Faerie pools, canoeing and selkies on the Isle of Skye

Posted on 10/09/2012 by


On impulse I took of to the West Coast of Scotland this weekend, visiting the Isle of Skye for the first time. It’s an epic drive to get there (I feel like I spent most of the weekend behind the wheel) but having a small camper van meant I could sleep on the way, spending the first night in spooky ethereal Glen Coe, and last night in woods near Pitlochry.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

I took the ferry from Malaig to get to Skye – a far more elegant journey than over the bridge – and I found a quiet beach on the southernmost peninsula to camp for a night, with epic views over the sea towards the Cuillin mountains. I had hoped to canoe over the bay and then hike one of the mountains, but I picked up a shoulder injury whilst training for the Tinto-Everest challenge, and a knee injury doing the challenge itself.

So I had a few mini-adverntures instead.  Canoeing close to the shoreline, I suddenly found myself observed by a playful seal, who would watch me carefully before disappearing, only to come up behind me again. Bobbing about in the ocean swell, and tired from the long drive, I lay back and dozed a little in the canoe. When I roused myself and looked around, I had an eerie surprise – not one, but six of the dark heads were gazing at me thoughtfully. Land-lubber and city-dweller that I am, for a second I wondered whether they might be hunting me! But I am sure they were either just curious, or intent on making sure I came to no harm on the rocks nearby.

An equally magical experience awaited me the next day a little further north on the island. I headed in a wide arc in the van around the Cuillins, entering them along Glenbrittle, thinking to hike up them, but wondering whether my knee would let me. I passed a car-park with a sign for the “Faerie Pools,” and suddenly I had my next adventure to hand. I have a copy of Wild Swimming, and had read about the crystal watered faerie pools, with an arch of stone forming an underwater tunnel, but here they were, without any hunting or effort on my part.

Here’s a video of me taking a dip in one of the pools – be warned, I’m in the buff!

IMG 5106 from Tom Allan on Vimeo.

The setting could not have been more dramatic – the dark back-drop of the Black Cuillins are as intimidating a range of mountains as I think I have ever seen, and impetuous as I am, I got no further than the base of them that day. Instead, I spent most of my time sitting by in the sheltered pools, making tea with my kelly kettle, twice braving the icy water for two quick dips. The water there has a turquoise sheen, which contrasts wonderfully with the only other bright colour there – the deep red of the rowan berries on the trees around the pools.

Posted in: Adventures