Short Hikes on the Isle of Skye #1 – Old Man of Storr
Hiking to the Old Man of Storr was number one on our list when we were visiting the Isle of Skye. If you Google the Isle of Skye, chances are you will see an image with the Old Man of Storr as one of the top images. It is one of the most popular hikes on the Isle, and definitely worth a visit!
We considered this to be a short hike, but more than just a walk. The whole route is well marked and only has a total distance of 3.8km. However, there are some difficult areas and a steady incline all the way up.
To get the best light we read that it is best to head up to the Old Man before sunrise. Since we didn’t have headlamps we didn’t want to hike up in total darkness, so we planned to start our hike around 7:30 am. This allowed us to head up during blue blue hour and catch the sunrise while we were making our way to the Old Man.
The hike up is very well marked. There is a slight loop you can take, however the two paths meet up before you make the final assent to the Old Man rock formations. So the pathway is pretty much an in and out pathway. Since we were hiking in late October we were lucky to have no one on the trail with us. There were a few cars parked in the parking lot, but our whole walk up to the Old Man was basically done alone. We only passed a few people returning to the car park, so we were excited to have the place all to ourselves once we reached the top.
It’s easy to follow your way up since it is a clearly marked pathway. The pathway is also quite wide and fairly even, so it is easy to follow. However, it is a fairly steep incline the whole way up. As you make your way up you pass through three gates along the path (we forgot to take a pic of one of them!).
There is a fourth gate, and once you reach this point you can see the rock formations quite clearly and they feel so close! The pathway here changes significantly, and you find yourself on a muddy pathway that is in poor condition. We arrived here right around 8:00am, so the ground was still firm from the cooler night air. However, it was very muddy and uneven. It was helpful to have hiking shoes on to find stable footing as we made our way up the steep hill for the last 150 meters.
This section is steep, so we took our time making our way up. The views down towards the water are great from here, especially if you plan your trip around sunrise!
The best motivator to continue your hike is reaching the rock formations. At this point they seem so close, and with every step you feel closer and closer.
Just before you reach the Old Man of Storr, there is a viewpoint to the right. We used the Maps.Me app to look for viewpoints since we have really enjoyed their viewpoints on previous hikes. This viewpoint is a deviation from the 3.8km path, but worth a visit! The view from the right gives you the following views. It was one of our favourite because you can really see the Old Man of Storr and the Needle formations. You can see why they call it The Needle! If you look at the formation you can see a hole in the top that resembles a sewing needle.
After this viewpoint we continued along the pathway to another one. This one was also a deviation from the main path, but again worth it. It was on the right hand side again, but a little higher up.
We headed back on the main path and walked towards the Old Man. It’s a huge formation up close, and you can really get an appreciation for its 50 meter height when you are standing at its base.
We were so fortunate to have the place to ourselves. By the time we reached the viewpoints and the Old Man, we were the only ones there. In the summer time thousands of people visit this site each day, so we lucked out with weather and low visitors during our trip in late October.
We were at the top for close to 45 minutes – taking pictures and just exploring the cool rock formations. It was a fun place to walk around before heading down again.
Since it is an in and out hike we made our way around the Old Man of Storr and then headed back down the pathway. By now the sun had been out for about an hour, and it was amazing how much of a difference that time made. By this time the last section of the hike – the steep part in poor condition – was very muddy. To the point where we almost wished we had wellies on. We couldn’t imagine how gross the pathway would be in the rain! If you are attempting this hike, Skye is notorious for poor rainy weather, so make sure you are prepared!
Once we reached the end of the path, a few tourists and tourist vans had arrived. We passed close to 12 people who were making their way up, so we were happy we did the hike as early as we did so we could enjoy our time up there alone.
The hike to the Old Man of Storr isn’t a long one, but it is surprisingly steep in some areas! Anyone who is reasonably fit shouldn’t have any issues with the short hike, as long as they are prepared for muddy conditions. The last section might also be quite difficult in the rain.
We didn’t climb on any of the rock formations, only along the pathways and to various viewpoints. Some people do climb up the super steep section to the base of the Old Man, but it looked quite difficult and we didn’t think it was worth it.
In hindsight, we wished we had walked a little further back to get a better view of the Old Man, Needle, and water. Our view was a little closer, but we’ve seen others that are gorgeous – taken from a little further back.
The views from the hike are totally worth the walk. We finished the hike in less than 2 hours, but that included a lot of photography breaks and time for us to enjoy the views. Just make sure you head there early to avoid the crowds and to catch the best lighting!