We are looking for the beyond. Beyond the city limits and beyond the Trossachs. Beyond the great Rannoch Moor and beyond the mountains. Beyond the rock of the mainland and the trivia of everyday life.
The plan was simple: walk, see, learn, eat, sleep, look, listen and laugh. We’d spend a weekend hiking, eating well, camping out. We’d also heard about a bothy called the Lookout along the northern cliffs of the island. We heard it’s the most spectacular location of any bothy in Scotland; quite a claim. This was our destination, but our journey would be one of escape.
Edinburgh. The plane thuds down. Queue. Baggage claim. Car keys. Bumps checked. Traffic lights. Roundabouts. Phone calls and pickups made. Express coffee. Motorways. 70mph. More coffee. WhatsApp. Everyday life.
And then the mountains begin to rise out of Loch Lomond, higher and higher as the ancient geological tumult ravaged this earth. Rannoch Moor, 50 square miles of bog, a more inhospitable place in Britain we’d struggle to find before the Highlands begin in earnest with Buachaille Etive Mòr, the Hollywood A-lister of a mountain, almost sculpturally perfect – at least from this angle as we pause to snap photos for Instagram. No filters needed here. As the mountains rise, the road struggles to find any straight lines. We stop again at the lay-bys to wonder at the views on this perfect, blue day. Highland weather is rarely like this.
The mountains of Scotland have been places of safety and danger, of hardship and pleasure. Our final mainland stop is at Kyle of Lochalsh. Perhaps the last cashpoint machine, maybe the last 3G reception. And from a small spit of land in a hotel car park, we see the Skye Bridge. Now the focus changes, time slows down, the grand view opens. Silence descends.
Skíð or Skye. The name could have come from the early Celtic word ‘skitis’, meaning ‘winged’. Looking at the map, it doesn’t immediately look wing-shaped, but the feathers spread away from the Black Cuillin. This mountainous crest, truly black, is the dominating point of Scotland’s second-largest island – but the Cuillin is not our destination this time. Instead we will travel north to Uig on the most northerly finger to begin our walk. Before setting off, however, we need supplies.