For our last day we decided to head over to Waternish and hike from the ruined church at Trumpan to the lighthouse at Waternish Point. Trumpan is famous for an episode in the ongoing feud between the McLeods and the McDonalds where the McDonalds sailed across from North Uist one Sunday morning and, while the McLeods were inside the church at worship, barricaded them in and set fire to the church. They succeeded in killing all those inside bar one small girl who managed to escape through a window.
The graveyard in the church is still in use although the church is in ruins; no McDonalds there though. I wonder why?
The plan was to walk from the church out to the lighthouse at the end of the peninsula. The established route is along a farm path which is quite clearly marked as far as Unish at least, when it then deteriorates into heather moorland with the only tracks visible being the ones the sheep make.
Shouldering our backpacks we followed the road from the church, down through the village and to the the farm gate which we passed through to arrive at the start of the easy-to-follow but hard-to-navigate path.
Mud. What else can I say except for perhaps ruts, bog, rain and gale-force wind? Are you starting to get the picture?
We spent the next two and half hours trudging through or, more accurately, dodging wheel ruts filled with water and boggy areas which took careful negotiation in order not to have a repeat of our Rubha Hunish bog-trotting escapade. The track, where it wasn't a minefield of pot-holes and water obstacles, was fairly firm but we were often obliged to make wide detours to avoid an expanse of bog, and sometimes it was just a question of creatively crossing where we could find the safest and driest option. Now experienced with this type of tip-toeing over marshy ground we quickly learned which areas were likely to see us ankle deep in water, however safe they looked on the surface, and which we could depend on to give us firm footing. This time the boots held up to the punishment and the deepest I sank in any place was over the boot-toes and to the start of the laces - so dry feet were the order of the day. One of the biggest challenges was not slipping on the slick surface of the mud.
Our first stop was at a cairn to mark the place where Roderick McDonald fell in battle. We were being blasted by wind and rain but waterproof gear kept us dry and we were lucky in some ways that it was blowing (and raining) from the south so it was our backs getting soaked rather than us having to walk into it. Off to our left was the coastline and cliffs and at one point we could see water, obviously being whipped by the wind into some kind of vortex, spiralling upwards in a spout of spray. It would have been nice to have been able to get closer but I value my life and wanted nothing to do with cliff edges on a windy day even if the intervening heather moor had been navigable!
Heading further along the peninsula we walked on towards Unish but first we had to navigate sheep fields and the walking notes were a bit vague as to the correct direction we should take at this point. At every potential path we were greeted by a quagmire, so we struck out westwards and joined the sheep in the fold. Here it became unclear as to where we should go next and, just to complicate matters, it was here that life started to get uncomfortable for me; the combination of cold wind, rain and probably the coffee I had for breakfast, meant I needed to pee desperately. Looking around there was nothing but flat moorland as far as the eye could see but, getting more and more miserable by the minute, it became an urgent matter that I find a sheltered spot with at least a modicum of privacy - and soon! Alex wished me luck with that. Finally I just hid among a the sheep, behind a rocky outcropping and hoped there was nobody out and about with binoculars looking in my direction but to be honest by that time I didn't care.
Suitably relieved I was again ready to tackle anything and we struck out across the heather towards the ruins of Unish. With no real idea of the path we utilised sheep tracks and just headed in the general direction of the ruins. We continued beyond the ruins hoping to reach the lighthouse but after making our own path for a few hundred metres we decided it was questionable territory that we were entering and as we had already been walking for almost three hours, it meant we still had the same walking time ahead of us to make the return trip. We took some photos and saw the Calmac ferry on its way from North Uist to Uig and then turned back.
It was a hard slog uphill to reach the ruins again where we stopped for some lunch. The wind was howling around the remaining stones and we looked for the most sheltered spot; I thought the doorway might be a good spot - until Alex pointed out that the whole wall was moving in the wind! We retired to the shelter of the northern wall which still looked pretty robust and rested while we ate, recharging for the not inconsiderable trek back.
Ready to go once more we found an easier track by following the fence line and climbing over a stone wall to get us back onto the farm track. It was extremely wet and very boggy in places but by now we were experts at navigating this type of terrain and made good time on the way back. It was still a hard slog, especially as we started to tire towards the end. Having said that our quickest kilometre was the last one! Once back onto the solid ground of the road back to Trumpan we were definitely able to pick up the pace, even up the final hill to the lookout where we had parked the car.
The walk had taken us 4 hours and 35 minutes and we had covered a distance of 13.42 kilometres. The weather had held up with just a short spell of rain at the start of our walk and we managed to achieve two personal records for a hike: longest distance hiked and longest duration for a hike.
After a quick walk around the ruins of Trumpan church and its graveyard, we called it a day and drove back to Sea Loch View, well pleased with the day's efforts for our last hike on Skye.
Tomorrow we are on the move again; so it will be farewell to Skye and hello to Arisaig.