Pre-Season Scout on Skye – Mountain Biking the Quiraing
We escape the snow at our Inverness office and head for the Isle of Skye, mountain bike the Quiraing before the season kicks off.
Riding the world famous Quiraing on the Isle of Skye
A solitary raven hangs contentedly in the fierce breeze punched skywards by the abrupt cliffs, a wind so fierce you could watch it scrape the moisture from your eyes. The Quiraing is normally a hot spot for hikers and sightseers but is deserted today, the Isle of Skye at the tail end of February perhaps not having the same draw as the “summer” months. Clouds pace in and out, causing the sun to slice through patches of blue sky and briefly bathe the desaturated landscape in a burst of colourful hues, offering us a little warmth and respite from the relentless windchill.
We hadn’t ridden the Quiraing for a few years and with the rest of the country being hit by some wintry weather driven down from Siberia we thought we’d take advantage of the west coast’s apparent sun and blue skies… Who’d have thought it?! My scepticism was just about quenched having left Inverness in a dusting of snow this morning, this is as good as you’re going to get it at this time of year. A gaze left shows towering peaks and craggy pinnacles, whilst a gaze right reveals the kind of exposure that turns your whole body rigid. The animal track-esque trail gives way to a boulder and scree field forcing bikes to be launched on shoulders and marched to the summit, the craters and crags we are in the midst of are otherworldly, feeling like they belong on the pages of a fiction novel.
“the craters and crags we are in the midst of are otherworldly, feeling like they belong on the pages of a fiction novel”
Waterfalls are frozen in motion off the shear rock face above whilst sheep graze undeterred and uninterested by our presence. We find a trio of German hikers pondering a plot in paths, we pointed them in the right direction although they stressed this was against the bus driver’s advice… Given there were no rucksacks to be seen and they were clad in chinos we politely gave them a nudge in the direction of the car park instead of the snowy plateau they were eying up. Ditching the hiker highway we opt for the road less travelled and launch down a descent snaking off between the glacier- and river-carved mounds. Flowing turns lead into eroded rock gardens where a tentative point, shoot, and hope for the best was the only option – made that little bit more interesting with the random ribbons of ice strewn on the trail. Leaving the Quiraing behind the coastline becomes our target, by now we are treated to a wide vista over the rippled sea surface across to the snow dusted Torridon mountains. I hang back and watch Chris and Ella dropping the vertical towards the blue of the Atlantic, after traversing a short ridge line they disappear out of sight into the hollow of a corrie.
“Leaving the Quiraing behind the coastline becomes our target, by now we are treated to a wide vista over the rippled sea surface across to the snow dusted Torridon mountains.”
By the time I reach them again they are waiting impatiently at the gate, not wanting to hang around in the wind. The van is a short aero-tuck and road roll away, offering the draw of warmth and potential for hunting out a dinner location… Which we found to be tricky on Skye in the depths of winter, 4th time lucky and we were tucked into a marginally cremated pizza which was more than edible after a day in the cold. Looks can be deceiving! Crossing back onto the mainland at Kyle of Lochalsh with a temperature reading well below minus we were already dreaming of returning in the warmer and prolonged daylight hours of a not-so-sunny Scottish summer!
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