Author Topic: To Scotland - hiking in Isle of Skye and Cairngorms NP  (Read 7839 times)

nereo

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To Scotland - hiking in Isle of Skye and Cairngorms NP
« on: March 11, 2015, 01:24:35 PM »
Greetings.  We are planning our first trip ever to Scotland (first ever to the UK actually) and we will be spending about two days each in Cairngorms NP and the Isle of Skye.  I'm looking for recommendations on which day-hikes we should consider while we are there.  This will be in mid April.

A typical day-hike for us may be 6-8 miles (10-14km) on challenging ground - a 4-8 hour walk with stops.  Our main goal is to see the natural landscape beauty, and where possible be in areas without a huge crush of people.  Generally we do tent-camping, but for logistical reasons we won't have our full backcountry kits (we'll need at least some kind of shelter and probably bedding). We tend to avoid any 'group' trips, instead preferring to start at a trail head with a map, some supplies (food, drink, clothing) and our cameras.

Where would you go hiking?
where would you stay (we'd prefer cabins/hostels/yurts over hotels with full amenities, although we'll need at least a shelter over our heads)?
« Last Edit: March 11, 2015, 01:43:17 PM by nereo »

2ndTimer

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Re: To Scotland - hiking in Isle of Skye and Cairngorms NP
« Reply #1 on: March 11, 2015, 01:36:19 PM »
This isn't going to be a bit helpful just a request that you post a description of your adventures when you come back

KCM5

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Re: To Scotland - hiking in Isle of Skye and Cairngorms NP
« Reply #2 on: March 11, 2015, 02:45:52 PM »
Check out the Lazy Duck Hostel for the Cairngorms. I stayed there a few years ago and it was super cute, quiet, lots of hiking to do right out the back door because it's pretty rural. It looks like they've added some cabins since I was there, but I stayed in the tiny hostel and it was great.

http://lazyduck.co.uk/

ZiziPB

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Re: To Scotland - hiking in Isle of Skye and Cairngorms NP
« Reply #3 on: March 11, 2015, 02:58:20 PM »
I would recommend B&Bs - they are usually inexpensive.  My DD and I stayed at this one on Isle of Skye (outside of Portree in a quiet rural location) http://www.tripadvisor.com/Hotel_Review-g551883-d1391924-Reviews-Westwards-Portree_Isle_of_Skye_The_Hebrides_Scotland.html

We loved Skye.  We were there in May and found it pleasantly devoid of crowds.  Be mindful of the weather - it is very changeable and can be miserably cold and wet in April.  Make sure you are prepared to deal with that while hiking.  Can't recommend any specific hikes (we only had a couple of days and decided to circle the island by car with short walks to places of interest), but I love hiking and have vowed to return to Skye to hike one day because it looked absolutely spectacular.


SilveradoBojangles

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Re: To Scotland - hiking in Isle of Skye and Cairngorms NP
« Reply #4 on: March 11, 2015, 03:12:45 PM »
How fun! My partner and I walked a portion of the Speyside way last August, which took us through Cairngorms NP. We saw few other people on the trail. We stayed in guesthouses, which included a double room in someone's house and a bigger breakfast than you could ever hope to eat. Check out the Old Ferryman's house, which is a very cute rural cottage in Boat of Garten, or the Lazy Duck hostel in Nethybridge. It was the high season when we went, but we tried to stick to a budget of about 35 pounds per person per night.

The trail from Grantown-on-Spey to Boat-of-Garten was very beautiful. It first followed the river Spey, and then went through more forested park land after nethybridge. The walk from Boat-of-Garten to Aviemore took us through widely variable landscapes, some with a spectral beauty. The trails were either flat or through gently rolling hills. Some of the trails near the river are lined with wild raspberries.

By far the most difficult thing about this trip was knowing how to pack. In August the weather was highly variable from hour to hour, with rain and wind one minute, and then baking humidity as soon as the sun came out. Perhaps it will be more predictable in April?

nereo

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Re: To Scotland - hiking in Isle of Skye and Cairngorms NP
« Reply #5 on: March 11, 2015, 07:31:55 PM »
How fun! My partner and I walked a portion of the Speyside way last August, which took us through Cairngorms NP. We saw few other people on the trail. We stayed in guesthouses, which included a double room in someone's house and a bigger breakfast than you could ever hope to eat. Check out the Old Ferryman's house, which is a very cute rural cottage in Boat of Garten, or the Lazy Duck hostel in Nethybridge. It was the high season when we went, but we tried to stick to a budget of about 35 pounds per person per night.

The trail from Grantown-on-Spey to Boat-of-Garten was very beautiful. It first followed the river Spey, and then went through more forested park land after nethybridge. The walk from Boat-of-Garten to Aviemore took us through widely variable landscapes, some with a spectral beauty. The trails were either flat or through gently rolling hills. Some of the trails near the river are lined with wild raspberries.

By far the most difficult thing about this trip was knowing how to pack. In August the weather was highly variable from hour to hour, with rain and wind one minute, and then baking humidity as soon as the sun came out. Perhaps it will be more predictable in April?
Thanks - exactly the kind of suggestions I was looking for.  I doubt the raspberries will be in season, but everything else sounds like what we are looking for.  Regarding the weather, having spent a lot of time in the pacific NW I feel comfortable we can pack for the weather.  It might be cold and rainy much of the time, but that just leaves the door open for some spectacular photos with some very moody skies when the weather does break.

Argyle

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Re: To Scotland - hiking in Isle of Skye and Cairngorms NP
« Reply #6 on: March 11, 2015, 08:03:18 PM »
Brrrr!  The good news is that by going in April, you will avoid the midges.  But expect chilly weather.  The average temperature on Skye in April is 45 F.  The average high is 49 F.  In other words, 49 F is balmy.  And it will be wet.  So imagine a damp, penetrating 45 degrees, likely with squelchy ground.  I have been on Skye at the height of the summer and still shivered.  So dress warmly and be prepared.

I would think you'd want more than two days at each of those places it takes a long time to get there.

Where the locals stay will be B&Bs (which are not fancy frilly places as they are in the U.S., but locals who rent out a bedroom) and places like pubs that have a couple of rooms.  There may be some hostels but April may be the off season, and you'd have to check in advance about whether they're open.  Not a lot of locals will be out hiking on Skye in April.

kpd905

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Re: To Scotland - hiking in Isle of Skye and Cairngorms NP
« Reply #7 on: March 11, 2015, 08:09:09 PM »
This isn't going to be a bit helpful just a request that you post a description of your adventures when you come back

I second this, and some pics as well.

ZiziPB

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Re: To Scotland - hiking in Isle of Skye and Cairngorms NP
« Reply #8 on: March 12, 2015, 04:15:29 AM »
Brrrr!  The good news is that by going in April, you will avoid the midges.  But expect chilly weather.  The average temperature on Skye in April is 45 F.  The average high is 49 F.  In other words, 49 F is balmy.  And it will be wet.  So imagine a damp, penetrating 45 degrees, likely with squelchy ground.  I have been on Skye at the height of the summer and still shivered.  So dress warmly and be prepared.

I would think you'd want more than two days at each of those places it takes a long time to get there.

Where the locals stay will be B&Bs (which are not fancy frilly places as they are in the U.S., but locals who rent out a bedroom) and places like pubs that have a couple of rooms.  There may be some hostels but April may be the off season, and you'd have to check in advance about whether they're open.  Not a lot of locals will be out hiking on Skye in April.
+1  This is good advice and very accurate.

nereo

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Re: To Scotland - hiking in Isle of Skye and Cairngorms NP
« Reply #9 on: March 12, 2015, 07:28:09 AM »
Brrrr!  The good news is that by going in April, you will avoid the midges.  But expect chilly weather.  The average temperature on Skye in April is 45 F.  The average high is 49 F.  In other words, 49 F is balmy.  And it will be wet.  So imagine a damp, penetrating 45 degrees, likely with squelchy ground.  I have been on Skye at the height of the summer and still shivered.  So dress warmly and be prepared.

I would think you'd want more than two days at each of those places it takes a long time to get there.

Where the locals stay will be B&Bs (which are not fancy frilly places as they are in the U.S., but locals who rent out a bedroom) and places like pubs that have a couple of rooms.  There may be some hostels but April may be the off season, and you'd have to check in advance about whether they're open.  Not a lot of locals will be out hiking on Skye in April.

We'll certainly prepare for and expect chilly weather, but I think we're accustomed to that after years of hiking along the seacoast of the pacific NW, where it is typically wet, windy and in the 30s-40s for weeks at a time.

Wish that we could stay longer, but the trip it what it is.  Our primary reason for being there is for a conference in Edinburgh, but we have 5 extra days afterwards before we mustreturn home, hence ~2 days in Skye and ~2 days in Cairngorms, plus a day of casual driving between the two.  Alternatively we could spend 4 days in just one of those places, but....  we'd rather see a little of both with a plan to return ~5 years later for a more extended stay.

One question:
how do I find the local B&Bs in advance?  Is there a website or a registry where they are all listed (and maybe reviewed)?  It's going to be a busy trip and I'd prefer to have each night's lodging taken care of ahead of time.

spokey doke

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Re: To Scotland - hiking in Isle of Skye and Cairngorms NP
« Reply #10 on: March 12, 2015, 07:56:02 AM »
Try googling B&B's Isle of Skye, it is pretty easy.

One of my favorite parts of Scotland - loved the drive from Edinburgh, and I wanted to get out and hike everything I saw...our group was interested in mellower hikes (which ended up being pretty great - Man of Schor and Neist Point. The latter isn't much of a hike but an incredible sight, and one the way, The Red Roof is a killer cafe).  We regret not going to Talker - their Distiller's Edition is now one of my very favorites.

Skye also had the best beer in Scotland IMO - Hebridean Gold and others from Isle of Skye Brewing

ZiziPB

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Re: To Scotland - hiking in Isle of Skye and Cairngorms NP
« Reply #11 on: March 12, 2015, 08:02:24 AM »
For B&Bs, you can start here: http://www.visitscotland.com/en-us/accommodation/bandbs/

Tripadvisor also has reviews of most B&Bs in Scotland.  You can search by the specific location you are interested in.

SilveradoBojangles

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Re: To Scotland - hiking in Isle of Skye and Cairngorms NP
« Reply #12 on: March 12, 2015, 11:08:45 AM »
Finding B&Bs/ Guesthouses was hard. There are few central repositories of listings, and many don't have websites. I used a website on the Speyside way, which breaks down each section of the walk and lists accomodations in each area at the bottom of the page, and just emailed or called places. Here is a link for the nethybridge to Boat of Garten section: http://www.speysideway.org/OG_sect7.asp. This is trail rather than park specific, but hopefully it will get you started.

One more tip -- we downloaded an app called Pocket earth (it cost 2 or 3$) and it was sooooooo worth it. It allows you to download maps for use offline, and the GPS in your phone allows you to see where you are, and place markers for where you are headed, where you are staying, etc. We were amazed at the level of detail and accuracy in the Speyside/Cairngorms areas. It had all the hiking trails on it, including unmarked little tracks that weren't on the posted maps/signs in the park. It kept us from getting lost countless times. I absolutely recommend it.

nereo

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Re: To Scotland - hiking in Isle of Skye and Cairngorms NP
« Reply #13 on: March 13, 2015, 07:02:23 AM »
Finding B&Bs/ Guesthouses was hard. There are few central repositories of listings, and many don't have websites. I used a website on the Speyside way, which breaks down each section of the walk and lists accomodations in each area at the bottom of the page, and just emailed or called places. Here is a link for the nethybridge to Boat of Garten section: http://www.speysideway.org/OG_sect7.asp. This is trail rather than park specific, but hopefully it will get you started.

One more tip -- we downloaded an app called Pocket earth (it cost 2 or 3$) and it was sooooooo worth it....
great tip for the ap.  We have 'dumb-phones' and probably won't use them in Scotland due to cost, but we could/should take a GPS with us.

I agree that finding B&B isn't as easy as a simple google-search as some have suggested.  Sure, some come up, but it hasn't been like going lodging search-engines in the US to find budget accomodations where they can be neatly sorted on a map and and then filtered by price, availability etc.  I gather many/most of the B&B/hostels are independent and small (which I like) and can easily slip 'under-the-radar'.  that's why I've been putting out calls for specific recommendations.   I'll check out speysideway.org for places near the trails, as well as ZiziPB's suggestion on visitscotland.com

ZiziPB

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Re: To Scotland - hiking in Isle of Skye and Cairngorms NP
« Reply #14 on: March 13, 2015, 07:13:47 AM »
nereo, you should also check this site out for Skye: http://www.skye.co.uk/accommodation-bed-breakfast-guesthouses.php#results

This is the official site for the Isle of Skye and has a lot of useful info in addition to the list of B&Bs and guesthouses that I linked for you.

jzb11

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Re: To Scotland - hiking in Isle of Skye and Cairngorms NP
« Reply #15 on: March 13, 2015, 07:25:23 AM »
Try www.airbnb.com to see what you can find. I've used it in Brazil with great results.

I don't have much for suggestions but I went to cairngorm 2013 after edinborough and I fricken loved it. It's amazing!

ryanthequark

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Re: To Scotland - hiking in Isle of Skye and Cairngorms NP
« Reply #16 on: March 13, 2015, 10:04:57 PM »
I visited the Isle of Skye in 2002 - man, so long ago, now - and LOVED the time I spent at this hostel: http://www.hostelskye.co.uk/. They were so, so hospitable and friendly and everything you could want - including cheap. But, you know, that was 13 years ago...

NinetyFour

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Re: To Scotland - hiking in Isle of Skye and Cairngorms NP
« Reply #17 on: March 14, 2015, 09:35:29 AM »
Following...

nereo

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Re: To Scotland - hiking in Isle of Skye and Cairngorms NP
« Reply #18 on: March 15, 2015, 07:42:59 AM »
Following...
well it seems I'll have to post some of the pictures from my trip when I get back and link it back here.  Hopefully we won't have all rain; I'm really looking forward to it! - Trip starts in just under 4 weeks.
Thanks everyone for their suggestions. 

Secretly Saving

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Re: To Scotland - hiking in Isle of Skye and Cairngorms NP
« Reply #19 on: March 15, 2015, 09:26:49 AM »
I went to Scotland last June.  It was beautiful.  Loved the highlands.  Only negative was the biting insects -- midges and others.  Enjoy your trip!

Villanelle

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Re: To Scotland - hiking in Isle of Skye and Cairngorms NP
« Reply #20 on: March 15, 2015, 09:34:41 AM »
Skye is the most beautiful place I've ever seen. We stayed at a B&B, and it wasn't a cheap one though it wasn't fancy.  It was on the far end of Skye, so much more out in the natural areas.  It was called Carter's Rest, and the hosts were wonderful people.  But if you are looking for a budget place, it's not your choice.  As I said, it was far from fancy though. 

It was a 10 minute or so walk from a lighthouse point. We loved being in the wilderness, rather than the town, even if it is a small town. 

I had the wonderful folks at Secret Scotland help with our Scotland itinerary.  Sounds like you wouldn't want that (though I suspect they could provide you with wonderful information on hikes if you asked for that specifically!), but they did also sell a B&B recommendation list.  For all 4 of our B&Bs in Scotland, we stayed with their recommendations and we were very pleased with all of them.  We got the B&B packet free with our itinerary, so I don't know the cost. 

nereo

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Re: To Scotland - hiking in Isle of Skye and Cairngorms NP
« Reply #21 on: May 05, 2015, 10:40:04 AM »
Thought I would update this post for those that were 'posting-to-follow'.
Our trip to Scotland was incredible!  The weather was extremely variable (in a two hour period we experienced sun, rain, hail and sleet, plus a temperature change from ~62F(+16C) to 40F(+5C)), but overall we were blessed with many sunny hours and lots and lots of storm light.

For our accommodations we lucked out in that a friend-of-a-friend offered us as much camping gear as anyone could possibly require.  We found a nice campsite near Portree (Isle of Skye) that offered full amenities for 14 and was a short walk from town.  The food was perhaps the biggest surprise of all - even in very small towns we always stumbled across some little inn or pub that had amazing food for about 15 each.  Not cheap but worth it to us - particularly since we saved so much on lodging.  A glass of 15y single-malt cost about 3-4, and we drank quite a few over the 5 days we were there.  Our economy rental car (a Vauxhall Corsa) worked well enough, got great fuel economy and cost 10/day (enterprise).  We visited two Whisky distilleries (Talisker and Dalwhinnie). Sadly a bottle of single-malt cost as much (if not slightly more) at the distillery as it does as the NH State Liquor Stores.  Apparently single-malt has become trendy, and given the typical 12+ years from productionto bottling there's far more demand than supply, so no deals anywhere :-(

We spent a lot of time planning various places to visit but honestly some of our best moments were when we saw a sign, pulled over and started exploring.  We couldn't drive more than 30 minutes without coming across an interesting hike, fantastic vista or old castle.  The castles are amazing but unfortunately they're all expensive to tour (anywhere from 14-20 per person), so we only visited two (Edinburgh and Dunvegan) but saw lots more from the outside.

A few quick photos of the highlands:
#1 - Old Man of Storr hike - photo taken about 5 minutes after a fast-moving storm with sleet and hail.
#2 - Fairy Pools.  Again, random periods of rain and sun.  Streams, waterfalls and pools abound throughout Ilse of Skye
#3 - Black Cullins.  One of two large calderas (volcanic mountains) in Skye, the other being the Red Cullins.

« Last Edit: May 05, 2015, 10:42:57 AM by nereo »

ZiziPB

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Re: To Scotland - hiking in Isle of Skye and Cairngorms NP
« Reply #22 on: May 05, 2015, 12:30:18 PM »
Glad you had such a great trip and thanks for the update!  Skye is definitely one of the most beautiful places I have ever visited.  I plan to return there next year and do some hiking.

nereo

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Re: To Scotland - hiking in Isle of Skye and Cairngorms NP
« Reply #23 on: May 05, 2015, 01:52:58 PM »
Glad you had such a great trip and thanks for the update!  Skye is definitely one of the most beautiful places I have ever visited.  I plan to return there next year and do some hiking.
Enjoy your trip!  I'm already dreaming of when we will be able to go back.  Any hikes in particular you are dying to do?

lizzzi

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Re: To Scotland - hiking in Isle of Skye and Cairngorms NP
« Reply #24 on: May 05, 2015, 02:09:13 PM »
Alba gu brath!

TightYorkshireman

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Re: To Scotland - hiking in Isle of Skye and Cairngorms NP
« Reply #25 on: May 06, 2015, 02:44:35 AM »
Greetings from Scotland and glad you had a good trip.

My best tip for cheap whisky is the supermarkets - they always have a weekly deal on a bottle.  Aberlour, which is a decent speyside malt, is often the best value.  There are 4 major supermarket chains in UK - Asda, Morrisons, Sainsbury's and Tesco.  Branches everywhere.

If you're not snobby about the stuff the supermarkets do white label products which all come from the same place - Tesco Speyside, for example.
http://www.lifehacker.co.uk/2015/01/23/best-supermarket-whiskey

Don't buy your whisky on the distillery tour - they don't discount as they know you don't have a choice nearby

worms

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Re: To Scotland - hiking in Isle of Skye and Cairngorms NP
« Reply #26 on: May 06, 2015, 02:14:45 PM »

If you like Scotland, you will like this video, which will advertise the new North Coast 500 tourist route, which launches this month.  I'll be out along about 100 miles of it tomorrow...(don't feel too sorry for me!).