Focus on Skye – The Cuillin

The wonders of Skye are the subject of Garry’s
7-page Focus in our May issue, and here’s his bonus follow up: The Magnificent Cuillin

If the Trotternish hills can be described as the “other” ridge in Skye (see the full mag feature for more on this), it’s only because they have the Cuillin ridge as competition.

Many other ridges, not only in the UK but in Europe, come second to this magnificent stretch of mountains and it’s no wonder that they are an attraction both in summer and in winter for the world’s top mountaineers.

I have many happy memories of weekends scrambling about the ridge, camping in the lee of the Sligachan Inn and the Red Cuillin, or fighting off midges in Glen Brittle.

Hike, scramble, climb or ramble…

Skye is one of those places that once you visit you’ll want to go back to time and time again. You don’t have to polish off a Munro while you are there, although there are plenty to choose from.

For instance, a wander down Glen Sligachan is well worth it, and it will take you all the way down to Camasunary if you want to camp out over-night.

A walk up from Glen Brittle House takes you to beautiful Coire Lagan where Sgurr Alasdair (named after Sherriff Alexander Nicolson who made the first ascent in 1873) awaits.

This ascent is via the Great Stone Shoot. This is steep chimney of loose scree that can be a case of two steps up, one down most of the time and can be a bit gruelling. However, you are rewarded with a short scramble to the summit where the great expanse of the ridge unfolds before you.

Having not been there for a number of years, however, I don’t know how erosion or the thousands of boots that have ascended it (or both) will have affected it.

Once you’re on the ridge, much of the scrambling is reasonably straightforward, with some places that call for some basic rock-climbing.

You might have the best of equipment but that might prove useless unless you have a good head for heights. There are some narrow sections which call for a cool head and a sure foot.

Make a point of visiting the In Pinn

It is the notorious Inaccessible Pinnacle, on Sgurr Dearg, and the most difficult Munro of them all. I’ve stood at the bottom and watched folk climb up and abseil down but have never been tempted to conquer it myself. Maybe one day…

If you want some challenging scrambling in some of Scotland’s most beautiful mountains, then the Cuillin are for you. It’s probably best to with someone who knows the lie of the land and just how big a test these mountains can be.

The ridge is not a place for the casual walker, but it’s an experience you’ll never forget.

Walk Highlands have a good guide on walks in the area – click here to have a browse.


The highest peak (and highest peak outwith n is Sgurr Alasdair at 992m (3,255 ft)

The Black Cuillln ridge is only seven miles long but can take up t0 20 hours to traverse. The record set in October 2013 stands at 2 hours, 59 minutes and 22 seconds (Gars-bheinn to Sgurr nan Gillean)

The last clan battle in Scotland was fought on the slopes of Bruach na Frithe in 1601 between the MacDonalds and the Macleods.

The Inaccessible Pinnacle is the scene of a death in Val McDermid’s “Trick of the Dark”.

The song The Road to the Isles mentions the Cuillin in the first verse and in each chorus.