There are places on this Earth that feel other worldly. The Quiraing (pronounced KARE-ING) on the Isle of Skye is one of those places. Inspiring, romantic, and immensely beautiful, the mesas and cliffs of the Quiraing are a jigsaw puzzle on the Scottish coastline.
If the Quiraing looks familiar you probably recognize it from a movie: Macbeth, The BFG, Stardust, Snow White and the Huntsman, Transformers: The Last Night, and the new King Arthur movie all feature the iconic landscape. It is also part of the regular screensaver rotation on Google Chromecast.
We hiked it on a cold, windy April morning. Our bed and breakfast host warned us the path is muddy and sometimes treacherous and we should avoid it if the weather is not cooperating. We looked at the grey skies above and took a chance.
The crisp wind blew in our faces as we rounded the cliffs, turning our cheeks and noses red and freezing our fingers. Konnor was bundled snugly on his daddy’s back, a brave baby ready for the ride.
The weather was mixed. It even started to hail on us briefly. Nevertheless, we trusted our instincts and moved forward, confident the unpredictable Scottish weather would hold and we could round the face of the Quiraing safely – toddler in tow.
The trail is breathtaking on several levels. It is one of those places that makes a person feel incredibly small. The human body is minuscule measured against the colossal cliffs and the burn in my lungs is a humble reminder that there are forces in this world much bigger than myself. This sense of humility is one of my favorite emotions during a hike. The fact that I can traverse these environments is incredibly fulfilling.
This terrain is also quintessentially Scottish. Hikers share the grassy terrain with herds of sheep. Bunny rabbits hop in the meadows. The air is crisp and cool. Everything is green.
I could talk about the beauty of the Quiraing all day, but there is one significant downside. The Quiraing is one of the most popular hikes on the Isle of Skye and it is crowded! Fortunately, most of the bus stop tourists are not equipped for the terrain and many turn around at the first small stream (nearly impossible to cross in April without sturdy hiking shoes or boots) and do not hike all the way to the rock face. At the front of the rocks only experienced hikers remain.
The path becomes narrow and slick. There are harrowing cliffs. A single step off trail into what appears to be grass can be misleading and leave a hiker knee-deep in a muddy bog. This is not a trail for the timid. But it sure is gorgeous and quintessentially Scottish.
Want to hike the Quiraing? Here is what you need:
- Transportation – It is far from any of the towns on the Isle of Skye.
- Sturdy boots – The terrain is slick and muddy
- Wind breaker – Preferably a water resistant one. Weather at the Quiraing can turn in an instant
- Camera – You will not be able to take enough photos.
- Hiking poles – We did not have poles along, but they would have been helpful
- Plenty of water – As you should carry for any trail