The Isle Of Skye Tour

2 days
250 km
May 2001

I took a short 3 months assignments job in Aberdeen with the promise that the job would last as long as I wanted it. I did not like my new job and the staff there did not like me. Neither did I like Aberdeen. We mutually agreed that 3 months was more than enough and that I should move on. But I still did a satisfactory amount of cycling during these three months in Aberdeen. No less than 1000 kilometres. Most of them on longer tours during the weekends. I have had Isle Of Skye on the top of my “must do” list since I moved to Scotland. With the relative easy access to Skye from Aberdeen with train, I decided it was now or never when I took the the job in Aberdeen.
I trained hard for the tour (see the Moray and the Dufftown tour) in the weeks leading up to this tour. I finally felt ready for this notoriously hard tour and ordered the train tickets and my three nights in the local youth hostels.

Isle Of Skye is notorious for it's hard cycling. The roads are very hilly and exposed to the weather. I therefore prepared myself well with proper eating in the week leading up to this tour. and I was both glad and apprehensive when I entered the train in Aberdeen for the two and a half hours train journey over to Inverness. This train journey through Aberdeenshire is pretty boring. I was pretty happy when I arrived at Inverness for a half an hour stop over before I took the train to Kyle Of Lochalsh. This train (see the Thurso tour) was more scenic. It first went in a small fjord and then over some farmlands and through some small villages to Dingwall. The railway line then climbed up to the very remote and hostile moor at Achnasheen. This place was very remote and a contender for “the most remote village in Scotland” award. The railway line then dropped down to the sea level at Strome Ferry and followed a narrow fjord to Kyle Of Lochalsh. This train journey itself is worthy the whole tour.

I finally left the train at Kyle Of Lochalsh and headed for the Skye Bridge.

The Skye Bridge from Kyle Of Lochalsh.

This bridge is a blot on the landscape, but a necessity. The views from the top of the bridge was spectacular in all directions. The bridge took me over to Kyleakin on Isle Of Skye. I continued in the island the 10 kilometres to the Youth Hostel at Broadford where I stayed over night. The youth hostel was overcrowded with hill-walkers and other tourists.

Day 1
140 km

I slept reasonable well in the dormitory and I started the day in sunshine with a small climb through over a forest before the road dropped down to the sea and some stunning scenery along this fjord towards Scalpay and the Applecross Peninsula. The road was pretty flat along the fjord for some kilometres before it turned a corner and went in to the head of Loch Ainort. From here, the new road climbed over a big hill while the old road followed the sea. I did the old road on my return the day after. But today, I climbed this big hill.

From the top of the hill, overlooking Loch Ainort and Scalpay.

The climb to around 200 meters above sea level was quite heavy. I was glad when I reached the top. The road dropped vertically down again on the other side. It was starting to rain and I was really freezing so hard that I briefly considered a abandoning the whole tour. But I finally reached the end of the hill down at the fjord. The sun now made an appearance. I passed a small golf course and a quarry.

The fjord just before Sconser with the ferry service to Raasay.

The road followed this fjord for some kilometres until it reached the ferry jetty at Sconser and the ferry over to Raasay. The road now turned in another fjord again towards Sligachan. The road was flat and the sun was defrosting my body again. The very scenic ride in this small fjord to Sligachan did wonders for my mood. The fjord is surrounded by big mountains and the hotel at the head of the fjord is both famous and scenic.

Sligachan is also a major crossroad. The main road to Portree goes over the hill to the right. I took the road to the left towards Dunvegan. The climb was both easy and nice. My jaw dropped to the floor when the clouds over Cuillin mountains lifted and I could take a photo of them.

The Cuillin mountains just after Sligachan.

These mountains is the most spectacular mountains in the British Isles and worthy the whole tour alone. The best views of them are from the other side, but I was still happy with what I got.
The road went over a small moor before it dropped down to a valley. I descended through this valley in a tropical rainstorm. I was also bombarded with hailstones during this small storm. It only lasted for twenty minutes, but I was as wet as a drowned cat. I also learned that a cycling helmet is the perfect protections against hailstones too. The sound of hailstones hitting the helmet instead of my head was quite interesting !
I reached the end of the valley and a bit of sunshine just before the crossroad down to Carbost and the Talisker distillery.

Carbost and the Talisker distillery from the road towards Dunvegan.

I was wet and quite cold. I was also casting some anxious looks at my watch because I had to be in Uig before 2100. So I dropped the planned visit to Talisker distillery and headed towards Dunvegan. The road now climbed up to a moor and I was starting to get warm again in the sunshine. The climb was quite heavy, exposed to weather (the sun) and prolonged. I was happy just to be there. The landscape was also very scenic.
The road dropped vertically down to Bracadale where I got some food and water. The climb through and out of Bracadale was quite steep. The road went over some moorlands before it fell down to the sea again. From here to Dunvegan, the road was moderate undulating. It was never boring though. The landscape was a more open ocean landscape and very different from the rest of the island.
I finally reached the idyllic village Dunvegan after the eventful and quite heavy cycling from Sligachan. I had a long lunch and stop here before I started on the climbs over to Edinbane.
The climbs up from Dunvegan to another valley was steep. The road followed this valley before it went straight up a hill to the top of the mountain and some good views over what lay ahead. I had a good luck and took a picture.

The road towards Edinbane and Uig (towards far left).

Thankfully, I did not see the steep hills which followed after the descent down to the farmlands and hills surrounding Edinbane. The road was crossing umpteen small valleys and streams. Steep climbs followed vertical descents over small bridges. I was pretty tired when I arrived at the crossroad at Carbost where I took the small road over a small hill to the main road along a fjord to Uig. I cycled straight into a nasty headwind. I was very tired and this was the last thing I needed. The road out to Uig climbs up a big hill and then goes through a quarry, a forest and over some farmlands high above the sea. The scenery was spectacular towards the Western Isles and the other side of the fjord.
After what seemed like a lifetime, I reached the hill above Uig and the Uig Youth Hostel. I was the first guest that year and the youth hostel was in a state of chaos. Another good reason to invest in a sleeping bag and tent (see the Islay tour). I eventually got a bed and some sleep.

Uig and the ferry to Tarbert/Lochmaddy in the Western Isles

Day 2
110 km

I was still not recovered when I woke up again after a pretty uncomfortable night in the youth hostel. I rolled down the hill to Uig and had a look at the ferry port. I did not know that I was returning here some years later. See the Stornoway tour. Uig is nothing special so I continued up the vertical climb up the hill towards the north end of the The Trotternish Peninsula. I did the single track road around this peninsula. And what a peninsula ! It has some of the best landscape in the whole of United Kingdom. The roads here are also very hard. The first part of it straight north was only moderate undulating. I passed some remote dwellings.

One lonely house and the ferry in the background.

The road mostly went alongside some farmlands before it reached The Skye Museum. The road climbed past the museum and turned the corner past Kilmuir Graveyard (the final resting place of Flora Macdonald) towards east. Some climbs followed before the road dropped down to the east coast.

The north end of Isle Of Skye from the east coast.

I was finally on the homeward leg. I soon found out that “only” some big steep hill stood between me and the first village on coast, Staffin. There was hardly a single metre of horizontal road on this road. The cycling was either a vertical climb or a vertical descent. I stopped at Kilt Rock for a peek at the waterfall.

Kilt Rock and the waterfall.

I finally reached Staffin and got a breakfast. I was at this stage completely exhausted because my previous decent meal was in Dunvegan the day before. The healthy breakfast brought new life into me. Which was very good because the road between Staffin and Portree had some frightening climbs. Again, any horizontal pieces of tarmac was absent from this road. The last and biggest climb took me up past the monolith Old Man Of Storr. This rock formation is not that impressive when looking at it from below. It is best viewed from distance. I finally found some flat pieces of road. That took me along a small loch before the road descended down to the capitol on Isle Of Skye; Portree.
Portree is a very scenic village and worthy a visit. I was pretty tired so I continued down the fjord and up the hill over to Sligachan. This was the most boring part of the tour. A long climb through a mix of a moor and a forest. The landscape was pretty bland and the afternoon sun was blazing down on me. After a slow descent, I was finally back in Sligachan after the full tour of Isle Of Skye. The return back to the youth hostel was not a piece of cake though. I went out the fjord again to Sconser, around the corner and to the golf course. Instead of going up the hill again, I did the old coastal road. This road is far longer than the hill. But the road has no traffic and the scenery along the sea is spectacular. The road goes on a ledge over the sea and is pretty good. I liked it and I recommend anyone to do this detour on the return leg as I did.
I rejoined the main road at the head of Loch Ainort and took the road back to Broadford. I was pretty exhausted when I arrived at the youth hostel. I slept like a stone in the dormitory.

The next morning, I returned back to Kyle Of Lochalsh over the Skye Bridge again. I took this photo looking back towards the mountains at Isle Of Skye.

Looking back towards Broadford.

I had time to spend in Kyle Of Lochalsh and I took a stroll around the village before I took the train back to Inverness again.

This is a stunning tour and the best island tour in Scotland. It is also a very hard tour. I was genuine exhausted after this tour and my body was very sore. The climbs on this tour is both steep and long. This tour is also very exposed to the natural elements (wind and rain). This is therefore a serious tour. Isle Of Skye is indeed the finest island in Scotland. This tour includes the best of the best and should be on everyone's “must do” list.
This is one of the tours I would love to do again.