Sunday, 23 April 2017

Dun Caan - Seasides

I love coastal mountains. There's something very northerly and rugged about peaks that plunge into the sea. And if they're covered with snow or if the sun is out, creating aquamarine pools in the shallows, then all the better. I also love hopping on and off the ferries on Scotland's west coast. A wee ferry ride adds something special to a destination. Perhaps it makes it seem more exotic because you can only get there by boat. How lucky then that the little peak of Dun Caan on Raasay combines both of these things.

Raasay is an island that drifts offshore of another island, Skye. My ferry journey there was a short hop but as the boat pulled away from Sconser stunning views opened up. Behind us Skye's snow-covered peaks rose above the shore and to the north, a long way up the waters of the Sound of Raasay, was the rocky outline of the Storr on the Trotternish peninsula. 

Once the ferry had deposited us on Raasay, we walked along the deserted island roads and then picked a trail that followed an old tramway serving mines, now disused, above the main village. The tent was pitched at the top of the trail with a view back to the hills on Skye. Then we set out for Dun Caan.

A thin, boggy trail wound its way up and over open moor before eventually pulling over the last rise and rewarding us with a view of the bizarrely-shaped Dun Caan. It slopes steeply on one side, does a flat plateau at the top and then drops sheer on the other side in rocky crags. Mind you, the arrangement of the landscape here is generally quite strange. We crossed a rocky escarpment as a brief blizzard struck. It was broad on one side with big flat rocks like paving stones that made for good walking but on the other it gave way suddenly to vertical cliffs.

We found a path that had itself found a chink in the cliffs and descended to a lochan with a beach of black pebbles. You could see the gradations in the pebbles - fine and small at the water's edge but larger and rounded near the shore. 

From the lochan a path zig-zagged up through snow-dusted rocks to the top of Dun Caan. What a place to be that day. The snow-covered mountains of Skye stretched out to the west and on every side of us was sea, glinting and shimmering in the moments of sun. We marvelled at the sheer drop to the sea on the east side. If you dropped your lunchtime orange here, it would likely roll all the way into the water. And we watched swathes of steely blue snow clouds engulf the hills in bizzards and then move out across the sea itself.

Eventually we turned tail and retraced our steps to the tent. At the end of March it wasn't too late before the sun began to sink, touching the hills of Skye with gold and pink. The next morning we meandered back down through the woods and caught our ferry back across the sea to Skye. 

Fact File
Start/finish: Sconser ferry terminal, Skye
Route: From the ferry terminal walk along the road and hang right. At the next split take the left fork in the road signed for Fearns. Shortly after there are signs for the Miners Trail walk to the right. Follow this trail until eventually you cross the road again. Continue straight over and passed the old mine buildings. Where the track makes a sharp U turn and there are two footbridges, there is a sign for the path up to Dun Caan. The path is obvious as it crosses the moor and then climbs up the side of a rocky escarpment. At the far end an obvious path drops down to the lochan and then a very clear path climbs up Dun Caan. We retraced our steps to the footbridges and then returned by following the continuation of the trail where it's now known as the Burma Road trail and it heads back down towards the ferry.
Tip: There is a great leaflet in the ferry terminal detailing all the walks on Raasay.

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