Talk of Skye, and people immediately think of the Black Cuillin mountains, whose jagged peaks scratch the sky, or else of Bonnie prince Charlie, or perhaps the whisky. Look a bit closer and you'll find lots more, and some of it may surprise you.
One surprise is that its not all volcanic lava flows, and that there is a limestone/marble trail that runs South from Broadford, ending in a remote bay where a few animals graze. Your eyes tell you to follow the coast West, but if instead you turn East, you come to a secluded spot where the burn (that the path had been following) plunges over a low cliff into a pool on the shingle beach - my picture entitled Skye Falls.
Get away from the main tourist areas and there is still plenty of amazing scenery to be found. Macleod's Tables (Healabhal Mor and Healabhal Beag in Gaelic) lie in a wild area of Durinish in the West of the island. The English name comes from the clan Macleod reputedly holding gatherings on the almost flat summits. To get there I took the bus to Durinish (where this view minus a bunsh of caravans, comes from). From there I followed a back road for a mile or two, before a long trudge over moorland, followed by an ever steepening climb to reach the top. There's another moorland trudge between them, followed by an even steeper climb up the 'smaller' peak (which is slightly higher), and then another long trudge over moorland to get back to the road. You would be right to assume from this that not many people bother to climb them - especially when there is the fantastically jagged Cuillin mountains not too far away.
Another quiet area of Skye is the Trotternish ridge, which runs North from Portree. Tourists stop off at just a couple of spots - the Storr, which is the pointy remnant of a volcano beloved of climbers, and the otherworldly Quiraing - a jumble of jagged peaks and ridges formed by a landslide of the volcanic bassalt rock. The whole ridge was formed in this way, and its length makes an entertaining walk. Here I've painted the view looking North(ish) with the Quiraing in the distance, and a couple of sheep on a forground crag for scale (they were really there anyway).
Back on the beaten track, and beating off the midges at sunset outside the infamous Sligachan Hotel, watch as the setting sun turns the normally very grey Red Cuillin to the colour its name suggests (though the Black Cuillin also light up and look like molten lava in the sunset). These peaks are 'red' by virtue of the red granite from which they are formed, as opposed to the Black Cuillin peaks which are made of much darker gabbro and basalt. Shattered by millenia of Scottish weather these peaks are more or less gigantic heaps of stones that slide you backwards with every step you take. Coming down of course you get to run and jump and slide, riding on a wave of stone.
This picture is a bit of a lie. Whilst the mountains are pretty much true to life, the reflection could never be seen, as the pond was a lot smaller than I've painted it. I worked from three photos that I took quickly from slightly different vantage points whilst dodging the midges. Putting them together I created this view representing what the observer would see as they walk past, but which the photographer could not capture.
Its tempting to follow the glen South from the Sligachan. It leads through to the Southern coast of the island with brooding peaks on either side. I've climbed most of them over the years, and this picture comes from the descent of a little frequented peak nestled behind Marsco. Looking across to Sgurr Na Stri, I saw the fearsome pinnacles of Sgurr Nan Gillean dominating the view.
Kyleakin - Home Of The Scottish Midge
One last view before we head home... This one is a ruined fortification just outside Kyleakin. Before the bridge, Kyleakin was the place where you would have got off the ferry, and this would have been a familiar sight to all. Now most drive past the village, not even knowing it is there. Now you may be wondering why I subtitled it 'Home Of The Scottish Midge'....
We were enticed along the bay to explore this ruin, and sure enough the view it offered was good. We sat and rested our feet, and thats when it started - first the odd one or two annoying specks, but soon there was a cloud of them chasing us around the castle. The midges were up and hungry, and we had to get back fast. The incoming tide hampered our retreat, but we made it out alive, followed by a cloud of midges out for a bite. I like to think that they deliberately lure tourists with the bait of the castle ruin.
That just leaves me time to show you the viewpoints that each of my Skye paintings are based on...