Spending Time with the Old Man

The Old Man of Storr is truly remarkable especially as it manages to stand out from the truly remarkable landscape of Skye. Sitting at the base of The Storr on Skye’s most northerly peninsula of Trotternish, The Old Man of Storr rises to 160 feet and is just one of a number of rock pinnacles separated by weather and erosion. Like much of this region it was formed around 65 million years ago from Tertiary lava but unlike much of Skye (particularly the Black Cuillin) The Old Man of Storr is within reach of most walkers, which is no bad thing as a view of this nature deserves to be enjoyed by as many as possible.

The Trotternish Ridge runs for nearly 20 miles from Portree to Staffin, and forms the backbone of the Trotternish Peninsula. The ridge culminates at The Quiraing, an astonishing and dramatic series of pinnacles and gullies, which has an atmosphere all of its own. The Quiraing translates from either Gaelic or Norse as ‘the pillared enclosure’ and when in amongst the jagged, craggy surroundings it is easy to understand why. Good paths run beneath and then along the steep cliffs visiting such iconic and dazzling settings as The Prison, The Needle and The Table.

Climbing to the Old Man of Storr is relatively simple. A great track leaves from the A855 just north of Loch Leathan, and ascends through beautiful woodland out onto an astonishing landscape, one that over the years has, deservedly, achieved iconic status. A steepish climb passes by the pinnacles and then finishes on a flat plateau and here it is worth stopping to spend a little time enjoying the superb view of The Old Man and a breathtaking vista across Raasay to the Red and Black Cuillin, north over the flatter plains of Staffin and west, across the rough seas, to Applecross and beyond.

The Old Man of Storr
The Old Man of Storr
The Quiraing
The Quiraing
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Down Among the Big Boys

An 18 mile circular walk over 2 of Britain’s finest mountains makes for a long day but the views and passage through an extraordinary landscape is worth the exertion.

Leaving from the stunning Linn of Dee, a few miles from Braemar, the beautiful Glen Lui travels by Derry Lodge to the base of the mighty Derry Cairngorm. It is then a long pull over the summit and then onwards onto the mighty Ben Macui.

Within the British Isles it is only Ben Nevis that climbs higher than Ben Macdui. Rising to 1309 metres above sea level Ben Macdhui’s huge summit plateau looms high above the Lairig Ghru and the infant River Dee and it stands proud over a litany of iconic mountains including Braeraich, Cairn Toul and Sgor Gaoith. The origin of the name Ben Macdhui is uncertain with popular theories suggesting it translates from Gaelic as either Mountain of the Black Pig or Hill of the Sons of Duff. It is also said that Ben Macdui is home to a yeti-like creature known as Am Fear Liath Mor (the Big Grey Man), although, as yet, any reports are unsubstantiated and may simply be a grumpy looking hillwalker.

Derry Cairngorm used to be known simply as Cairn Gorm (from the Gaelic An Carn Gorm, the Blue Mountain, due to its blue colour when seen from the Linn of Dee) but the prefix Derry (anglicised from Doire meaning oakwood) was added later to distinguish it from its more famous neighbour of Cairn Gorm, the mountain which gave the full Cairngorm range its name. Derry relates to the woods of Glen Derry that sit at the base of Derry Cairngorm, which is actually a far shapelier peak than Cairn Gorm. At 1155 metres Derry Cairngorm is the 20th highest mountain in Scotland and its position amongst the higher Cairngorms means it offers a superb spot to look onto Ben Macdui, Cairn Toul and further afield to Lochnagar and Beinn a Ghlo.

Glen Lui from Derry Cairngorm
Glen Lui from Derry Cairngorm

Approaching the summit of Derry Cairngorm
Approaching the summit of Derry Cairngorm
Ben Macdui at sunset
Ben Macdui at sunset