The sun weakly peeped it’s head from behind the smoky gray clouds and gave me no other choice but to surmise that today, like everyday for the past four days, was going to be another damp, cold, Scottish day.
The Isle of Skye is supposedly one of the most gorgeous regions of Scotland (every region claims this…but the sunny pictures of Skye I’ve seen are truly stunning). I had some really high hopes for clear weather and sunshine but, alas, that was not to be the case. Since I didn’t want to huddle in the warmth of the hostel all day I layered on my jacket, scarves, and rain coat and hopped the bus to explore the Trotternish Peninsula, the Northeast area of Skye.
The Old Man of Storr is a one of the signature pinnacles and sights of this peninsula is the rocky and jagged pinnacles that jut into the sky –ancient volcanic plugs apparently. The hike to the top is short but quite steep at the end…and incredibly muddy. I really can’t fathom Scotland every getting enough rain to dry out the mud here so, be warned. I was forced to carefully use the gray rocks slightly peeping out from the mud to keep me from sinking calf-deep at points and carefully made my way up the nearly 700 meters to the sweeping vista from the top of The Storr.
The weather on the way up to the top was very confused- it was incredibly damp and occasionally overcast until the sun came out intermittently forcing me to continually don and doff my jacket to stay at a decent body temperature. The finicky weather also meant that I was pushing myself to get to the top while the sun was still shining down on the surrounding blue lakes and deep green fields.
The view from the top was incredible and definitely gave me an inkling as to why so many people told me that Skye was a “must-visit.” I picked a slightly sloped spot off of the trail to eat lunch and listen to the nearby sheep let out the bleats as they munched on the grass.
I ascended the last 100 meters to the base of the Old Man of Storr and was awed as I was able to watch a dark cloud of fog roll in within mere minutes. The landscape went from the muted sunlight of a cloudy day to dense and eerie fog enveloping all of the Storr and everyone nearby.
It was seriously neat. The woman at the tourist information office in Portree had recommended this as a hike ideal in any weather and she was right. Although I was glad to have seen the sweeping vistas, it was just as neat to sit on the ground under The Storr and watch the dense fog completely black out the landscape and turn the jutting peaks into the surreal and dark landscape you could expect in a suspense movie.
The fog also provided me the luxury of feeling like I was completely alone at the top here. Although I could hear the disembodied voices just meters away from me, they were muted and distance as the quiet settled down over The Storr.
I sat in this calm fog for quite a while before the chill forced me to get up and keep hiking. It was also so dense and thick at that point that I chose to navigate my way back down the hillside.
Once I got back to the base of the hill the forest was a complete change of environment as the bight and almost unnaturally green moss coated the base of all of the trees, the underbrush, and everything lower than three feet from the ground. The midges struck as I was waiting for the bus – and I holy cow, they were INTENSE. It was so bad that I had to wrap my scarf completely around my face to keep this tiny stinging mosquito-like insects from tearing me to pieces.
As I settled into the warm and midgey-free bus I watched the misty gray fog continue to deepen and settle onto the hillside. The information woman was right – The Storr are beautiful and strange in any weather – and I feel lucky have seen them in both sunlight and fog!