January 17, 2022

End of the world on the edge of Skye

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Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article titled “End of the world on the edge of Skye” was written by Simon Ingram, for The Guardian on Monday 27th February 2017 05.30 UTC

The lady had drawn a map to direct me to the beach: there it was, easy enough, but where a road continued off the edge she’d inscribed an arrow, and the words “end of the world”. Curious, I follow the road off her map, past ancient rusting crofts on to a ribbon of singletrack, to where it stops. A knoll stands beyond a sheep gate and I climb it.

What I see from its knotty top is a place of transition. Beneath the knoll the land stops, falling to a sort of lagoon of strange, rumpled headlands and islands like pieces flayed off the land to drift. It seems this coast doesn’t want to commit to the ocean: here the waters of Lochs Harport and Bracadale coalesce into a strange enclosure of the Minch. Beyond, only South Uist’s taper offers harbour from the Atlantic’s ferocious north water.

To my left the coast regains discipline and thrusts upwards into astonishing cliffs. A waterfall spills off it like thrown rope. Anywhere else, that would be a sight people would drive hours for. But it’s just something else on Skye.

This huge island is a volatile complication of landscapes. And here on its west coast, you walk the divide between them all. The water, sea stacks haloed by surf, cliffs of dark, holed mottle, felty peninsulas and headlands of green colour and kneaded form.

I stand on winter-dulled grazing land. It’s wet where the grass is red. Crags burst its skin, then huddle and layer back into steeper, more severe forms behind the cloud. The great shadow they build is the Cuillin Ridge. Even without that jawbone of a mountain range, this place shocks. The weather is restless. Rain comes and goes with the wind. Clouds move with it like smoke. Clarity comes then is snatched away, then returns.

Over the lagoon-loch towards Duirinish a burst of sun seems oddly committed to one of Macleod’s Tables, turning its flattened form brightly rusty. My eyes scan for otter and porpoise in the water, white-tailed eagle in the air. A wild place. End of the world, not quite. Edge, for certain.

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