Whenever I write about the Isle of Skye, I try to encourage visitors to look beyond the usual iconic landmarks as the island has so much more to offer. Although joining one of the Bella Jane boat trips from Elgol to Loch Coruisk is undoubtedly popular, the remote geography of the area means you can easily find a quiet spot to enjoy Skye's wild and dramatic landscape once you arrive at your destination.
On my Scottish west coast road-trip with Red Kite Campers, I wanted to explore a part of the island I'd never visited before so I opted to join a cruise with Bella Jane, one of the local tour companies that run Elgol boat trips.
The road to Elgol
It's really hard not to fall in love with the scenery of Skye and the views along the road to Elgol are up there with the best in Scotland. Despite having my Loch Coruisk boat trip booked and a tight schedule to keep, it was impossible for me to drive more than a few miles without a photo stop, much to the annoyance of Mr Adventures Around Scotland. I mean just look at that backdrop, I defy anyone to resist getting their camera out every 5 minutes!
This did mean that we pulled up to the car park in Elgol with 5 minutes to spare and I was slightly panicked to find it packed full. The relatively quiet roads on my journey that morning had made me complacent and I had already forgotten how busy some parts of Skye can be. Learn from my mistake and give yourself plenty of time! Thankfully I managed to get a space sorted, checked in and joined my fellow passengers on the pier as the boat prepared to set sail.
Sailing on the Bella Jane
As we motored our way to our destination, one of the crew provided some entertaining and informative live commentary as we navigated our way across Loch Scavaig. The crossing may be short but there is still plenty to see from the open deck. On one side you pass the neighbouring Isle of Soay, home to only a handful of residents. Just beyond that lies the Small Isles, with the rugged peaks of Rum and the distinctive form of An Sgùrr on the Isle of Eigg, easy to pick out on the near horizon. On the opposite side, the remote southwestern coast of Skye rises up to meet you.
Despite opting to live on Scottish islands, I'm not a huge fan of travelling on wee boats and I'll admit to being a bit apprehensive before the journey. However, it was a surprisingly pleasant crossing and the humerous anecdotes from the crew and dazzling scenery kept everyone entertained and distracted.
Arriving at Loch na Cuilce
If someone had taken my photo as we neared our stopping point, I'm pretty sure my mouth would have been hanging open and my eyes popping out my head! Sailing in to the inlet of Loch na Cuilce is about as close as you will get in Scotland to feeling like you are entering the belly of Mordor.
Even on a relatively bright day, the towering jagged black peaks were gloomy and foreboding and the water was an otherworldly shade of verdant green. The occasional seal popped its head out to greet us, while more of the resident colony basked lazily on lumps of rock. With so much vying for my attention, it was hard to know where to look.
Breathtaking can be a cliché when it comes to depicting Scotland's scenery but in this case it is the only word that really does it justice. I recently read an article on Scottish Anchorages describing this spot as "...without doubt the most dramatic anchorage in the Hebrides" which pretty much sums it up.
Exploring around Loch Coruisk
This week my exploring has been curtailed as I've mainly been confined indoors thanks to a combination of stormy weather and a thumping head cold. So it seemed quite fortuitous when a copy of 'The Art of Coorie' by Gabriella Bennett arrived for me to read and review. I also have an extra copy to giveaway to one lucky reader!
According to the book 'coorie' is defined as
1 The Scottish art of deriving comfort, wellbeing and energy from wild landscapes and convivial interiors
2 "A hug of a word"
Could a more perfect sounding book arrive at a more perfect time? Probably not!
It turns out us Scots have been practising the art of coorie as long as we have existed, we just didn't have a word for it until now. According to the book it is a lifestyle inspired by our surroundings, culture and our heritage. It is associated with warmth and comfort, a connection to the landscape and each other. It spans across every aspect of our daily lives from food and drink to textiles and architecture (and everything in between).
As Storm Ali battered across the ancient Orkney landscape outside my window, I wrapped myself in a fleecy blanket, lit some candles, poured a cup of tea and huddled up to read my new book. It turns out I've already got the concept of coorie down to a fine art!
I spent the next couple of hours immersing myself in beautiful images, inspiring ideas, anecdotes and stories. With chapters on a diverse range of themes including 'Coorie Words', 'Coorie Camping' and 'Coorie Textiles', the book is a celebration of all things Scottish, with a real emphasis on contemporary style without being pretentious. By the end I felt even prouder (if that's possible!) to come from such a cool and creative wee country.
The book perfectly captures the essence of 21st Scotland which is a breath of fresh air for me as it steers well clear of the stereotypical Scottish 'tartan shortbread' image that is all too frequently promoted. The Art of Coorie is a guide to living happy the Scottish way and with the arrival of the autumnal weather, it's the perfect time to be reminded of everything on our doorstep that makes us feel cosy and warm.
WIN YOUR OWN COPY OF THE ART OF COORIE
To celebrate the launch of the book, I have kindly been provided one extra copy for a little competition. Please note that the competition is open to UK entries only.
Entering is super easy all you have to do is follow the instructions on the Rafflecopter App below. There are up to 3 entries available per person. You will receive 2 entries if you follow my Scotland adventures on Twitter and 1 entry for visiting my Facebook page.
TERMS AND CONDITIONS
I love coming across scenic walks in Scotland that are hardly known outside their local area and its even better when they are steeped in history and legend. Crichope Linn near the hamlet of Gatelawbridge in Dumfries and Galloway certainly ticks all those boxes. I only came across the details of the trail thanks to local literature provided for guests during my stay at the nearby Trigony House Hotel and I was immediately intrigued. A search on Google provided some spectacular images of the waterfall and gorge, along with a few tales of the famous visitors that had once frequented this now almost forgotten about part of southern Scotland. It was time to explore this hidden gem for myself...
The entrance to the walk is easy to miss with just a rustic sign pointing the way from the quiet, minor road. A small parking area nearby is enough to accommodate a few cars and the start of the route was concealed by greenery when I visited. At the bottom of this blog I've pinned the location on a Google map to make it easier for you to find.
The first section of the trail runs through a wooded area before meeting up with a stream that flows down from the waterfall ahead. Occasional remnants of an old footpath are the only survivor of a network of tracks, bridges and viewing points that existed when Crichope Linn was a popular destination for Victorian tourists. Today it is a bit more hazardous to get around with muddy narrow paths, slippery rocks and fallen trees. The current atmosphere of overgrown abandonment makes it hard to imagine that this was once a famous and well frequented Scottish beauty spot.
After a short jaunt through the trees, the path opens up to reveal mossy covered red sandstone walls that tower upwards either side of the gorge. Countless visitors over the centuries have left their mark on the soft rock faces and it is even said that the initials of Robert Burns can be found among the stone carvings. I didn't spot them but he did live at nearby Ellisland Farm so there is every possibility that he visited here.
Other famous literary figures that definitely were inspired by the unique scenery were Thomas Carlyle and Sir Walter Scott who featured Crichope Linn in his novel 'Old Mortality'.
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