Fairy Glen | The ‘In Pinn’ | Ben Tianavaig | Endless panoramic views
During my last visit to the Isle of Skye back in January, I was pretty sure that it would become my last trip to the family bed and breakfast as they have decided to relocate back down to Somerset. The property had already been on the market for a few months and I was presuming that a sale would be imminent. I had accepted this with a heavy heart but four months down the line there is still no sign of a buyer and so I took the opportunity to use my well earned week off at the end of April for another visit back the Highlands.
Normally I would shudder at the thought of visiting Skye during any time other than the darkest depths of Winter as the influx of tourists that comes with the Spring and Summer months can make negotiating the Island and it’s most popular attractions a sometimes near impossible task. Road gets clogged, attractions become flooded with people and prices sore sky high. I much prefer the desolation of the Winter months, not only because there are considerably less people around, but I think the extreme Winter weather actually enhances the beauty of the landscapes found here.
But despite this annoying factor, I had a good reason for this trip! Not only did I have that unfinished business with those damn fairies but after 8 years of trying (and being unsuccessful…..largely due to the fact that when I do visit in Winter the weather is just too bad) I was determined to finally conquer the famed Inaccessible Pinnacle, something which a been a firm Bucketlist fixture of mine since I first came to the Island back in 2010.
So, as I sat at Gatwick’s North Terminal waiting for my Easyjet flight to Inverness I was filled with excitement to be returning to what has now become my second home.
Heading first out to Uig to peer down on the tiny fishing village, I then found my way to Fairy Glen, determined to spot those pesky winged creatures. With my camera at the ready I began my search…..
Fairy Glen is indeed as magical as it sounds. Standing out from the surrounding farmland, it is lush with curious green hills, a small loch, an ancient ruined castle and unexplained fairy circles made of stones. It by far trumps the more famous Cuillin Fairy Pools for its mythical atmosphere and sense of mysticism. It is probably my favourite spot on Skye purely for the wonderment it evokes and it’s ability to let your imagination run wild with thoughts of fairies playfully skipping between the rock piles while no one is watching.
As mentioned in my previous Isle of Skye Travel Blog there is no definitive folklore linking the land to the magical fairy realm but some say that the fairies created this dramatic landscape and still dwell within its many crevices. It is no wonder though, the whimsical otherworldly landscape looks just like the kind of place you’d expect to find fairies and I choose to believe that they do reside here. The Isle of Skye is, after all, rich with fairy lore.
Clambering to the top of the most prominent hill I took stock of my surroundings and could not help but smile as this place is truly enchanting to see. However, it seemed that once again the fairies had evaded me. I didn’t mind though, as I knew that they were there somewhere, hiding just out of plain sight. You can’t help but believe in their existence being here in these almost supernatural surroundings.
Fairy Glen still remains a hidden treasure on the Island due to the fact that there are no signposts directing you from the main road from Portree in to Uig, you just have to know where to go (or in my case go with someone who does know exactly where it is). But it is definitely worth the adventure of trying to find it (and to find the fairies).
I finished the day with a stroll around the nearby Kingsburgh Forest before heading back to Staffin which is where the bed and breakfast is located.
Today was the day! It was finally time to tackle the Inaccessible Pinnacle. It was an early 6am start in order to make the most of the daylight hours. I woke up with a feeling of butterflies in my stomach. I knew that mentally I would haven’t a problem with the task. I’m not afraid of heights and once I have set my mind to something I never back down. I was more concerned that my body wouldn’t physically be up to what would be involved. Since injuring my foot back in November, I have struggled to get back in to any kind of exercise as I still get a lot of pain and I was fully aware that my fitness levels were far from what they used to be. I was suddenly experiencing a mixture of feeling nervous at the prospect of failing and feeling unsure of what to expect but I was also excited as I knew I was in good hands.
Accompanying me on this mammoth mission was my dad and his friend Jonah, both key members of Skye’s Mountain Rescue Team. Both have summited the affectionately nicknamed ‘In Pinn’ many times, largely because Jonah also works as a Mountaineer Guide and my dad often tags along with him for (what they would call) a jolly or to help out with clients.
So, as a mighty fine trio of motley Musketeers we all set off down to Glen Brittle. Driving past the Fairy Pools, we parked at the Glen Brittle BMC hut and checked our kit (and lunch) one last time before departure. The sky looked moody and dark hovering eerily over the peaks of the Cuillins but I was assured that the weather would clear.
Rising from the summit of Sgurr Dearg, the ‘In Pinn’ is perched atop this ominous looking mountain found within the Black Cuillins and it is notorious as one of the most difficult Munro’s to conquer. The final part of the ascent requires a knife ledge rock-climb up the jagged 50m fin shaped rock followed by an abseil back down in order to fully complete the climb. How hard could it be???
The first part of the ascent was an easy walk up to Eas Mor Waterfall.
Ascending further up Sgùrr Dearg, the incline really started to steepen and the terrain shifted from grassy fields to rocky slopes. I tried to focus on the spectacular scenery with the Cuillin ridge stretching out to the left and Coire Lagan cutting in to the right with views looking back down to Glen Brittle beach and out to the Inner Hebrides but in reality I was out of breath and my legs were really starting to feel the pressure. I was constantly aware of how slow I was in comparison to my seasoned companions. Nevertheless though, their patience and encouragement was almost Saint like and I plodded on step by step.
As we neared the summit of Sgùrr Dearg there was one final shift in terrain. I was now having to actually clamber up large rock faces which had a thin layer of ice snuggly settled upon them. It was very slippy. To make matters worse the clearing of clouds that I had been promised didn’t happen and it was instead now snowing with the peaks of the nearby Cuillins barely visible through the fog.
As the ‘In Pinn’ finally came in to view I suddenly felt dwarfed by the sharp looking black rock that loomed above me. Fully prepared with our safety gear, I almost instantly forgot the briefing I had just been given as I began to climb the rough and ragged ledge. Instead, all I could think of was what the hell was I doing here. My fingers were numb with cold (even with two pairs of gloves on) and my legs were aching from the 4 hours I had just spent hiking up the mountain below in order to reach this point making the climb even harder. I had reached a point about 20 metres up where I just couldn’t figure out where to place my hands and feet and I felt like I didn’t have the energy to pull myself up to the next ledge. Frustration combined with fear and panic. I didn’t want to fail. I closed my eyes and while counting to ten took some deep breaths to calm my nerves. I was suddenly grateful for the blanket of clouds that had settled all around me as I couldn’t see the sheer drop that lay either side of the slither of rock that I was precariously now balancing on by my toes.
After some much needed words of wisdom, I somehow found the strength I needed to pull my entire body weight up and over this difficult section known as the ‘Crux.’ Beyond this, the ledge began to flatten out and it felt more like climbing a flight of stairs, a joyous walk in the park in comparison to the section I had just completed.
I was relieved to finally reach the triangle shaped peak and I just about managed to catch my breath while the abseil was being set up. Now it was time for the fun part!
I’ve done a LOT of crazy shit in my life but this was definitely up there at the top of the list of highlights! After a 3235ft ascent and another Munro ticked off the list, I had successfully completed the Inaccessible Pinnacle without dying (or crying 😂) I felt as proud as punch 🙌🏼🙌🏼🙌🏼 ! I am certainly no hiker, in fact I rarely even exercise, so to have achieved this was incredible. And I was now a member of an elite group of Munro baggers who could say that had climbed this iconic rock.
I thought the ascent was hard, but the descent was even more gruelling. My knees felt every jarring movement and every stone that lay beneath my feet and I grimaced with every step I took. Somehow I didn’t care though. As we finally arrived back at the car park my legs were burning and my throat was parched but I was still on a massive adrenaline high from what I had just accomplished. I decided to head straight to the The Old Inn in Carbost to reward myself with a large glass of cold white wine. Probably the best pub on Skye and still holding the title for the best beer garden I have encountered, The Old Inn sits on the banks of Loch Harport and is dwarfed by the Cuillin ridge that I had just summited. I will never tire of the view.
After a much needed lie in, today was a much needed lazy, local kind of day visiting some of my favourite back yard spots.
My legs had pretty much turned to jelly so I knew I wouldn’t be up to walking far. But the sun was shining and I still wanted to feel some fresh air on my face so I decided to venture across the road for a leisurely walk on the very much needed flat landscape of Staffin Bay Beach. The view of the perfectly semi circular bay is one I will never get tired of waking up to whilst staying at the bed and breakfast. I spent a couple of hours wandering up and down the marbled black and white fine sandy beach feeling the salty sea air blowing the cob webs away.
As early evening approached and with a renewed sense of energy, I headed up to the world famous Quiraing as I wanted to photograph it while it was basking in the low golden sunshine.
The Quiraing is recognisable from many Hollywood films such as Stardust, the BFG and Snow White & The Huntsman. It is an essential walk for any photographer as it passes though some of the most spectacular landscapes in Scotland and as you meander up the single track road to the car park it is easy to see why.
The camera really does love the Isle of Skye. It is certainly an Island which boasts some of the most breathtaking Highland landscapes imaginable. Across Skye you’ll find precarious peaks, jutting ridges, imposing pinnacles and sweeping glens which are nothing short of majestic but the Quiraing is certainly one of the most iconic spots. This landslip can be found on the northernmost point of the Trotternish Ridge and is defined by cliffs, sweeping hillsides and awesome pinnacles giving a strangely supernatural atmosphere.
The many earthy shades of green, yellow and brown made for a beautiful contrast against the brilliant blue sky. It’s hard to imagine the the sense of scale and colour unless you are stood amongst the rolling hills.
I stayed up here for a couple of hours as I watched the sun dip low behind the stunning backdrop. As the sky turned to a pinky hue it certainly enhanced the otherworldly feel and I could not help but imagine Orks and Hobbits causing havoc on the scene before me.
Yesterday’s view point at the Quiraing was pretty spectacular but I was promised an even better vantage point today.
After (another) brief stop at the Storr Lochs to photograph the Old Man of Storr for about the hundredth time I headed out to the Braes to climb Ben Tianavaig.
As one of Skye’s finest short hill walks I was reassured that it would be a walk in the park in comparison to climbing Sgùrr Dearg but my legs still ached immensely and I struggled with every step of the 1354 feet to the summit. I hardly noticed the surrounding views and I cursed and swore the entire way up but as I reached the top my jaw dropped at the 360 degree panoramic views. There was not a cloud in the sky and you could see for miles out in to the distance. Just when I thought I had already found the best view point on Skye I get taken somewhere new and I am even more amazed.
Encompassing the Old Man of Storr to the North, Torridon to the North East, Kintail to the South East, the Red and Black Cuillins to the South, Uist to the West and Portee, Lewis & Harris to North West, Ben Tianavaig definitely did not disappoint.
The day was made even better as we descending back down to the beach and watched the playful seals seemingly follow us along the shore line.
As I prepared to say good bye and leave the Island once again there was time for a final stop in Portree, which has become somewhat of a ritual for me.
I have stopped in this exact stop many times to take this exact photograph but I have never seen these beautifully coloured harbour-side houses enhanced by the sunshine and blue sky as they were today. It really made the colours pop.
In fact, I don’t think I have EVER seen as much sunshine on the Isle of Skye as I have done during this trip and it has definitely made for some fantastic picture opportunities.
And yes, the fairies may have stayed well and truly hidden once again but I was finally able to tick off a massive Bucketlist experience, making for another thrilling yet magical trip. And this may now actually be the final time I get to visit but instead of the heavy heart I had before I can now say goodbye to Skye knowing that I have achieved something great during my time here and that a little piece of my heart and soul will always remain on this perfectly formed Island! 🖤