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On the way back down from our adventures in the Orkney Islands, we’ve had several nights in a rustic lodge near Plockton. Plockton is a gorgeous village where The Wicker Man and Hamish Macbeth was filmed and overlooks Loch Carron. Our lodge is on a secluded farm west of Plockton and the views are to die for.

Loch Carron
Loch Carron

We’re based at Craig Highland Farm to get away from it all. The place we are stopping has no TV, no mobile signal, a self enforced digital detox. It’s stunningly quiet and night time gives a fantastically dark sky with the Milky Way clearly visible overhead.

This was our view from the lodge. The first timelapse was taken using a Canon 200D with 300 x 0.5 second shots:

It’s also a great place to explore the Isle of Skye. Visitors to Skye are naturally drawn to its landscape, the sharp ridges of the Black Cuillin mountains, Trotternish and Quiraing and it reminds me of the rock formations and landscapes of Iceland. Who can blame the visitors coming here, after all, Skye is gorgeous and its also pretty popular with the tourist hordes that descend on Sky to leave their mark, and they certainly do leave their mark. A walk to the Fairy Pools will never be in seclusion with paths and grass worn away by the thousands of footprints left from the day.

The tourists are not the only ones to leave their mark, so did the dinosaurs, and the one of the main reasons for our visit to is to go dinosaur hunting, walking in the footsteps of dinosaurs on the Isle of Skye.

Our last journey here dinosaur hunting wasn’t that successful, attacked by midgies on a very wet and misty day and trying to convince ourselves we’d found the famed footprints on An Corran beach at Staffin Bay. Fossils are best found in dryer conditions but Skye isn’t exactly known for its rain free climate, beaches are known for having bodies of water… but today we seem relatively lucky as the sun is out.

plockton
Plockton. The place of Summerisle in The Wicker Man was filmed here.

Returning back to Staffin Bay, the last time we came here it was deserted, this time there a few visitors each with their head down looking for the dinosaur footprints. Lord Nelson remains uninterested in the beasts, and wees quite possibly in the footprints of a beast that wandered past millions of years ago. Eventually we were advised by someone to go and see the newly discovered footprints at Duntulm where they were much more noticeable and giving us very specific instruction on where to find them.

Heading past the Trotternish Ridge, finally seeing the Old Man of Storr and the rock formations of Quiraing, we ahead to Duntulm. Most visitors to Duntulm will head to the castle, the viking stronghold, but wont look to the unremarkable looking beach area to their left. 170 million years ago during the Middle Jurassic period, this area was a shallow salt water lagoon and a much more temperate climate.

In 2015, a study team discovered hundreds of footprints made by plant-eating long-necked sauropods and now we’re standing in the footsteps of these giants, some footprint up to 70cm in diameter. We know we’ve got the right place because there is filming here and the expert attached to the filming team offer to show the prints. The footprints look like large round holes but are in a clear walking line.

Sauropods dinosaur footprints at Duntulm in Skye
Sauropods dinosaur footprints at Duntulm in Skye

Sauropods were the early distant relatives of Brontosaur and Diplodocus weighing more than 10 tonnes and 15 meters in length, the largest animals ever to have lived on land, you wouldn’t want them stepping on your toes. I get a kick knowing that these huge beasts walked here, especially great for kids, even those at 47 years old. If you do visit, just consider that these prints have been happily sat there for the past 170 million years, they’ve survived years without interference and they don’t need you hammering and chiselling the ground to try and claim a fossil footprint for your collection. Leave them alone to let others keep walking in the footsteps of dinosaurs.

Another day in our Scotland road trip and this time we make for the road to Skye, and we’re accompanied by a fine Scotch mist. This is significantly better than be being accompanied by a squad of suicide Scottish midges. Never underestimate the power of the midges, all females with teeth, taking a bite. It’s like a coordinated attack, a real flymare. Either get a decent tube of midge spray or at least wear enough aftershave to drown a household pet.  Though it’s just occurred that the haze of chemicals we’re wearing could be causing the mist….still, we’re off to Skye, dinosaur hunting (cue Jurassic Park theme tune) with a few stops in-between.

 

Eilean Donan Castle
Eilean Donan Castle

Today’s journey on the road to Skye takes us past the Battle of Glenshiel (1719) where the Jacobite army of clansmen and Spanish fought and lost in this battle.  They chose this spot on the hilltops with hasty fortified positions on either side of the gorge from which to fight with musket and swords after marching 12 miles from Eilean Donan Castle. Although the Jacobites had the advantage of a natural choke point, Government forces fired mortars as soon as they were in range which exploded into the Jacobite troops with government soldiers then storming the Jacobite positions to which they fled. This was the last close engagement of British and foreign troops in Great Britain.

 

Eileen Donan Castle sits at the meeting point of Lochs Alsh, Long and Duich on a little island of its own that is connected to the shore by a stone bridge. Built in the 13th century, the castle was blown up in 1719, first being bombarded by cannon that had little effect but then being blown up by big barrels of gunpowder left behind after previous occupiers were overwhelmed by force. The castle was rebuilt in 1932 and is these days bombarded by film crews (Highlander and The World is Not Enough), camera flash and overwhelmed with visitors, and all of them appear to be following us on the road to Skye.

 

The drive to Skye and its major town of Portree has taken 3 hours and we were hoping to be rewarded with stunning views so we head to the Trotternish ridge to see the Old Man of Storr, the highest point on the Trotternish ridge at 719 metres high.  Extreme dog walking indeed, we decide to take a closer look, along with hundreds of other on this mountain, and climb the path up to get a better view. Except it didn’t get any better, we stood right next to it and still didn’t see it, thanks to the thickest mist, rain and midge infested place I’ve ever been.  It makes for some very underwhelming summer photos as you can see (or not see…). The footpath to the Old Man of Storr is allegedly 1km in length and rises 250 metres in height with the footpath being described as ‘strenuous’ by the information sign. What the sign doesn’t say is ‘It’s steeper than you think’ and ‘Good Luck.’ I’ve had motorbike accidents that were kinder on my knees than this climb. All this for something we couldn’t see. I can only imagine that the $120m budget for Prometheus and its opening scene filmed here was spent on waiting for the weather to clear.

 

Sam and Nelson examine dinosaur footprints at Staffin
Sam and Nelson examine dinosaur footprints at Staffin

We’re on holiday so we’re not going to let a little bit of weather stop us from having some fun. So for this we head off to Staffin, the dinosaur stomping ground of Scotland. Staffin was the name given by the Vikings and means ‘the place of pillars’ and refers to the menacing basalt columns that form the cliffs with great examples of these at Kilt Rock. Kilt Rock is so names because it’s supposed to resemble a kilt with the basalt columns forming the pleats. Mealt Waterfall between the viewpoint and Kilt Rock, falls 60 metres into the Sound of Raasay below.

Staffin has an impressive collection of dinosaur remains that have been found in the Jurassic rocks of the coast and we’re off to hunt for the giant footprint of carnivorous dinosaur on the beach at An Corran. So on a very wet and misty day at An Corran, on a very wet and slippy seaweed beach, we search for the beastly footprints to geek out and imagine that 175 million years ago, these fearsome beasts once walked where we now stand. Sam thinks she’s found them, it’s not that easy to tell and we’re not quite convinced, it’s very wet, very rainy and very much covered with seaweed. There’s no need to feel guilty about this. The in situ footprints were only discovered in 2002, they’ve done a perfectly reasonable job of being missed by people all this time as Dugald at the Staffin Museum at Ellishadder tells me.  If like me, you like dinosaurs, and like me you are an old dinosaur, the Staffin museum, contained in a traditional stone building with no electricity, is a great little place for fossils and other bits of Skye life.

Tomorrow, we are off on a tale of bloody murder at Glencoe.

Related:

The High Road to the Highlands – Scotland Road Trip Part 1

Loch Ness and Beyond – Scotland Road Trip Part 2

Glenfinnan to Morar – Scotland Road Trip Part 3

The Road to Skye – Scotland Road Trip Part 4

Glencoe – James Bond’s Back Garden – Scotland Road Trip Part 5

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