

My next stop of the day was Kilt Rock. Because this is a tourist attraction, all I did was take a picture and moved on to the Least Falls.

Kilt Rock

A quick, yet beautiful, stop and go.

These waterfalls are crowded too, but most tourists only take a quick look at the falls from a distance and don’t take a small path towards lower grounds. Personally, I have a rule, that if I don’t go the extra mile, I don’t deserve the “extra mile shot”.

Lealt Falls

Hike down to the waterfall if you have the chance.

Like said, as a photographer I am up before sunrise and home after sunset. So during the day I look for calm spots to take a nap. After my power nap I moved to the Southern area of Skye: Sligachan. Here you can find an old bridge and a good hike to the Black Cuillin. Unfortunately there was no wind at all, lots of grey clouds, and a damp surface. You’ve guessed it, perfect for midges. I took a quick photo and started my hike towards the mountain range, hoping it would get better.

But it got worse. I picked up my tempo and started to sweat. Great, now my face was covered in black dots… As two hikers approach me in the opposite direction, I did what I learned from Ian and asked them about the condition of the path behind them. Out of breath they told me the path was good. I asked them about the wee bugs up the road. One of them lived on Skye his whole life and told me to return tomorrow hoping for better conditions. The bugs got worse and worse!

Sligachan

The Black Cuillin seen from Sligachan. A quick snap and run!

With my camera and tripod in my hand I ran back to the car, patted the midges off me and drove away. Of course I had a backup plan, and I visited the Fairy Glen, a strange formation of hills. A small road took me up to a farm on top of a hill. Then, all of a sudden, the road went down again and the Glen appeared in front of me. Luckily there weren’t too many midges here, so I had the chance to capture the sunset. On top of the hills a strange feeling came over me. It started to get dark and quiet very quickly and I realized that I was surrounded by a murder of crows. Then I saw something weird. A circle of stones and in the middle a pile of rocks, topped off with a sheep’s skull.

Fairy Glen

Fairy Glen. A special place.

This circle was probably put there by locals or tourists. A good addition to this creepy place! With nothing but the sound of the crows and wind, the sun has now completely set. It was another good day for photography!

Tell me, do you enjoy hiking too?

Kind regards,

Tieme


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3 Comments

  1. Reply

    Such wonderful photography Tieme. You have a beautiful life indeed. Are you well? Greetings from Norway

    • Reply

      Thank you very much Nomzi, for your lovely comment. My life is not too bad! 🙂 I am good, thank you. How are you?

      Warm regards from The Netherlands,
      Tieme

  2. Pingback: Visiting the Isle of Skye: Fairy Pools - Luvo Photography

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