12 October 2011--I often mention "the list", my mental roster of places I want to visit, whether for the first time or for a
return trip. I know that some are probably beyond my grasp--not impossible to get to, but requiring more of a commitment than I feel
comfortable making. The Lofoten Islands in Norway, for example, are looking kind of doubtful at this stage, as is Haida Gwaii, off
Canada's west coast. Others are within easy reach, but somehow keep getting put off. Yeah, Stirling...no excuse for that one, really.
Another in that category is the Isle of Raasay, a small and easily accessible island lying between Skye and Applecross. It's been on
the list for a long time. Today we will check it off.
We drive across the Skye Bridge, through Broadford, and on to the pier at Sconser. It's a short hop to Raasay, twenty minutes or so. Our plan is to walk up Dun Caan, the island's highest point at 443 meters (about 1453 feet). There are two possible routes-- one a fairly straight shot from the road to the west, the other a longer path from the south, which looks more interesting to us. The start is near an abandoned iron mine, and there's a broch around somewhere, which we hope to get a look at on our return.
It's a beautiful day, sunny and reasonably warm. The chosen trail is a bit boggy in places, but presents some interesting views. When Dun Caan itself finally comes into sight, it looks quite intimidating, flat at the top, with cliffs all around. In fact, it reminds me of Duffus Castle sitting on its motte. We join the trail from the west and start up. The path switchbacks its way up the slope, and turns out not to be too difficult. We nevertheless suffer the middle-aged walker's two standard humiliations: first, we pass a young family descending, Mom and Dad and two small children and an infant on Mom's back, lightly tripping down the trail as if strolling on the beach. I envy the kids; when they reach my age, they will not feel intimidated by a pimple like Dun Caan. Shortly after that encounter, we are passed by a gray-haired lady springing up the hillside like a mountain goat. She reaches the summit and is halfway back down again before we are up. Both parties have taken the more direct route; I will, too, if I come here again.
The air is surprisingly still at the summit. Despite that, the atmosphere is fairly free of haze--not crystal clear, but clear enough to take in the Cuillins, the Storr, Applecross, Torridon, the Five Sisters of Kintail, and many other peaks and ranges I can't identify. We linger for some time before reluctantly making our way back down along the boggy trail.
We skip the search for the broch--it's one of several things that will bring me back to Raasay, I'm sure--and retire to the Borodale House Hotel for a pint. I'm not impressed with the place at first glance, but it would do for an evening if I ever chose to spend a night here. We enjoy our beer in the sunshine out front of the hotel, in the company of the young family, the gray-haired lady, a few other walkers and cyclists, several dogs, and a cat basking in the afternoon warmth.
We're back in Plockton in time to shower before dinner at the Plockton Hotel. Ross serves us a dram at the Haven, and we follow with a pint at the Plockton Inn. Ron heads off to bed early, and I am not far behind. It's been a really good day; after three weeks on the road, I finally feel that I'm in the proper rhythm.