The Isle of Skye
Skye is a fantastic place to visit - it is like nowhere else in Scotland, or the world for that matter - more like the European Alps (except for scale) than the rest of Scotland, many climbers and walkers have reservations about going to Skye - rightly so if they think they can tackle the famous Cuillin Ridge like they would any other!
It is a myth, though, that the mountains of Skye are too ferocious for mortal walkers - every one of them is accessible if you are prepared to make the effort. Only Sgurr Dearg & The Inaccessible Pinnacle requires any rock climbing skills.
Rock climbing aside, all of the mountains here require you to have a head for heights and good navigational skills as well as a great deal of stamina and insect repellant (for the walk in).
Who owns what
Clan Mcleod "own" the ridge itself (although they tried
to sell it to pay for repairs to a castle... 4 million bucks anyone?
The Bla Bhienn area is managed by The John Muir Trust - some of this land is tennanted and actively farmed so look out for access restrictions - if you're sensible you should have no problems.
It is a myth that the highland midge (little mosquito-like blood sucking b**.. insects) are huge - they are in fact one of the smaller midges - they just bite more often, suck more blood and taste worse when you walk through a swarm with your mouth open.
Seriously - they are not as bad as anyone tells you - use a good DEET based insect repellant properly and you shouldn't have too much bother - if there's a light breeze you might not see any midges at all - they get blown away.
Maps: it's debatable which map is best - the OS Outdoor Lesure 8 covers the mountains at 1:25000m but is practically useless for navigating due to the complex nature of the ridge. The Scottish Mountaineering Trust produced a 1:12500m map which has lots of interesting things marked on it and is slightly better - the schematic diagram on the back of this is probably the best map, though - no contours, just the basics - you can order it from your local bookshop.
All of the walks described for the Black Cuillin are on the main ridge accessible from either Sligachan or Glen Brittle. The exception to this is Bla Bhienn (Blaven) which can be reached from either Torrin or Elgol (via Broadford).
If anyone wishes to write about the Red Cuillin, please do - they look like marvellous mountains, too!
Routes shown here are "walks" - Mountaineering Routes are separate.
- Bla Bhienn
- Sgurr nan Gillean
- Bruach na Frithe & Am Bastier (no tooth)
- The southerly peaks
- Sgurr Dearg & The Innaccessible Pinnacle
Skye is quite well kitted out for climbers and tourism in general. There are 2 Youth Hostels - one in Kyleakin (where the bridge is) and one in Glen Brittle (where the rock climbing is). There are hotels in kyleaking, Broadford, Portree and B&B's everywhere - for climbers the important thing to know is that the best pub (most accessible) is at Sligachan, right next to the campsite!
Every climber is going to stop here sooner or later - there are only two things here (excluding a good footpath to the mountains). The Sligachan Hotel & Bar and the Sligachan Campsite - both have all the normal facilities though the campsite is seasonal - in winter the Hotel will offer you a shower at a very reasonable rate, though and you can still camp on the campsite... The hotel sells good beer and a selection of local ales for you to try.
The main path to the eastern end of the ridge leaves from behind the bar. It's flat (nearly) but can get really boggy after heavy rain, so don't forget your gaiters.
As above - you'll be staying here at some point - it is much more convenient for the southern/western end of the ridge. There is a campsite which is right at the end of the glen, at the beach - it has all the normal facilities too but it's not as nice as Sligachan - it is open all year, though.
It is preferred that you use the available campsites but if you are going out of the way (Loch Coruisk) to climb on the "other side" of the ridge then camping is not likely too be a problem - just make sure you take all your litter home!
- From Inverness
- Head north until the end of the A9 (only a couple of miles) then follow the signs for Kyle of Lochalsh - if you have all day to make the trip, take the Wester Ross Coastal Trail instead.
- From Edinburgh & Glasgow
- Head up to Crianlarich, then Fort William, then Kyle of lochalsh.. for east coast travellers you can take the A9 to Dalwhinnie and cut across there...