BEN TIANAVAIG, SKYE

This prominent , dramatic hill provides one of the classic views of the spectacular Trotternish coast when driving towards Sligachan from the south.I am often so struck by its shape and the light, that stopping is a must to try to capture a good shot. Golden and sea eagles nest on its flanks and every time I have climbed it, a Golden Eagle has swept across the ridge, as if checking who has just dared to enter its territory.Not including photo stops, it takes us round an hour to the top from a small parking area above Camustianavaig village (a cluster of houses.) It can also be hiked from the village, near the bay,  giving a little more ascent.The hill lies a short distance south from Portree and is very prominently seen from the town.

We set off on a sunny day in early May, with a plan to climb the hill, enjoy the summit views then dip down its eastern side and follow sheep tracks above the sea and back to the village.

The Red Cuillin dominate behind us

There is some parking opposite a little line of cottages high up on the single track road , about a mile or so from Camustianavaig itself.It takes about 20 minutes to drive here from Portree.On a fine day it is worth coming down here in itself – it’s a beautiful spot and not much frequented apart from locals or walkers.

We followed a track up past the houses leading through a gate and up through fields, to reach another gate which took us onto the hill itself. There is right to roam access to farmland/grazing land in Scotland providing no damage is done to crops or stock.In my experience, farmers or in this case, crofters, are very welcoming to walkers and are usually ready with a friendly wave.

Once on the moorland, it is a case of finding the best ground for the next little slog up onto the ridge.It IS hard going, a bit rough with the heather and tussocky grass but usually sheep or deer tracks help a bit.In no time, we reached the ridge itself  and wow  – the views open up immediately.

Towards Raasay

Raasay with its tiny little cone summit of Dun Caan, the Red Cuillin with the Black Cuillin further west, more jagged in outline.The Kintail peaks and the Torridon mountains in blue silhouette.And all rising out of the sea, as blue as the Aegean today.

From now on the going was very easy, on nice short-cropped grass and on a little path. I’m not one for tottering about near cliff edges but there is plenty opportunity to admire the big drops on the right, but from complete safety. on the left lies miles of empty moorland, so it is a very safe mountain, with no sense of exposure.

Sure enough, as if on cue, a Golden Eagle swept up suddenly from the hidden cliffs and rose majestically ahead of us above the ridge.What a sight! The golden head was very visible suggesting s/he was an adult.

Very pleased that ‘our’ eagle had made a hoped-for re-appearance, I felt very satisfied that with that albeit brief view.

Onwards and upwards we went, admiring the vistas all around and in 20 minutes or so we approached the summit cairn. Then my eye focused on some rocks just before the cairn and a shape that was immediately identifiable – an eagle sat motionless, head turned away from us , burnished gold in the sun and for a few seconds, quite unaware by our appearance 20m away. We stood stock still, almost frozen to the spot, thrilled by how near it was and ‘grounded’ too.I managed a brief shot (after the usual frustrating fiddle with the camera) before she took off , with what seemed an effort at first, before she caught the thermals and swept at speed across the moorland and away from the intruders that had disturbed her rest.

Golden Eagle

The early May sunshine was pleasantly warm and we spent ages at the summit, snacking on fruit and chocolate and absorbing the fine views all around; the Trotternish coast looked wonderful, as did the endless jumble of mainland mountains. No wonder all of this is called the Highlands!

Looking north up the Trotternish coast

After half an hour of relaxing, we headed off the east side of the hill, following sheep tracks easily down below the cliffs, all on pleasant is sometimes slightly boggy ground.

The coastal track then took us back to the village, letting us enjoy the views from a different angle.It stayed quite high above the shore on occasion, slightly unnervingly for me at one point (given my blasted vertigo) but there was no difficulty. Plus it was easy to make your own route as the ground wasn’t too rough.Grass and heather mostly.Very nice.

A wander around the coastline at the village (where there is a larger car park) then a short walk uphill to our car.

A beautiful small hill which holds its own in terms of coastal views against many a longer, tougher walk.One to savour again and again.

 

 

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