The Old Man of Storr and Needle Rock, April 2022
Skye has been on my excursion list ever since I moved back up to Scotland in 2014, and I’m delighted to say that two days ago we finally made it!
Making it a day trip was a smidge ambitious, and if you’re travelling from Central Scotland, I’d suggest taking accommodation for a couple of nights. We only had time for a circuit of the Portree/Uig branch of the island, which I thought was beautiful - the east coast more so than the west - but I wouldn't like to see it in full tourist swing. I shall return, but perhaps in the winter, with a couple of overnights. 15 hours is a little much for a 'day trip'.
Pretty much the whole drive from the Trossachs is stunning – up through Glen Coe and the Spean Bridge area, then past Loch Garry, Loch Cluanie and Loch Duich. A couple of miles before you get to Kyle of Lochalsh, you can't miss the striking Eilean Donan Castle - an essential photostop, even if you don't have time to go in.
And then on, over the bridge to Skye. The Cuillin mountain ridges are truly impressive and when I go back I’ll definitely spend a lot more time in the south of the island. As it was, we just passed through this time, with The Storr and Kilt Rock firmly on the ‘to do’ list.
The craggy top of The Storr ridge is visible from quite a distance, looking a little like the back of a stegosaurus with the Old Man providing a rocky horn.
Loch Leathan and The Storr
As you approach, there isn’t much signage, but the car park is obvious on the left and there’s a tea room on the right. It’s £3 for up to 3 hours, which should be just about sufficient time.
Not long after you’ve started the climb, the path splits. Both routes will take you up, but we took the left fork up and the right one down, and I think the left is the less challenging option – although it was still steep enough for me!
The couple of blogs I'd read about getting to the famous Old Man of Storr and Needle Rock talked breezily about a one-and-a-quarter to one-and-a-half hour round trip and how breathtaking it was.
Now, mountain goats should not be allowed to write blogs. 🐐🐐
Took me 2 hours 45 mins to get up and back. I'm sure that if you're sub-40 and/or fit and/or not overweight, it's perfectly do-able in under two hours, but I nearly quit twice and it looked as though poor old Ledi would have been delighted if I had!
That said, the very frequent stops on the fairly steep path up gave us plenty of opportunity to admire the truly stunning views.
About 2/3 of the way up, you pass through a gate, after which there’s a succession of stone steps that take you up to the rock formations. They’re not too high, but it still takes a bit of puff to get up there!
And then you meet the Old Man himself and his companion, Needle Rock:
From here to the top of the trail, it’s quite ‘messy’ underfoot, so you need to watch where you’re going, but make sure you carry on for the best views.
As always, Ledi was hugely popular with everyone up there and we chatted for a bit with a lovely German couple, who were staying at the Great Glen Lodges - just behind Loch Lochy (between Fort William and Fort Augustus) - which is where we stayed with some friends back in 2016. If you’re looking for a base to explore the southern Highlands, the chalets are very comfortable and there’s plenty of wildlife to be spotted, including some pretty friendly pine martens 😊
Going down was a bit quicker (and easier on the lungs), but I took it gingerly as the ground was quite dry and slippy. Meanwhile, The Sausage looked like a brand new dog compared to his uphill self!
And then it was back into the car and off north to see Kilt Rock and Mealt Falls, just 7 or 8 miles further up the road.
After that, we carried on around the north of the island and looped back to Portree to rejoin the road back to the bridge.
Staffin Bay, Duntulm Castle and Uig Bay
Collie & Mackenzie statue at Sligachan / Looking across the Inner Sound
By that time, it was around 4pm and we had a good five-hour journey home, so I put my foot down, only stopping for a couple of pics at Glen Coe, which was looking beautiful in the evening light:
Loch Achtriochtan, Glen Coe
Lagangarbh Hut, Glen Coe
Getting there: Take the A82 heading north, through Glen Coe, Fort William and Spean Bridge, then turn left onto the A87 at Invergarry. This road will take you all the way onto Skye and up to Portree.
Sat Nav: The Storr – IV51 9HX
OS Landranger map: 23 NORTH SKYE Dunvegan & Portree
Terrain: Rocky paths and steep hillside – proper walking boots an absolute must!
Nearest facilities: Tea Room and toilets across the road from the car park.