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Camping Camasunary Bay | Kat Nickola

Camping Camasunary Bay | Kat Nickola ()

You cannot beat the remote and rugged availability of backcountry camping in Scotland. The Scottish Outdoor Access Code allows for the responsible use of nature throughout the nation, and those legislative rights extend to wild camping.

Recently my family took advantage of this open access to backpack into the Camasunary Bay on the Isle of Skye. This magical place has a beautiful natural sandy beach at the end of an open green grassy glen. The rocky mountain peaks and ridges of Blabheinn and Sgurr na Stri bound the glen at the southern edge of the Cuillin, Skye’s impressive mountain range.

HIKING IN

The area is only accessible via trail. You can either get there following the rugged Skye Trail, a 128-kilometer unofficial route that traverses the island. Or there is a direct trail over the mountain pass from a carpark in the hamlet of Kilmarie. The shorter route is just under five kilometers, and it is listed as an easy route on the WalkHighlands website. My family agreed that this should be clarified as a “Scottish easy” difficulty rating, which would very much be “moderate” in the States. It gets steep in sections, there are 644 feet of elevation gain and loss up over Am Mam pass, and large loose stones make up good portions of the trail.

Once we adjusted to the steepness and stopped stumbling over rocks, we finally appreciated the incredible views from the trail. The first part wanders through croft land full of grazing sheep, with the dramatic scree slopes of the Cuillin in the backdrop. After we heaved up and over the pass, the view opened on the bucolic Camasunary Bay itself with bright blue water, green slopes and rocky peaks that wouldn’t have been out of place in Hawaii, except of course for the temperature.

ENJOYING CAMP

Luckily, we had bright sunny, very un-Scottish, June weather. The nights were still cold, so our snug tent and below-zero sleeping bags were a must. A sea breeze generally kept the midges away, however, ticks were a nuisance, so long pants and thorough checks were a necessity.

After making it to the bay, we set up camp on the meadow above the beach and got down to the serious business of relaxation. My teenagers messed around in the water, whose shallow tidal flat made for a warmish wade. We buried my son in the sand. We sat around and read to the sleepy sound of the waves and wind. We napped in the tent. Deer wandered by. It was perfect.

In the evening we returned to the water to search for my son’s precious dragon-egg-shaped rock that he found on a previous hike. It accidentally got buried and washed over in the fast-approaching afternoon tide. No luck, but it was a great excuse for more wading and digging in the cold, wet sand.

When it came time to pack up, we were not looking forward to returning to the real world. Also, the trail looks even steeper from the bottom! Nonetheless, the sun was out and the breeze was fresh from the sea. Of all the places we camped during our week in the Highlands and islands of Scotland, Camasunary was the most spectacular.

LEAVE NO TRACE

If you’d like to go backpacking or wild camping on Skye, know that you must adhere to the basics of the Access Code. That means you need to be self-sustaining. Bring everything you need, including a tent, sleeping bags, mats, clothes for the changeable weather, proper footwear, all your food and water, a camp stove with ample fuel, and a medical kit. In addition, you must not leave anything when you pack up to go. Be prepared to hike out with your trash and take care of toilet needs with a discreet walk and a trowel.

For those without a tent, there is a bothy in Camasunary Bay. A bothy is a basic building – typically an old croft home or repurposed barn - available for campers to use overnight for simple sleeping and shelter. There is no fireplace or toilet in the Camasunary bothy, but it does have a large communal space and a sleeping room with platforms for around 16 people to share. Use of a Scottish bothy is a privilege and relies on communal respect. See the Mountain Bothy’s Association website for more information.

author picture
Kat is a travel and lifestyle writer based in Kaiserslautern, Germany with a special interest in anything outdoorsy or ancient. She has a bachelor’s degree in geography from Penn State University and has been a travel writer for about 10 years. Currently, she is in the depths of dissertation research for an archaeology degree at the University of the Highlands and Islands. 

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