STAFFIN INSTAMEET

#DRUIMNANLINNTEAN

Back in summer, Calum (@Caldamac) contacted me with an invitation to an Instameet. It would be held in conjunction with the Staffin Trust on the Isle of Skye over a weekend in early October. The project would be community focused, with the aim of promoting responsible tourism. This tied in perfectly with the work we are doing with #RoamResponsibly, highlighting some of the issues of responsible access and infrastructure concerns at sensitive spots throughout Scotland.

These were the main pillars of project:

For whom: Staffin Community Trust’s project Druim nan Linntean (Skye Ecomuseum) looking to find ways to get visitors to slow down and appreciate the area.

What: A chance for photographers to meet up work dynamically + have a fun weekend together.

Where: Based at Flodigarry Hostel, exploring An Taobh Sear, the east side of Trotternish, Isle of Skye.

view from the hostel
The weather rolls over Flodigarry

For these two days our host Angus from Staffin Community Trust would discuss possible solutions for Social media, in particular Instagram to have a more positive impact on communities. Angus, who heads this project, would lead a bunch of us Instagrammers to lesser known sites, or key sites by lesser known routes. This would allow us to get our own take on this part of the Trotternish Peninsula and spread the word about #druimnanlinntean, or the ‘Ridge of the ages’.

The project itself will hopefully educate and disseminate information about the ecology and the history of Staffin (The place of the Pillars). 

The area is well-known for its stunning landscape, the Quiraing making regular appearances on Instagram. 

I didn’t leave Glasgow till late so arrived on the Friday evening at the Flodigarry Hostel. My fellow instagrammers were already chatting and warming themselves after a day of Coasteering, clambering on coastal rocks and exploring the dramatic shore in nothing but wetsuits. I was very jealous I missed this part of the weekend, but looking forward to the land based adventure of the day to come.

Exploring the Quiraing

Quiraing

Angus would lead us up to the ‘Needle’ and ‘the Table’ along a path which the project is planning to upgrade by the first half of 2019.

This route up the Quiraing, avoided the heavily trafficked road and took us up this prehistoric landslide past lochans and hand-built walls among the natural features. Signs that this landscape has long been worked by the locals.

The weather for the time of year could not be better. Autumn sunshine with just the odd hint of a rain shower. The ground was saturated after heavy rains and the footpaths as a result were muddy and eroded. All going well though, the team will have constructed repaired these footpaths next year, providing a more durable solution for visitors in the years to come.

Exploring the Quiraing
The geology dominates the skyline
Exploring the Quiraing
The footpath work will help prevent erosion

Exploring the Quiraing

We turned off the main path and scrambled up among the rocky spires and ramparts that make up this part of the Quiraing. The ‘Table’ is where locals would hide their cattle from Viking raiders in days gone by. This ‘fold’ is a perfectly flat green with commanding views south along the volcanic spine of the peninsula and west across to the mainland.

Hand-Built walls were constructed despite the terrain
Exploring the Quiraing
Onwards
Quiraing
The ‘Needle’ and neighbouring structures are the result of a massive landslide that broke away from the main ridge that dominates Trotternish
Explore more

We stayed ahead of the showers that swept over the ridge. They did add a sense of drama and depth, attributes that give this landscape such a painterly quality.

view from the Quiraing
Bangers in the background
view from the Quiraing
Grammin’ the grammer
Instagrammers on the ‘Table’ where cattle were hidden in the past from Viking raiders
view from the Quiraing
From the ‘Table’
Exploring the Quiraing
A steep descent

After the steep descent back to the roadside (and spotting a white tailed eagle soaring over the coastline) we stopped for a bite to eat at Columba 1400 in Staffin. It offered tasty food with amazing views inland.

Brothers’ Point

Having refuelled, we followed the track from the road down to the shore at Brother’s Point. There seems to be many theories on how this headland got its name. From the sad story of two brothers who perished when their boat smashed on the rocks to the 6th century monks who chose the place for its solitude.

On the way to the shore you can see the remains of Ruaraidh Dhòmhnaill a’ Chùirn’s homestead, another reminder that this has been a working landscape for centuries.

Brothers Point
Remains of Ruaraidh Dhòmhnaill a’ Chùirn’s homestead
Brothers Point
Brothers’ Point

However, one of the reasons we were visiting was to see evidence of older inhabitants that went back millennia. The rocks on the shore show that in the past at least, there be indeed dragons in this landscape, more accurately dinosaurs. Fossilised footprints have been found up and down these shores and we were trying to hunt down prints on a rocky outcrop that sloped down into the sea.

Brothers Point
Searching for dinosaur footprints

The tide was on its way in however and we were chased off the rocks by the intensifying waves. We would just have to come back another day to find the fossil footprints. 

All was not lost though. This headland sweeps round and involves a little walk along a sheep tracked ridge to a high outcrop from where you can see the Kilt Rock Waterfall to the north and south towards the Old Man of Storr.

Brothers Point
Brothers’ Point
Brothers Point
Old Man of Storr in the distance
Brothers Point
Kilt Rock Waterfall beyond the sheep

A few of us trekked out to this column of rock which was catching the last rays of sunshine. Hannah even spotted a young otter, accompanied by a yelp of excitement!

Lealt Viewing Platform

The viewing platform is a recently completed project but the Trust and consists of a car park and a viewing platform that extends out above a deep gorge with a waterfall and a river that flows into the sea. It’s not just the drama of the landscape that captures you here. The interpretation boards also tell of the diatomite industry that once took place here. Diatomite is a clay that, once dried is used in the chemical industry, its absorbent, abrasive and is even used for filtration of beer and was once an ingredient of dynamite!

You can still see the old drying buildings at the mouth of the river. This is also where the dried diatomite would be loaded onto ships after it have initially been excavated then hauled by people across the moorland to be exported around the world.

I found an interesting press cutting accounting the Skye diatomite industry here.

Diatomite works
Remains of diatomite works and salmon fishing bothy

Much More to Explore

We covered a lot in one day, but the Staffin area has such a depth of history and wealth of locations to explore it demands a return visit. It takes time to take it all in but you come away with so much more when you know the history of a place and you are not just stepping out of the car at the roadside adding to a tick list or just another snap filling your camera roll.

The following day we said our goodbyes and made our way off the island through torrential rain. We’d been so lucky with the weather. It hadn’t put off the coach loads of people I saw pouring of the hillside and back on to their busses at the Old Man of Storr. This underlined to me the pressure that is put on some of these sites especially on Skye. We were lucky to be shown equally impressive sites with no crowds, original view points, and with amazing weather. Although I’m not sure Angus can take credit for the sunshine, I’m extremely thankful to him and the Staffin Trust for inviting us to tell the story of Staffin, its landscape and the people who live and work in it. And if you get the chance to visit, please take your time, think of the people as well as the place and remember to #RoamResponsibly.

Follow these guys

The weekend was fantastic, but it would have been nothing without the wonderful company. A great bunch of people, some familiar faces and some new friends made. Please make sure if you use Instagram that you follow both @druimnanlinntean and @RoamResponsibly and if you don’t already, why not follow my fellow instagrammers listed below?

@caldamac

@kellyjmo

@hannahketts

@caseyjmcintyre

@gord.cook

@travelswithmyphone

@loosemooose

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