Rubber Honey! A Superb Coastal Walk Around the Northern Point of Skye, Rubha Hunish

Rubha Hunish (headland of Hunish) is the most northerly point on the Isle of Skye and provides a hugely recommended low walk crammed full of interest. If you can manage the short steep rocky section, you’ll be rewarded with wonderful coastal views and hopefully some wildlife sightings to remember. Bring the binocs, you may need them.

  • Distance = 6.7 miles (10.8 km)
  • Duration = 4 – 6 hrs
  • Total Ascent – 900ft (274m), max height 384ft
  • Start/Finish = northern section of the A855 between Duntulm and Kilmaluag,  NG422742 just past a Red telephone box
  • Good path with unavoidable short easy scramble to lower section
  • Date = 14th September 2012
Rubha Hunish Route Map

Rubha Hunish Route Map – Click to Open

As Skye addicts know, the Island is one of those magical places with an atmosphere all of its own, once discovered you have to return. Last year I was lucky enough to visit twice, the first was in June when the North West Highlands enjoyed the best weather in the UK.

Highlands Forecast for 14th Sept 2012

Enticing Highlands Forecast for 14th Sept 2012

The second however was in September when it suffered the worst! We were based in Plockton, a 10 minute drive from Kyle of Lochalsh & the Skye Bridge. It’s a fabulous little base giving access to Glen Shiel, Torridon, Applecross & more. It’s often a sheltered haven however that September day 2012 brought the remnants of ‘Hurricane Leslie‘ sweeping remorselessly across the Atlantic. PS, I used to date a Leslie from across the Atlantic, maybe this was her revenge 🙂

Arriving on a Wed evening, the first day’s  incessant rain had forced us to abandon hiking plans and don full mountain gear for a walk around the shops of the Kyle. Unsurprisingly this didn’t take long but boy did we get wet. After this uninspiring start we were up for anything on the Friday, however the forecast (pictured left) suggested a high probability of being blown over. Having experienced this phenomena I can assure you that this is something best avoided:-) When morning came the weather outside was dire and the wind already howling. It was difficult to motivate ourselves so we took our time savouring an excellent guest house breakfast including expertly prepared waffles, the food of gods!

Plockton through the Guest House window

Plockton – the Friday morning view through the Guest House window, very windy too

Fuelled by waffles we drove south from Plockton towards Kyle still discussing routes and scanning the sky. The sky didn’t offer any help but the lure of Skye did, becoming irresistible once again! We were soon driving over the Skye Bridge heading west with alternatives in mind. Sligachan failed to inspire as the mountains had brought the rain clouds down all around, so we kept on driving up past Portree towards the lower Trotternish coast. Having dismissed Plan A to D, this left Plan E the Quiraing (ideally wanting views), Plan F a low coastal walk (Rubber Honey), or Plan G, a touristy drive around the Trotternish Peninsula. Theory was there’s better weather somewhere, we just needed to find it.

The Storr, with the Old Man shrouded in cloud.

The Storr with the Old Man shrouded in cloud & rain, worse than it looked

On reaching The Storr we nipped out of the car for the photo stop (above) which became a reality check, far worse than it looked, miserably damp with a fiercely cold wind. We decided to carry on northwards, stopping a few minutes later at a coastal viewpoint for more pics and at last we had cleared the rain, seeing clearer skies ahead.

First sign of weather improvement at the coast north of The Storr

First sign of improved weather, at the coast north of The Storr (top left)

Looking north and some blue sky out to sea

Looking north and LOOK, some blue sky out to sea!

Kilt Rock - basalt rocks, sheer cliff & waterfall, nice

Kilt Rock – sheer basalt cliffs plus waterfall, nice! Next minute it was raining again

This is a fascinating drive, a real head turner, with sea cliffs & ever changing views one side, and the incredible ever changing Trotternish Ridge to the other. Due to a combination of basalt extrusion over sandstone, subsequent erosion & land slips have created an incredible landscape (O level Geology me).

It feels like another country, Mars maybe. Names like Staffin are Norse, the Ridge itself is a site of special scientific interest (SSSI) and the longest inland cliff in Britain. A walk along the whole Ridge is on the wish list for a long summers day.

It is loverly up here, even though the wind at Kilt Rock was blowing the water scientifically interestingly backwards.

Rubha Hunish

Plan F lay hopefully ahead, we had always referred to this as Rubber Honey. At virtually the most northern point after the road swings west between Duntulm and Kilmaluag, turn off right at NG422742 by a red phone box, continue for 50 yards to a rectangular parking area. We sat in the car still unsure whether it was worth getting out, but determined to make something of the day, out we got & wrapped up. You walk through the road gate and turn left at the sign. An unexpectedly good path heads straight northwards allowing fast progress.

Out of the car at last on the path to Rubber Honey

Out of the car at last on the path to Rubber Honey

There’s a great view looking back to the northern end of the Trotternish Ridge but much excitement lay ahead. This was a walk I really fancied, a world away from the typical Lakeland & Cheviot walks, Rubha Hunish is also reputedly the best place in Skye to see ceteaceans (whales & Dolphins etc). The path continues to the crux point mentioned in all the guides, a sudden drop to the final low coastal section barred by a steep rocky path. At first we couldn’t see any way down but then moving to the left we spotted it and on first sight it looks daunting. This descent path is unavoidable so you either have to do it or end the walk here and continue around the western shore.

The final section of Rubha Hunish lies ahead, the steep path below

The final section of Rubha Hunish lies ahead, the steep path below

The guides indicated it looks worse than it is, so we carefully edged down and immediately agreed, there was no real problem for hillwalkers and it’s a very short section.

On the steep path section

On the steep path section, note old crappy leggings to combat the wind

The path cuts across & under the basalt cliffs

The path cuts across & under the basalt cliffs

Looking back up the descent path, looks bad, isn't

Looking back up the descent path, looks bad, is ok. (I think my pants have inflated)

We were soon down the path, then carefully make our way under the basalt cliffs to the start of the peninsula. From here you can go clockwise or anti clockwise following the coast. We headed straight over to the east side where a rocky inlet provided shelter from that bloomin wind.

Further down the east side of the low peninsula looking back up at the basalt cliffs

Further down the east side of the low peninsula looking back up at the basalt cliffs

From the same spot, more to the left with rocky inlet

From the same spot, more to the left, with the rocky inlet

We surveyed the sheer cliffs seeing no alternative path down, then edged our way across the driest rocks to the waters edge. Blue skies briefly overhead, did I mention the cold wind?

Crystal clear sea pools, the isle of Eilean Trodday over the sea

Crystal clear sea pools, the isle of Eilean Trodday over the sea

Taking this picture I had that unnerving feeling of being watched, I turned around, nothing; turned around again, seal, then another, then another. This is a good spot to hang around & explore, we had already decided that we needed to come here again, and again.

The rocky eastern coast side

The rocky eastern coast side

From higher up

From higher up

Taking a food stop. Sea stacks with old ropes at the top, not for me!

Taking a food stop. Sea stacks with old ropes at the top, not for me!

Reluctantly leaving our sheltered lunch seat it was time to head up onto the higher flatter ground and the final section to the end of Skye. Zips were zipped up, hats & gloves applied, spears shall be sharpened – ah no that’s from Lord of the Rings. Anyway on we went, admiring the sea and cliffs and starting to look for big fishy things.

Further up the coast

Further along the coast

Alan checking out the Outer Islands

Alan trying to check out the Outer Hebrides

We soon reached the northern cliff edge and chose a sheltered rock to gaze out to sea. Lots of Gannets zipped past, Cormorants too, the Outer Isles so close but shrouded in mist. I couldn’t stop scanning the sea, it was choppy with a clearer area straight ahead where it looked like the currents met. We stayed for ages, I’d still be there now if I had the choice.

Whale spotting, consuming ourselves with the sea

Whale spotting, consuming ourselves with the sea, as you do!

It was all too soon time to head back, but hey just a few more minutes. Then I saw something, asked Alan if he saw it, he hadn’t. Then nothing, maybe I imagined it, then there it was again, briefly and Alan saw it too. Biggish, black with a rounded fin, an incredible and fantastic experience. We saw it a few times and tried to work out the scale, then I glimpsed something else, Dolphin-like but much smaller. Highly satisfied and after many more ‘about to leave’ deadlines, we continued the anti-clockwise walk around the headland.

Looking south from the western side, steep rocky path to the right, yes still windy

Looking south from the western side, steep rocky path to the right, yes still windy

The western side is less impressive than the east, so we made the right route choice. We spotted another seal just to the left of where I posed manfully above.

Route ahead back up through the cliffs

Route ahead back up through the cliffs

The ascent up the cliff is easier than the descent and once at the top we turned east again for the final point of interest. A short trudge up takes you above the highest part of the cliffs with incredible views down.

The low headland of Rubha Hunish from near the Lookout

The low headland of Rubha Hunish from near the Lookout

From the same spot looking down to the eastern side where we'd started

From the same spot looking down to the eastern side where we’d started

Some guides suggest doing this bit on the way in, but we both concurred it was better to get straight to the coast then end the day here. It’s the Coastguard Lookout Station sat atop the cliffs with coastal view to surpass many others.

The Lookout

The Coastguard Lookout Station

The Lookout

The Lookout

The Lookout was built in 1928 as a coastguard watch station, then became unused until the Mountain Bothies Association took it over in 2006 when they gave it a refurbishment. It’s a magnificent vantage point and has the added advantage of a handy Whale & Dolphin identification wallchart, which most other bothies seem to lack.

Inside the Lookout

Inside the Lookout

Inside the Lookout, bit blurry, not many places have a Whale & Dolphin wallchart

Inside the Lookout, bit blurry, not many places have a Whale & Dolphin wallchart

After looking at the Lookout, we once more reluctantly had to leave, so retraced our route westwards slightly before swinging southwards to follow the western shoreline. Apparently this is a good place for otters but surely we wouldn’t see one of these elusive creatures too? Guess what….no we didn’t, that would have been too lucky 🙂

The route back south hugs the western shoreline

The route back south hugs the western shoreline

Our route stuck to the shore until a fence blocked the way forcing us east over a stile then down to a small road past some holiday homes to the A855. Unfortunately we didn’t have time to check out the nearby ruins of Duntulm Castle which looked worth a diversion.

We got to the car at 7.30pm, and so ended a very satisfying day, so much better than struggling to stay vertical up a cloudy rain lashed mountain. We had booked the Red Skye restaurant at Broadford for food as it would’ve been too late to get to Plockton. But squeazing every last minute out of the day we managed a very brief pint at the Sligachan. Cheers!

Quick pint at the Sligachan Inn 8.35pm

Quick pint at the Sligachan Inn 8.35pm

The next day we consulted with Plockton icon Calum Mackenzie whilst enjoying his classic Calums Seal Trip. He was interested in our cetacean spotting and gave me an identification chart. We assumed the smaller sighting was a Porpoise and the larger one, due to it’s size & rounded fin was almost certainly a Pilot Whale. I want to go back and see more!!

Whale & dolphin spotting in Scotland       Latest Hebridean whale & dolphin sightings

I’ve written this up on the eve of the next trip north, this time to Ullapool then Plockton again. The forecast is dire, bet it’s that Leslie again. Thanks for reading.

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About MART IN THE HILLS

Hillwalker with dodgy knees and dodgier sense of humour. Lover of the outdoors, Lakes, Highlands, Cheviots, nature, good food, real ale and leaf tea.
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