"THE BLACK CUILLIN OF THE EILEAN A’ CHEO" Isle of Skye by mtncorg
Isle of Skye Travel Guide: 441 reviews and 879 photos
Ben Nevis may be higher and Glen Coe has its history (and its Aonach Egonach) - Campbell’s be damned - but the Cuillin of Skye is a gem of verticality. The range is a small one but is filled with spires and views of phantasm when you reach their crests. It is said you can see the Cuillin (When I use the term ’Cuillin’, I will be talking about the Black Cuillin, the range lying west of the River Sligachan, as opposed to the Red Cuillin lying to the east) from all of the peninsulas of Skye and that is a statement I will attest to. Standing atop the northern crest of the Cuillin I could see from the Macleod Tables in the northwest to Uig, the port town for the Outer Hebrides - Scotland’s Gaeltach - to Portree and the Old Man of Storr on the Trotternish Peninsula, directly north, or at least that is what the compass on my watch read, though compass readings have to be taken with a grain of salt in the Cuillin because the rocks can distort the magnetic fields. Through the rushing mists, the peninsula of Sleat could also be made out. The views from atop the range are extravagantly far-reaching, but the up close views of the Cuillin, itself, are inspirational. Add in those misting clouds and roaring wind and the whole scene takes on magic. There are a lot of great mountains in Scotland, as I alluded to earlier, but the Cuillin represent the epitome. And if the Cuillin are Scotland’s grandest peaks, it goes without saying that they are the best in all of the British-Celtic Archipelago, a statement borne out to me by many other visiting climbers from further south.
Sligachan - emphasis on the ‘ga’ - is one of two main climbing and walking centers next to the Cuillin. From here you have access to the northern range: Sgurr nan Gillean, Am Basteir, Fiorre Cuorrie and Brunach na Frithe; as well as the long glacial valleys that scallop the Cuillin from the east: harta Corrie and Coir-uisg. You can also wander atop or through the peaks of the Red Cuillin - peaks slightly lower and more rounded, though ‘slightly’ is an adjective that can vary in its meaning for you are still looking at climbs of 2500 feet/750 meters or more. For purpose of completeness, the Glen Brittle Hostel and nearby campground make up the other Cuillin climb/hike center. Without your own car - I was limited to public transportation - it is harder to reach this area, though if you do, you gain access to the western sections of the range where peaks like Sgurr Alasdair and the Inaccessible Pinnacle await.
Sligachan offers a hotel, a bunkhouse - dormitory-like accommodations - and a campground. Camping is the cheapest option. Considering the winds and rains that howled through here on my short visit, I would opt for a very sturdy tent, one that can withstand very hardy elements - the full Scottish conditions. In conditions of calm, your sanity will be tested by the midges who might have you wishing for the rains and winds to return. Showers are available and it seemed that I found many of those camping in tents present in the Seamus Bar adjacent to the hotel. A last note on Skye weather, I met a visiting American who had a bit of experience climbing in the Pacific Northwest. The day I arrived, the rain was coming down horizontally, but she said that that day was actually an improvement from the day before. Her tent had nearly blown away and she had been using the campground shower area hair dryer to help out her tent fly after her encounter with the elements. Luck would have it that she was moving on that day after three tent-bound days of rain - and that day was to be the weather window for that week.
I opted for the hotel. I wanted a vision of rustic comfort in old British style. The hotel was also serviced by a CityLink bus directly from the Glasgow International Airport - door-to-door. I spent three nights there and was lucky enough to have one good day to hike in. Others told me that they had been coming to Skye for years and I should consider myself lucky.
In Terry Marsh’s ‘The Isle of Skye: A Walker’s Guide’ Cicerone Press, he talks of the trail up Glen sligachan in these... more travel advice
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