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Explore the Trotternish Ridge: The Old Man of Storr & Quiraing

Posted on Aug 07, 2017 by Martin Hind

The Old Man of Storr & The Quiraing: Two of Skye’s Best Loved Trails Go Head to Head.

When on Skye you must explore the dramatic landscape of the Trotternish Ridge. With stunning scenery, geology, cliffs, pinnacles and needles it feels almost otherwordly. Both the Quiraing and the Old Man of Storr have provided the backdrop to major films such as King Arthur, Transformers, Stardust, Macbeth and the Big Friendly Giant.

Old Man of Storr

Bioda Bhuidhe, Trotternish Ridge, The Quiraing, Isle of Skye, Scotland: Image by Colin Prior

At a Glance – compare the Old Man of Storr and Quiraing hikes

The Old Man of Storr  Quiraing
Landscape  165 ft (50 m) Basalt pinnacle High cliffs, hidden plateaus and pinnacles of rock
Look out for The Sanctuary, Storr Lochs The Table, The Needle, The Prison
Parking Good carpark and large layby Roadside verge
Distance 4.5 km 4-7 km depending on route
Time 2 hrs 3.5 hrs
Options Ascent of An Storr (+2-3 hrs)  Upper path (3-4 hrs)

Hiking to see the Old Man of Storr (Short direct walk)

Old Man of Storr

Option 1. Short Direct Walk

From the carpark you’ll enjoy good paths up to the edge of the Storr Woods before taking a rougher paths to the final gate at the base of the famous basalt pinnacle that is the Old Man of Storr. The pinnacle dominates the landscape but there are other rock formations to explore amongst the Sanctuary just below the main cliff. Be aware of rockfall after heavy rain. The Needle nearby has a window which is perhaps why it has another name – the Cathedral.

The round trip is about 4.5km and 288 metres of ascent and I’d recommend you allow about 2hrs to fully enjoy the landscape and views to the east of the Isles of Rona and Raasay with the Applecross peninsula behind. The tracks above the Storr woodland can become muddy and slippy during and after heavy rain so be careful when coming down and near steep drops around the pinnacles.

Option 2. Longer loop – The Sanctuary to An Storr

If you are feeling adventurous and the weather is clear then make the ascent of An Storr from the Sanctuary. It adds an extra 4km and nearly 400metres of ascent and  another 2 to 3 hours but the vistas are grand. Pause here and take in views to the Western Isles, the Cuillins and the Highland mainland. Look out for Loch Leathan and Loch Fada known together as Storr Lochs on the other side of the road below to the east.

Zoom in on the map below to see walking routes for the Old Man of Storr and the Quiraing.


Hiking to see the Quiraing

Heading into the Sanctuary and the Table of the Quiraing

Heading into the Sanctuary and the Table of the Quiraing, Martin Hind Photography

 

The Quiraing is located another 20 minutes northwards and the most popular access point is at the summit of the Staffin to Uig road at Maoladh Mor but it can get on busy on summer days. If it is then you can also park lower down beside a graveyard and take an alternative route up to the main area, which includes the famous Table and the Needle.

Approaching the Quiraing along its base you come to the Prison a three point summit of a remnant of a landslide vaguely looking like a prison. Nearby is the Needle, a narrow pointed pinnacle. The level grassy area of the Table is reputed to have been a meeting place for the local clan and it is rumoured that shinty has been played on top. Among the rocks below there are traces of walls that would have concealed livestock from Viking raiders.

Option 1. Nice and Easy? Path from Graveyard

  • The path from the graveyard is slightly shorter, around 3 km, but steeper than the lower path. Importantly it avoids the gully if anyone of your group is less able to cope with steep rocky sections.
  • The paths are often muddy and uneven in places depending on the weather so do wear proper footwear.
  • This is also an alternative if you find it difficult to park at Maoladh Mor

Option 2. Wet and Wild? Lower Path from Maoladh Mor

  • If the weather is wild and wet I’d favour the lower path below the cliffs to the Table Rock but despite the rainy weather you will have atmospheric views as the cloud and mist billows around the rocky outcrops.
  • It’s 4 to 5kms round trip and part way along the lower path there is an excursion into a gully. It can be tricky and exposed for some, but if taken cannily, and with a helping hand leads to one of the most dramatic places in Skye.

Option 3. Fine and Dry? Upper path from Maoladh Mor

  • From Maoladh Mor take the Quiraing Circuit along the upper path so that you look down on to the Table.
  • The circuit continues down below the cliffs about a kilometre to the north and back round.
  • This circuit is 7kms so allow about 3.5hrs at least to appreciate the views and dramatic scenery.

Volcanic Past: How was this area formed?

Trotternish Ridge is the result of the UK’s largest known landslide. The most obvious landslides occurred within the last 15,000 years and some movement does still occur, as the regular road repairs lower down testify. The landslides were a result of heavier lava flows overlying weaker sedimentary rocks formed during the Jurassic period. As icefields and glaciers retreated the exposed cliffs collapsed under the weight of the dense volcanic basalt rock. As glaciers advanced and retreated again and again they remodelled the older landslips. The shattered rocks on the hill tops above show signs that they were exposed above the icefields.

Visit the Quiraing and Old Man of Storr in our 60 second Skye video:

However you experience the Old Man of Storr and the Quiraing you will experience some of the best scenery that Skye has to offer – Enjoy! Check out the adventure holidays we operate in the Isle of Skye and the Inner Hebrides.

About the author

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Martin Hind

Enthusiastic climber and photographer of small things in nature. Wilderness Scotland Guide now after 20 years of being a countryside ranger in the Highlands.

Read more articles by Martin | View Martin's Profile


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