When I began planning an epic Scottish roadtrip for me and my parents, I knew the Quiraing would have to be one of the absolute must-do experiences. I’ve been obsessed with photos of this hike on Pinterest for years, and it did NOT disappoint.
Though, truthfully, an alternative post title could have been: “Mud and Mayhem in Scotland”. Because, So. Much. Mud.
The Quiraing is gorgeous and majestic and intense and moody. However, like much of the Highlands and islands of Scotland, the weather is capricious, and it really makes you work for your views. If you can catch a break on the weather, though, it’s SO worth it.
Also, we apparently did it wrong.
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Soaking in the Serenity of Scotland’s Tiny Isle of Iona
Wait, what is the Quiraing??
Located on the Isle of Skye, the Quiraing is part of the Trotternish Ridge and has some of the most stunning scenery in Scotland. I say “queer-ang” but am not positive that’s the proper pronunciation, FWIW.
How to hike the Quiraing on the Isle of Skye
- The Quiraing hike is a loop, returning you to the same point (the carpark). It covers almost 7 km. The official website says average time to complete is 2 hours with no stops (it was taking us about double that, which may have been due to weather and trail conditions).
- You can get there either from Staffin or Uig (they share a road), and parking is easy (and free).
- You definitely need a nice day. It was right on the edge for us and super marshy and muddy, plus at a certain point we hit a really steep dropoff and it was crazy foggy. It was pretty cold and rainy for a lot of the hike.
- To that point, make sure you have good (preferably waterproof) tennis shoes or hiking boots, and some different layers of clothing. The weather can change in an instant there, and you’re pretty exposed on some parts of the hike. Having rain gear/waterproof gear is critical too!
- I’ve linked two different detailed hike instructions at the bottom of this post.
- We based ourselves at Hillside B&B in Stein for two nights during this part of our trip. Fairly remote but beautiful, not the most warm and cuddly hosts but comfy and lovely.
So why do I say that I think we did it wrong??
*sigh* Well, we tried to follow the instructions, but it just didn’t seem to work. The turns weren’t super recognizable, and it took us way longer than the hiking directions said it should. That may have been due to the insane mud, but finally we turned a corner that (according to the directions) was only the halfway point and it was a sheer cliff path. The fog had rolled back in and it just felt like there was a 50/50 chance of us dying. So we turned back around. The thing is, it didn’t *feel* like we were going super slowly due to the mud, so I’m not sure what the issue was.
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So that’s a bummer, because we missed some of the amazing parts of the hike. However, what we did get to see was unbelievable and totally worth all the mud and mayhem.
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We’d spent the morning driving around Skye, seeing Kilt Rock and trying to hike the Old Man of Storr (though the omnipresent fog foiled our plans). Once we arrived at the Quiraing, even though it was decently busy we found parking on the side of the road easily, and walked to the trailhead.
The first part of the walk was a bit flat, then we began to trek up and down hills. The track is generally pretty well-marked, but was treacherous at times, between the giant puddles, mud, and loose rock.
The weather in the first part was miserable (cold rain, mist, and fog, like most of our trip in Scotland), but we did get the skies to clear once or twice. Look at that blue! Can you imagine hiking this on a gorgeous day??
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We weren’t able to make it to the amazing 360-degree views, but there was one spot where the view opened up to the sea.
It’s like a more dramatic “I picked the road less traveled”. About this time, we ran into a…marsh? That’s about the best word I have for it. It was a wet, peat-y stretch where the trail wasn’t clear. Maybe this is where we went wrong? Honestly I don’t know, but my feet were very wet and quite cold.
I’m really just showing you pictures of beautiful mud at this point…
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You say “pea soup”, I say “atmospheric”. At least that’s what I was telling myself. This fog had rolled back in as we rounded the corner at (what my best guess is) the halfway point—which is a thin trail on the side of the cliff with a sheer drop-off. This is where we decided discretion is the better part of valor, and turned back.
I was obsessed with this cliff though. It’s right on your way back to the carpark, and I basically pretended I was Lizzie Bennett in Pride & Prejudice. What’s funny is that I posted this pic on Facebook and my sis goes, “Were you pretending you were Keira Knightley in Pride & Prejudice?” Ah, family. Sometimes they do get us…
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We survived! We were absolutely starving but finding food around here was crazy hard. Do plan ahead for that, either where you’re going afterward or make sure you have a good meal beforehand (and snacks! Snack strategy is key).
So there you have it. I almost should title it “how NOT to hike the Quiraing”. But honestly even though we didn’t complete it, I’m so happy that we got to see what we did. It is one of the most amazingly beautiful hikes I’ve ever done (perhaps #2 only after hiking the Hooker Valley Trail in New Zealand). Easily top five. So even though the weather wasn’t our ally, I’d recommend this in a heartbeat.
Have you gone hiking in Scotland? I’d love to know if you’ve done the whole Quiraing, or if I’m not alone in kind of failing. What are other “must-do” hikes in this amazing country?? Hit me up in the comments!
Other hikes to inspire you:
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- Hiking Pinchgut Track in Nelson Lakes National Park
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- An Afternoon Hiking New Zealand’s Breathtaking Hooker Valley Track
- A Day Spent in Argentina’s Andes
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