The Trotternish peninsula in the north east of Skye is dominated by a spectacular ridge of hills that runs for over 30km along its backbone. There are 13 named summits, from Beinn Dearg in the south to Meal na Suiramach in the north. The ridge rises to its highest point at the 719m summit of the Storr, above the tortured landslip topography that includes the iconic pinnacle - The Old Man of Storr. The ridge is home also to the Quiraing, another landslip area of pinnacles and gullies, this time below the summit of Meal na Suiramach. The hills here are composed of horizontal flows of basaltic lavas, which built up on top of each other to a depth of around 800m. On the east side of the peninsula the underlying sedimentary rocks have collapsed under the weight of the basalt, tipping everything sideways to form the distinctive landslips. The result is a wonderful combination of unique scenery, outstanding views and first-rate hiking terrain along the crest of this undulating escarpment.
Despite what you may read elsewhere, there are many points along its length where you can gain or leave the ridge on either the eastern or western sides, allowing ascents of individual summits or shorter hikes along sections of the ridge. But for the full experience, a backpack, a tent and fit legs are needed. Purists may elect to start from Portree and reach Beinn Dearg via the minor summits of Pein a' Cleibh and A' Chorra-bheinn. My view is that, given the scale of the expedition, there is not much fun in starting with these. They are not really part of the ridge, and the ground is difficult, with bogs and peat haggs galore.
The best start is from the Bride's Veil Waterfall lay-by at NG495509. From there, head west to gain the ridge at Bealach Mor, and turn south to Beinn Dearg. The steep north face of the 562m hill can be tackled head on, but it is too precipitous for a safe descent. Instead, having reached your southernmost summit, leave it heading north-west until you have cleared the crags and swing back round to the top of Bealach Mor.
Then it is onwards to the Storr. Taking a direct route to the summit would be a mistake, leading you up the plain 'back' of the dome. Follow the top of the cliffs above and around Coire Faoin to enjoy the astonishing views down into the Sanctuary and the pinnacles around the Old Man.
From the trig point on the Storr, a WNW heading will lead you steeply downwards, across the Bealach a' Chuirn, and steeply back up towards the second highest point on the hike, Hartaval. Navigation from here onwards is obvious – just follow the top of the cliffs – and the slopes become easier
The next sign of civilisation you'll meet (apart from the trig point on Beinn Edra!) comes on reaching the road that crosses the escarpment at Bealach Ollasgairte at NG440679. This is the logical place from which to leave the ridge, but there is still an important visit to be made to the awesome Quiraing to the north. The best way is to follow the circular route described here. That will give a fittingly impressive ending to the walk.
En route, the choice of camping spot will be dependent on all sorts of factors, and there are plenty of options. The top of Coire Chaiplin (NG450600) is around the mid point of the walk and offers a water supply.
By the end, you'll have covered about 27km, climbed a total of something more than 2000m, and enjoyed one of the finest (relatively) easy high level routes in Britain.
- carry plenty of water – there's none on the ridge itself
- get the Harveys “Superwalker” map of the ridge – it's much clearer than the OS map
- don't try it in a gale - there's not much shelter!