Backpacking, bothying and bongoing on Raasay

by backpackingbongos

One more week and I get to sleep in a tent for the first time this year – planning a weekend backpack in the North Pennines.  Cant wait, will be interesting to see how hardy (or not) I am!  Have not wild camped since last October.

In the meantime I thought I would write up a backpacking trip I did last summer with Corrina.

I have always wanted to visit Raasay, a long narrow Island located between Skye and Applecross on the mainland.  A two week holiday in the highlands with Corrina gave me the perfect opportunity.  We had agreed that if we stay in nice campsites with showers and stuff for most of the trip, then she would come on a two day backpack with me.  We set off from Applecross over the Bealach na ba, probably the best road I have ever driven.  The weather was amazing with views over to Skye from the summit of the road at 626m.  I managed a quick bag of the Corbett Sgurr a Chaorachain, which is well worth doing as the views are to die for.  We drove down and spent the night in Plockton which we wanted to visit as it is was the setting for Hamish Macbeth.  Really did not like the place, all full of art galleries and expensive cars.

Left the next morning in appalling weather to drive over the Skye bridge.  Skye looked pretty bleak and uninviting in the low cloud and rain from the A87, no mountains on view today!  We got to sconser only to discover we had a 4 hour wait as it was a Sunday – off to the Sligachan hotel bar then!  It appeared that the whole campsite across the way was sitting dripping in the bar, reading and looking glum.

Late afternoon and we were boarding the ferry with 2 other vehicles for the short crossing to Suisnish.  It felt like we were heading off into the unknown as we drove off the ferry.  Through the village of Inverarish then climbing up on the single track road past the youth hostel.  The road surface soon turned pretty rough as it climbed over the 200m mark, with the wind battering us from the west.  The views across to skye was awesome with the whole of the east coast in view.

Map of Raasay (click to enlarge)

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We searched for ages for somewhere to park up for the night, but places were lacking that were not directly in the full force of the wind.  We eventually found a spot that was relatively sheltered but decided not to put the roof up as some gusts were pretty ferocious.  Did not want to loose the roof out here!

Bongo wild camp

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Not that keen on parking up next to a road but we only had one vehicle pass us in the 12 hours we were there!  The morning dawned bright, warm and sunny so we continued heading to the north of the Island.  The last two miles of road are known as Callums Road after the local man who built it by hand.  What a road it is!  It is only just the width of the van and it twists and turns above cliffs with unprotected drops down into the sea.

Interesting road sign on Raasay

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We did safely reach the end of the road at Arnish so shouldered our rucksacks and headed into the wild.  The next few miles were probably one of the best low level walks I have done.  The path was constantly twisting in and around rocky outcrops with stunning views at every step.

View to the north of Raasay with the Island of Rona in the distance

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View across the Sound of Raasay to the east coast of Skye

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After a few hours of gentle walking and lots of sitting down and taking in the views, we finally arrived at Taig Thormoid Dhuibh bothy which is maintained by the MBA (Mountain bothies association).  The location of which was even better than we had imagined with 180 degree views to the sea.  It has one open plan room with a fireplace at one end and a sleeping platform at the other.  The major drawback is the lack of any firewood in the area.  Determined to have at least a small fire in the evening, I left Corrina at the bothy for a couple of hours as I set off on a scavenge along the rocky shore.  There was only the odd bit of driftwood to be found so if you are planning to come here in the colder months make sure you carry in some fuel.  We spent the evening sitting outside the bothy watching the sun set over Skye.  Even at midnight the sky was still tinged with pink and night was a bright twighlight.

Sitting outside Taig Thormoid Dhuibh bothy

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Cooking in the bothy

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Taig Thormoid Dhuibh looking towards the Isle of Skye

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The next morning was spent lazing around the bothy before heading back the way we had come to the van.  The weather broke just as we got back to the road head.  Wind and rain with a curtain of mist hiding Skye.

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10 Responses to “Backpacking, bothying and bongoing on Raasay”

  1. Smashing blog,nice photo’s,think I may take a wee trip up to Taig Thormoid Dhuibh in the spring,will pop in here now and again.

  2. In all my travels around the Highlands, both in person and on the `net, yours is the first negative comment about Plockton I`ve come across. Granted, there are a few galleries and expensive cars, virtually none owned by the residents of Plockton; too bad you didn`t have time to get to know a few of the “Plocktonites”. They are, almost without exception, the friendliest and most fun people I have come across in Scotland, a land known for outgoing and friendly folks. My wife and I have spent many an hour playing music and just passing time with the friends we have made over the years in the village

    It`s too bad Plockton (“Loch Dubh”) was chosen as the setting for “Hamish Macbeth”. Otherwise, the village would have remained the lovely backwater we “discovered” many years ago taking the “scenic route” (Are there any other?”) down the west coast from Durness through Lochinver, Achiltibuie, Arisaig, Applecross (Bealach na Ba) to Skye. There were few expensive cars, only one art gallery and virtually no visitors.
    Please give the place another try, preferably in April or October (fewer tourists and midges) when you have a few days to get to know the place. Have a few of Andy Will`s beers from his recently opened “Plackton Brewery”, in his garage.

    Cheers,

    Wis Huey

  3. Hi Wis

    I have to admit that we were only in Plockton for 24 hours but the impression we were given in that short time was not favourable. I have to say that the location and scenery was stunning but it seemed to be lacking a bit of soul when we vistited (ok it was the weekend during the end of June). Maybe this was down to the fact we had just spent a few days at Applecross which we thought was amazing?

  4. Was on Raasay last summer – its a beautiful island but the memories on the way back from the bothy will remain with me forever.
    Decided to do the low level eastern coastal track back to the main settlement – it was one of my most torrid walking experiences.
    Bracken hell – I could have used a machete down there.
    When it was nearly over I tuned into the BBC home service and was informed that heavy rain was on the way and as I only had a Bivy bag and the Hotel was full of Lichenologist, yes lichenologists – I decided on the last resort, the youth hostel (nothing against this fabulous service but I ain’t a youth hostel type of person – it reminds me too much of my school daze or days).
    Still stayed in the campsite the next night and got my first look at the Hilleberg Soulo – bivybag dreaming has now become a much rarer occurrence.

    • What does a Lichenologist look like? I have to admit to loathing bracken, not sure of what purpose it serves at all (unless you count it looking nice in the autumn when dying). We nearly stayed at the youth hostel but decided against it, it was looking a bit busy. Not keen on all that snoring.

  5. Lichenologists are a symbiotic combination of a stamp collector and biologist . They exhibit strange hybrid like features somewhere between a animal and a plant.
    Needless to say the conversations in the pub were fascinating – also there was evidence of a effort on their part to colonize the Youth hostel.
    Curiously the other group attempting to colonise the island (construction workers making the new pier) never attempted to compete for the same resources.
    My limited natural history knowledge would seem to indicate that they were both specialists in the island ecosystem

  6. Ps – I believe the Bracken infestations that afflict these islands are the partial outcome of heavy grazing by light footed animals such as sheep and deer.
    If they removed the gross subsidy for sheep on these hills (remember mountain sheep’s wool is almost worthless now and therefore most of the energy that goes into its growth is wasted) and replaced them with mountain cattle such as the Kerry and Highland or even Gascon varieties the more inaccessible parts of the mountains would revert to birch scrub and the more gentle slopes would retain a open character.

    • I think that they have been using highland cattle to trample down the bracken in Ennerdale, seems to be working there.

  7. If they do not simultaneously dramatically reduce the density of sheep then I believe it may be of little use to the species richness of a hill although it may reduce the bracken infestations.
    Since the eighties they have grazed Kerry cattle near Brandon mountain to break up the purple moor grass but have never made any attempt to reduce the sheep numbers up there – with predictable results.
    To be honest land management over here is in a piss poor condition – the natural parks and wildlife service is at best a badly run hobby – with Killarney natural park just somebody’s back garden.
    Micheal Davitt (a agrarian agitator and reformer) is turning in his grave now and if transported to this time I suspect he may not have bothered with his crusade.
    The failure of the Golden and Sea eagle project speaks for itself – sheep cannot look after themselves at any real level and the land needs to be kept in a very artificial state through intensive grazing and the elimination of all carnivores.
    Coastal wind swept low level grasslands is the only place for sheep in the western areas of the British Isles.

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