The Old Man of Storr: Skye Story Time

The Old Man of Storr: Skye Story Time

Jump to visiting information for the Old Man of Storr.

Reviews of Scottish Landmarks

One of my favorite things to do to waste time is read awful TripAdvisor reviews from disgruntled tourists. The things some people complain about are just ridiculous. Recently, I read a series of bad TripAdvisor reviews about Scottish landmarks, and a goodly proportion of the ones complained about where either in the Highlands (13 of 19) or on the Isle of Skye (3 of 19).

One person complained that the Old Man of Storr was just “a tall rock.”

Someone else claimed that the Cuillins (koo-lins) were “nothing special.”

Go home, Tourist. You’re drunk.

Old Man of Storr
The Old Man of Storr

Why You Should Visit the Isle of Skye

I’ve written a couple posts about the Isle of Skye in Scotland now, and I think it’s time for a disclaimer: You don’t go to the Isle of Skye to be entertained. You go there to be awed.

In other words: Just looking at stuff should be enough.

The Isle of Skye is sparsely populated. However, number of people on the island balloons in summer, when the weather is good for hiking. The mountains on the Isle of Skye are world-renowned for being home to some of the most difficult scrambling paths in the world. (Scrambling: difficult hiking that occasionally requires you to go on all fours so you don’t fall down the chasm of doom.)

If you look in any guidebook, all the major points of interest on the Isle of Skye are natural wonders. And if you actually go to the Isle of Skye and put your phone down for about three seconds and look around, you’ll see why.

One of my favorite things about the Isle of Skye is that the natural landscape is imbued with stories. Not only do they have beautiful landscapes that go on for miles, every single one has a story. And as befits a landscape that is as surreal as Skye’s, most of those stories have to do with the things beyond our ken. So, without further ado, let’s take a look at one of them.

Isle of Skye
The Old Man of Storr

The Old Man of Storr

On the major road north out of Portree, there’s a rather distinctive rock formation called the Old Man of Storr. Back in the day, there was another rock perched on top of it, giving it the appearance of an old man. Thus the name. However, the ground of that part of the island is very sandy and shifts at an alarming rate. Because of this, the Old Man’s head fell off some years ago. Experts say that what’s left of the Old Man only has about fifty years before it also topples over.

The Story Goes…

Once upon a time, there was a dispute amongst the islanders on Skye. They were unsure about the proper date for Shrove Tuesday (aka, Mardi Gras). This was important, because without the proper date for Shrove Tuesday, they wouldn’t have the proper date for Ash Wednesday. That meanst that they wouldn’t be able to figure out when Easter was.

In order to resolve this dispute, a priest climbed up the Old Man of Storr. Using the dark arts, summoned the Devil. (I have it on good authority that such skills are no longer part of the seminary curriculum.) The priest turned the Devil into a great horse which he could ride all the way to Rome in a day. That way, the priest might ask the Pope about the dates.

Now, it’s a known thing that when you summon the Devil, he has the right to ask whatever questions he wants. You must answer them truthfully. But if you mention the name of God, he’ll go back to where he came from and leave you high and dry.

The Devil, however, was not ready for this particular wily Scot of a priest. Through the whole day of riding on the Devil’s back, the priest managed to answer all of the Devil’s questions about his mission, the Church, and Easter without once mentioning God’s name. The Devil was incredibly impressed with the priest. After their trip to Rome, the Devil dropped the priest off exactly where they’d started on the Old Man of Storr. Turning to leave, the Devil said, Gun an ath turas a choinnicheas sinn. (Gaelic for: Until we meet again.)

Never a good thing to hear from the Devil. But it does make a good story. Or Storr-y, as it were.

Old Man of Storr
The Old Man of Storr

Visiting the Old Man of Storr:

Getting there: The Old Man of Storr, being a rock formation, doesn’t really have an address. However, there is a parking lot nearby for day use by hikers. If you’re driving, it’s on the west side of the A855. (The left-hand side, as you head north from Portree.) If you’re public-transit bound, there’s a bus that drops off at the car park several times a day. For more information about arrival and hiking, click here.

Admission: There is no admission for visiting the Old Man of Storr.

Opening hours: While no specific time is set for the hiking path, I highly recommend going during daylight hours.

Good to know:

  • There is a hiking path that goes up the mountain and all around the rock formation at the Old Man of Storr. You can find more information about the hike here.
  • Wear good hiking or walking shoes! As always on a hike, bring snacks and water, and pack out what you pack in.
  • Entertain yourself! Check out those awful tourist reviews here.

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