Devious Duuncan!

6 10 2013

Mon 26 Aug 2013

On every single visit to Skye Richard and I have made, we’ve always looked across to the very shapely and spectacular peak of Dun Caan on Raasay and said that we must do that sometime. The title of this post deliberately mis-spells the name of the hill as we always jokingly call it ‘Duncan’ but with a really pronounced Yorkshire ‘U’ sound – every time we see the hill wherever we are on Skye, we shout out “Duuuncan!” Of course, the name actually refers to an old fort or ‘dun’.

After my climb on the In Pinn in the Cuillin the day before, we decided it was time to take a trip across to Raasay and have a wind-down on Dun Caan…

Click on photos for full size/resolution
We got the 1030 ferry across from Sconser to Raasay (the cottage of Sgoirebreac that we rent is conveniently just across the road from the pier) and sailed across in sunshine for the short half-hour crossing. For once, it was warm enough to sit outside on the upper deck – pretty rare on a Scottish sea crossing…

Leaving the ferry, we followed the road up from the pier, soon branching off onto a little grassy footpath to its right. In quarter of a mile or so, you meet the main road around the south-west end of the island – here we turned right along the pleasant open road with views across the bay back to Sconser. This area of the island is beautifully wooded…

Raasay Road & Tree

Inland from the road there’s a lovely little pool in the woods…

Raasay Forest Pool

In about another half mile, the road splits and you ignore the right-hand fork for the village of Inverarish and follow the main road round curving left. I’ve never been down to the village but Richard has and he was very surprised to see that the childrens’ play area in the village has notices on saying that children must not play there on a Sunday!! 😮 I would have said stopping children playing on a Sunday is taking religion a little too far personally!

We followed the road uphill through all the old mine workings to where you leave the tarmacked road at some old mine buildings and continue straight ahead on a stony vehicle track for about another quarter of a mile. The old buildings are quite interesting for a look around and it seems to be a popular place for camping vans – there were two camped up there as we passed.

After crossing two burns across two new wooden bridges and seeing some nice little waterfalls, the track curves around left to go back down the other side of the glen. At this point there is a wooden signpost for Dun Caan and a tiny path cuts back hard right into thick undergrowth towards the last waterfalls.

The path follows the Inverarish Burn and I always thought it would be a superb route, thinking it headed up the rocky section of hillside between two burns, however, the route does nothing of the sort and we found it quite long and dreary. We knew the hill would be worth it when we reached it though…

Dun Caan Walk-looking back down glen
Looking back down the glen

We followed a good path as it turned back north-east again. The path wound about in a very twisting glen and gradually got grassier, boggier and more enclosed. Each corner we turned, we expected to see the sharp peak of Dun Caan appear but each time it never did. We started to wonder if we were on the right track!

Dun Caan Walk-Red Hills Disappear
Looking back again

The burn itself was very interesting and seemed to be very corrosive water, but then, moorland water is very acidic. The rocks in the burn were pitted with little hollows everywhere and sometimes the water had cut below layers of the rock strata and was flowing beneath them.

Dun Caan Walk - Erosive Stream

Suddenly, after about a mile of twisting glen, we rounded another corner and a tiny peep at the very top rocks of Dun Caan appeared briefly – we were on the right track after all…

Dun Caan - First Glimpse

The peak then disappeared again below the walls of the glen and we trudged on – by now we were having to avoid a lot of very wet, muddy sections so we were quite busy. Eventually, after another mile or so, Dun Caan finally appeared in all his splendour – still looking pretty distant though.

Dun Caan Appears at Last!

Encouraged, we hurried onwards and eventually found ourselves on the shore of a large loch between us and the hill. There were two choices here – you could either go uphill onto the ridge above on the left or you could follow the loch shore. The uphill route didn’t make sense to us as you would have to re-descend it later to cross the head of the loch to reach the hill – as usual we made the wrong decision…

Dun Caan Approach Loch

The path along the loch shore was quite pleasant until you reached the far end and then you had to clamber amongst huge boulders for a while. The path on the ridge, however, was smoother and would have had better views. We also later saw that there was a row of lovely lochans along the ridge.

Dun Caan Approach Loch (portrait)

There was a lovely rocky peak in front of the main hill which we diverted to explore – we were very glad we had. It not only yielded a fine view of the front of the hill and the loch we’d walked round but it was also a very interesting spot in itself and had a little lochan with nice light on it.

Dun Caan

Dun Caan Side Peak to Loch

Dun Caan Lochan - Great Light

It also had a series of extremely deep, narrow chasms at the summit with lovely pink heather around the rocks – fascinating.

Dun Caan Chasms!

Turning our attention back to Dun Caan, we wondered whether we could get up the frontal crags by some scrambling route but decided probably not. We were rather daunted at this point by what looked like a steep and arduous climb up the hill – after all, it was a rest day for us really. We left our pretty little side peak and contoured round the side of the hill on sheep tracks looking for a path up as there was one marked on the map.

At the northern end of the hill, we noticed the track coming in from the ridge we’d shunned earlier between two lochans below us. Sure enough, we soon reached a crossroads where a track headed up in wide zig-zags up the only non-rocky aspect of the hill. It was a superb path and a very scenic ascent…

Dun Caan to sea across loch

Dun Caan Ascent-View to NE

Dun Caan Ascent - lochans to NE

After a really easy and gentle ascent, we were on the summit plateau. It was soon apparent that you should never do this hill on a misty day – all the rewards are saved for the summit promenade – what a set of views – truly spectacular all the way round. I went mad with my camera clicking away and peering down the crags…

Dun Caan Summit Trig-looking SE

Dun Caan Summit View to SE

Dun Caan Summit Trig & Crags

Dun Caan Summit to East Coast

Dun Caan Summit to Eastern Coastline

I was perturbed at this point to hear Richard saying that this was our coastline we’d set off from (above) – completely wrong – this is the east coast of the island – we’d set off from the opposite side of the island along the route below!

Dun Caan Summit South to Route In

And this is our route back to the west coast going away past the smaller lochan…

Dun Caan Summit to Beach Loch

After a good look around the plateau, the mist decided to approach and we decided to head back – this time taking the path which heads off between the two lochs on the west of the hill, heading up over the ridge we’d missed earlier and then north-west to the western coastline and road. There was a nice little beach on one of the lochs…

Dun Caan from Beach Loch

And another nice, final look back to our hill from one of the lochans on the ridge…

Dun Caan Across Ridge Lochan

Then we headed off down on the good but stony path back to the island’s road – a much shorter and, to us, more pleasant route…

Dun Caan Descent

On our long walk of about 3 miles back round the road, as we passed through the village of Oskaig, we noticed a couple walking ahead of us. They’d left the summit after us so we were a bit put out and I just had to have my customary race – I couldn’t have them beat us back to the ferry! I shot along the road after them with Richard in resigned pursuit and we soon had them licked 😉

There’s a lovely little peninsula seen from a high and panoramic stretch of road as you near the ferry terminal…

Raasay Ferry Pier Isthmus

Soon we were back across on the ferry for an early tea and a long sunbathe in the cottage’s garden 🙂

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14 responses

8 10 2013
lanceleuven

I can’t believe the kids aren’t allowed to play on a Sunday! How mean!

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10 10 2013
mountaincoward

Very unbelievable in this day and age!

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8 10 2013
bob

I remember it being a surprisingly long walk in but maybe that was because we took climbing gear and ropes in for some summit rock climbs that were not that good being too short for real enjoyment. Good island though. At the village they were trying to sell a surplus barrel of Pickled Herring to the highest bidder. Felt remote and old world quirky then, around 20 plus years ago, with the residents tied closely to the changing seasons.
Wonder if they still stock up on Pickled Herring barrels to get them through the winter? Good to see they still hold true to the Sabbath.
Never play on a Sunday Carol, Tis the devil’s playground then!

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8 10 2013
mountaincoward

Yeah, I think they’re still a bit old-world quirky with their Sunday play issues!

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7 10 2013
chrissiedixie

A rather shapely looking hill, that! And I know what you mean about paths skirting round the edges of lochs etc – not always the best ones to pick 🙂

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7 10 2013
mountaincoward

It’s the crag-rimmed summit promenade which really makes that hill – well worth the walk – and of course, it’s only small 🙂

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7 10 2013
smackedpentax

an excellent post Carol (my you get around a lot), just wondering why I am sat in an office in Leeds looking out the window instead of being on a mountain in Raasay 😦

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7 10 2013
mountaincoward

Well we were on Skye already. Whenever we stay at Sconser on Skye though nowadays we take a trip across to Raasay. It’s a nice wind-down from the more serious stuff.

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7 10 2013
smackedpentax

when we went we used to stay at edenbane (i think that is the spelling)…

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7 10 2013
mountaincoward

Heard a lot of people in the Sconser pub saying they were staying up at Edinbane so there must be something popular there. Not sure I’ve been though…

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7 10 2013
fedupofuserids

Interesting post Carol, I’ve always intended to visit Raasay but have never got round to it. Might have to make a bit more of an effort!

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7 10 2013
mountaincoward

It’s a nice island but I’d suggest taking a bike (or take your camper over)

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7 10 2013
Paul Shorrock

Great post Carol – there was a Radio 4 play on Saturday about the building of Calum’s road to Arnish on Raasay – looks like another entry on the wish list!

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7 10 2013
mountaincoward

Raasay’s a lovely island – well, at least the SW end is – we haven’t managed to get much further up the island yet. I’d recommend taking a pedal bike across I think.

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