Land's End to John O'Groats Cycletouring Trip Part 2

Day 26 - Visit to Portree and the Trotternish Peninsula

The plan for today was to get the bus to Portree and then board a bus tour of the Trotternish peninsula - the North East section of the Isle of Skye. I got up early again, fleeing the midges as I got out of my tent again and off to the old school to catch the bus.

I get the 10am Glenedin Tour with Rick the driver. There are only just enough people for him to run the tour, and we set off with some rather dodgy looking weather wondering if we will be able to see anything. The cost from memory I think was £10.

I ask Rick about the Skye bridge which was perhaps a mistake. There was some local discontent about the bridge, or rather the bridge charges when it was completed. The current charge for a car is £5.70 each way across the bridge. Rick is one of the people who refuse to pay for crossing the bridge in protest at the charges. He has strong views about it and has been in prison 3 times for evading the tolls.

I am led to believe that the bridge is effectively owned by the Bank of America - they must have lent the money for it to be built. The loan was for £13 million and the total money paid back on the loan will be £108 million.

Portree is the largest town on Skye followed by Broadford and then Dunvegan.

Skye has no indigenous industry. Tourism is the largest industry with farming and boats playing a part too.

There is a strong system of Crofting on the Isle of Skye. Crosfts are areas of land that are rented out to a farming tennant. This tennant can get a 50% grant towards all fencing and some other ground work too. It is a hard way of life, and most crofters work their croft on a break even basis. Many have one or two other jobs as well. A crofter may get up at 4am to tend his sheep, off to drive a school bus from 6 to 8am, back to the croft to work, away again later for more driving or another job then back to bed early for the next day.

Recently the price of sheep has fallen and sheep farming on a croft has become less viable. It costs 70 pence to have a sheep sheared by a contractor but the market price for the fleece is only 50 pence. If a crofter can shear the seep themsleves then obviously this cost can be avoided. The trend now is to go for cattle as the returns are better, or perhaps a specialised breed of sheep - black wool is in demand at the moment. On Skye, a cooperative has been set up to weave the wool.

Crofters are now entitled to buy their croft. The price is 15 times the annual rent (which is very low) but an additional transfer fee of £3000 puts a lot of people off. Ricks croft for example would cost £100 + £3000.

Rick took us along the road towards Uig. This first part of the peninsula had been bought out by crofters, and they were looking at planting hardwood on this land to grow. This area has virtually no trees at all. This is in complete contrast to the Sleit region of Skye where the Gaelic College is located where there are a large number of trees. The trees here had been chopped down by the landlords to change sheep farming many years ago.

There is a 4m tidal range around Skye, and this gives a source of shellfish at low tides.

We arrive in Uig. In the bay, we can see nets used for Salmon farming. The fish are kept here before being moved on to larger containers. Chemicals are used to cleanse these fish of lice as they do not swim up to freshwater where the lice would naturally leave the fish. There is some debate over the farmed fish not being as good or organic as wild fish.

Uig is a port where ferries go to Harris and Lewis in the Outer Hebrides. The community in Uig recently bought out the local petrol station and hotel when the previous owners moved out of the area. The croft boundaries can clearly be seen on the landscape around Uig.

We see some sort of 'folly' as we approach Uig which was commissioned to keep local workers in employment at some time in the past when there was little work around. I didn't quite catch the whole story here.

Approaching Kilmuir, we pass through an area which has two churches in a very small area of the peninsula. Rick explains that this is a no go area on a Sunday. He says that he and his mates avoid this area of Skye on a Sunday out of respect to the local people, as religion is strong here.

There is some talk about a hedghog epidemic on the Isles of Lewis and Harris. They are said to steal birds eggs - Eagles/Buzzards? and a debate is under way as to whether they should be culled or removed to a sanctuary down south.

At Kilmuir we stop off at The Museum of Life. This consists of a number of old style buildings with a large number of exhibits inside - these range from tools and equipment to photographs and local area history and records.

We don't stop off at Flora McDonalds memorial which was a shame as the footpath into the graveyard is being repaired. I decide I have to come back in a day ot two's time.

Rick estimates that 75% of youngsters leave Skye to go to college 'down south'.

Ahead we drive through an area where there are 3 geological faults. The third was at Flodigarry. The road needs constant repairs here.

We stop to look at the Kilt Rock and the waterfall from the viewing platform there. Just along the road is The Old Man of Storr. Both this and the road leading up through the Cuirrang would be worth a trek on a day with good weather. This and also Loch Cuirsk are the two places I would like to come back and see.

Rick talks a little about the band Runrig as we get back to Portree. This I think is the home town or area of the members.

Back in Portree I look in at the Aros Centre and the exhibition that they have running there. Information here about the Gaelic language, Bonnie Prince Charlie, The Battle of the Braes and other local history.

On the way home, Neil is the bus driver again on my bus down to Ostaig and we spend the whole journey talking again. As we pass the turning for Braes he tells me about an old legend of someone cutting hay by hand in Braes 100's of years ago. They had their baby by their side, but it was picked up by a sea eagle and dropped unharmed on the other side of the bay.

Photograph of the estuary at Uig on the Isle of Skye, and a number of fish farming cages in the sea
Fish farming in Uig, Isle of Skye

Photograph of an old round building at Uig on the Isle of Skye
Round building, Uig, Isle of Skye

Photograph of Uig with croft boundaries visible on the land in the background
Uig, Isle of Skye

Photograph of one of the thatched houses at the Museum of Life, Kilmuir, Isle of Skye
The Museum of Life, Kilmuir, Isle of Skye

Photograph taken inside one of the thatched houses at the Museum of Life, Kilmuir, Isle of Skye
The Museum of Life, Kilmuir, Isle of Skye

Photograph of the 'Kilt Rock' and a Waterfall on the Isle of Skye
The Kilt Rock and Waterfall, Isle of Skye

Photograph of the 'Kilt Rock' on the Isle of Skye
The Kilt Rock, Isle of Skye

Photograph of 'The Old Man of Storr', a rock formation on the Isle of Skye
The Old Man of Storr, Isle of Skye

Photograph of some peat diggings on the Isle of Skye
Peat diggings, Isle of Skye

Photograph of a short road of shops in Portree
Portree Shopping Centre!, Isle of Skye

Image of an admission ticket to an exhibition at the Aros centre in Portree

© Copyright  Piers Pettman - This page last updated 08 July 2006
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