Hebridean weather is a looming character; it is like a sentient being that determines what Skye folk can do from day-to-day.
The North of the island is where the sea winds blow hardest and the lack of trees here are a testament to this ferocity.
Wild weather with driving rain meant our walk to the bothy at Rubha Hunish had to be postponed by a day but the following morning we found a window of calm and grasped our chance.
We met at the parking area at Shulista, photograph-famous for it’s red telephone box standing proudly amidst sheep fields. From here we followed the pavement-like stony path, hopping over muddy puddles and stopping every now and again to identify birds or say hello to fellow walkers.
Each walker brought a wealth of local knowledge and interest to the day. We shared stories about passing submarines, local friend and unusual wildlife sightings. Angus Murray who joined us from the Staffin Trust told us about the chapels of St Columba and pointed out evidence of crofting history as we went.
Our destination was ‘The Lookout’, the old Coastguard’s hut which is now maintained by the Mountain Bothies Association. It sits atop the cliffs of Rubha Hunish at the most Northerly point of Skye and is a place so beautiful that even on a grey and grizzly day visitors cannot help but be enchanted by it.
I fell in love with the place on my first visit. I’m lucky enough to be able to walk there from my back door and I like to wander up with a book or a picnic whenever I need to escape from the bustle of life. At this lofty viewpoint you can see along the islands of the Outer Hebrides to the West all the way over to the mainland on the East. It’s a vast seascape where you can watch storms threaten The Minch on one side whilst sunshine sparkles on the water on the other. It is a natural cinema.
The clouds began to roll in as we approached the bothy and we ducked inside as the first spots of rain began to hit. With windows on three sides we still had the views but were thankful of the cover.
As sandwiches were munched we discussed life on Skye and shared stories. I unwrapped a couple of my paintings and explained how my artwork has changed since moving to Skye. A few years ago my main work had been photorealistic military portraits but now, having witnessed the ever-changing colours and moods of the oceans each day, I paint to capture the feeling and hues of the sea.
When the tapping of the rain on the glass began to subside we packed our things and headed back outside. Part of being inspired by nature is also learning to live alongside it and I had carried up my Kelly Kettle to make hot drinks from the heather on the hills.
Angus had also brought his brand-new kettle and we set to work using a flint to light our two fires. Despite being new to the skill, Angus beat me hands down and we ended up using his fire to light both kettles.
A few minutes later the water was boiled and we shared tin mugs of tea and hot toddies before setting off on our return journey.
Rather than following the path back we skirted West towards the shore and the ruins of Erisco, a crofting settlement built at the time of the clearances and long left empty. The walls of the houses were sturdy and strong; despite years of abandonment their stones still stand perfectly aligned.
We then made our way over the rocky shore of Tulm Bay towards the empty Duntulm Hotel. There was plastic and rope strewn all along the tide line. We picked some up but the larger pieces would need a quad bike ‑this would need to be a beach clean project. Unfortunately the currents and tides make this North West side of the coast especially vulnerable to marine debris and beach cleans are always needed.
About 5 hours after we last saw it, the red postbox came back into view. With happy (and slightly weary) goodbyes we got into our cars. Ten minutes later the heavens opened and the storms returned.
This project is part of Tha Seo Math Dhuibh – Good ForYou in colaboration with Aros, Portree