Visit Isle of Skye; Fairy Pools

Friday, September 7, 2018

It's 7 am and although my alarm is only just starting to go off, I have already been awake for the last hour listening to a steady trickle of car engines leaving the campsite. I already know where these early risers are heading; having stayed in the only campsite near to the famed Fairy Pools on Skye, and this being the only predicted day of sunshine in between days of wind and rain, it doesn't take a genius to work out that we weren't the only ones hoping to get up early enough to avoid the rumoured hoards of tourists that head to these pools during the summer months.
"We should go," Aaron says. I sullenly agree; I would really like a cup of tea first. We vacate our tent and after a ten minute drive we park the car by the craggy mountains that are still shrouded by a morning mist. My eyes follow a crease in the mountain which leads upwards to where I guess the river runs down and gathers in to the famed crystal clear pools.

I have been excited about seeing the fairy pools for days, but now I am more anxious than anything else; anxious that they won't be as beautiful as promised, and even more anxious that at any moment coaches would start pulling up and hundreds of tourists would swarm over the mountain, ruining any chance for a peaceful swim.
We start walking and I begin to see snatches of crystal blue and green water running over pebbles. As we join the main path that snakes towards the mountains, it opens out on to a stunning series of cascades that pool enticingly in to crystal clear bowls of water.

I ignore my desire to strip off and jump straight in however, and instead we begin to trek upwards along the mountain path that twists alongside the river. Thankfully the feared coach load of tourists haven't arrived yet and there are only a few other people on the path: a small group of tourists taking photos, a family and a couple walking their dog.
As we walk, the sun begins to poke out through the mist and peek over the mountains, lighting up the pools of water and turning them in to liquid emerald. As we pass waterfall after waterfall and pool after pool I begin to understand the hype of this place, it truly is stunning.

As we reach the upper pools they grow smaller but clearer. They have the added advantage of being a fair old trek from the car park and the seclusion makes it feel wilder, the mountains loom up and the pools are lined with craggy grassland and heather; I start to understand the name, I really could imagine fairies living here.

Despite the sunshine, it is cold however and I'm not sure I could last a swim here AND a swim in the larger lower pools, so we make the decision to walk back down.
As we walk back on ourselves the path grows steadily busier, until there is a definite steady trickle of tourists heading against us. My heart sinks slightly but I'm determined to swim, so finding the pool with the famous rock arch, we scramble down a surprisingly steep slope to the bottom of the cliff. Here there is a stunning series of waterfalls that end in a deep and serene pool.
I get changed and, ignoring the gathered group of tourists that are making me feel like a seal in an aquarium, I step in to the blue water. It's cold. Really cold.

"How cold is it?" I ask Aaron, who has stuck his watch in to the water to take the temperature.
"It's cold," he replies, smirking.
"Just don't tell me." I turn back to the water.
"It's 10 degrees," he interrupts. This surprises me for some reason, I knew it would be cold but 10 degrees? It's supposed to be summer for crying out loud!

I dive in regardless, and it is cold, but it is also perfect and I can see all the way to the bottom of the pool where smooth pebbles glint at me enticingly. I swim downwards and open my eyes staring around at the alien world beneath me. Here, underneath the surface, there are no tourists, no Aaron waiting impatiently, just me and the water. These serene thoughts soon give over to more practical ones though, namely that I am slowly becoming a living ice cube. Not to mention that Aaron is being slowly eaten alive by the dreaded midges.

So I re-emerge and by the time I get out I am shivering but satisfied and I have that addictive prickly heat feeling that I get after a cold water swim. Best of all, I thought to make a flask of tea before we left and finding a rock to perch on, I get to have a cup of tea and a biscuit in the now late morning sun. All in all not a bad way to start the day.

Month: August
Temperature: 10 degrees
Bed: pebble and rock
Weed factor: 0/10
Atmosphere: Busy on the path but quiet in the water.
Good for: Walking and Swimming. There are some jumps here. For the true experience it is possible to wild camp nearby but be discreet and follow all of Scotland's bylaws.
Top tips: Come early or out of season to avoid the crowds. Pack midge repellent... you have been warned!
Access: Park at the car park or along the roadside. The path is clearly visible.
Facilities: None, but there is a campsite (Glenbrittle) a ten minute drive away that has a cafe. Here there are more waterfalls and pools that tumble in to the ocean. The water is peaty and brown instead of clear however.

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