A trot round Trotterish
This tour is described from Portree, by car going anti-clockwise but of course there are also delights to be found clockwise. There is too much for one day so you are going to have to be selective or take Trotternish in several chunks, according to weather and mood. There is a 57A bus service that does the full loop round Trotternish but the frequency isn’t such that you can treat this as a hop-on-hop off bus but there is the opportunity to use it to e.g. do a decent walk at The Storr (and it’s busy enough there to blag yourself a lift back to Portree).
Portree is the biggest town on Skye and deserves a visit in its own right so, unless you need a quick coffee having driven from elsewhere on Skye (Isle of Skye Bakery on the Dunvegan road, bakery on the main square or the cafe on Wentworth Street), you are just going to drive straight through and take the A885 towards Staffin.
As you leave Portree, your eye will be drawn to the ridge on your left with the fantastical spires of The Storr. This will make our first stop. This can be very busy so is best visited first thing in the morning or late on – or out of season. Just after you pass the Storr lochs, the large area for parking for the Storr is on your left. Put your walking boots on: fetch out those walking poles and set off. The first part of the path is a well made track through recently felled woodland (being replanted as a mixed native woodland). Looking back and taking a breather as you walk up are wonderful views over Rassay and Rona to Applecross and Torridon. You are looking at about 200m of rise over 1.5km horizontally for this section.
Once the well made track runs out, the path rises steeply from 350m to 420m above sea level. Treat this as a staircase, again taking breaks as needed and you will fairly quickly find yourself below the pinnacles. Routes then flatten out so you can explore the base of the pinnacles, including the Old Man of Storr. Allow 3 hours to get up to the pinnacles and explore. If you are young and fit you can do this in less but why hurry? Energetic people and those wanting the most spectacular photographs will continue onto the ridge above and The Storr (709m above sea level): see more details at Walk Highlands : The Storr
If you are hungry after that exertion, then the Skye Pie Cafe sells pies to eat in or take away (on left at Culnacnoc, IV51 9JH). Alternatively the Ellishadder Gallery and Cafe just a short way north IV51 9JE is a great place for a snack and has lovely local arts and crafts for sale.
While you are in Ellishadder, call into the Staffin Museum for an overview of the geology and palaeontology of the area. .
The Kilt Rock and waterfall is the next stop. Just look out for signs to the right for the large parking area. The rock and the waterfall are best in the morning light.
At Staffin, at low tide, you have an opportunity to hunt to dinosaur footprints for yourself. You will seen what you are looking for at the Staffin Museum or at the Kilt Rock. Head towards the slipway and look on the beach rock pools by the point opposite Staffin Island.
Carry on through Staffin and look out for a signpost to Uig. Take this road which runs up the ridge in a series of hairpin bends and stop at the top. Take in the views or better follow the path to explore the Quiraing. You start so high that even if you do the full walk http://www.walkhighlands.co.uk/skye/quiraing.shtml you only have 340m of accent over a 7km walk but you will need 3 to 5 hours to complete.
This is however proper hill walking and paths (except the low route direct to the rock formations) may be just grassy tracks so make sure you are properly equipped. The low track is well trodden and, apart from crossing a rocky gully, is straightforward. Walking boots for ankle support and walk poles really help and there will be muddy and boggy bits.
Museum of island Life, Kilmuir
From here, you are going to continue across the peninsula but at the top, rather than dropping down to Uig, turn right towards Kilmuir. There are great views across to the Western Isles but look out for the Kilvaxter Iron Age Souterrain on the right at NG389696. There are information boards but plan (except if it has been very wet) on crawling into the souterrain so take a torch and wear a pair of trousers than you don’t mind getting muddy.
Beyond this at Kilmuir is the Museum of Island Life. This cluster of traditional blackhouses gives a glimpse into early farming life that was common throughout the islands and Highlands where people worked together to fulfil their own needs: a mindset that continues. The small entry fee is well worth it. A short walk from the museum car park is the Flora MacDonald Monument.
Castle Ewen or the Fairy Glen
Finally, as you leave Uig, look out for the sign to Balnanock (known to romantics as Fairy Glen). Along this narrow single track road is a miniature version of the some of the formations seem at the Quiraing including Castle Ewen, which Outlander fans will recognise as the ambush location. Parking is very limited but if you can find a safe place to park without obstructing passing places or parking on the fragile vegetation, then it is rather fun to climb Castle Ewen and the conical hills and see the views. It is only 30m from the road to the top so while you get a small thrill from a ridge and a wriggle climb through gap to get to the top, most people should manage it. There is a recent fashion of leaving offering for the fairies and rearranging the stones. There is one historic spiral : everything else is rubbish and the locals periodically clean up the site. Please do not make their job harder and indeed I’d encourage you to remove trinkets left. This tiny road gets very congested so, perhaps one to leave for the less active.
Uis is another potential refreshment stop and an opportunity to stock up on Skye Beers.
You are then 20km from Portree with a drive looking across to the Waternish peninsula across Loch Snizort.
More information on the very special east coast of Trotternish and its geology, fossils, wildlife, mining, farming and history from the virtual museum at SkyeEcoMuseum.