Traversing the area between the Black and Red Cuillin, a walk from Loch Coruisk to Sligachan via upper Srath na Creitheach and Glen Sligachan, offers a panoramic view, superior to that from Glen Brittle, of the east facing horseshoe curve of the Black Cuillin.
Margaret, Rhona, Jimbo (plus two Springer spaniels) and I reached Loch Coruisk on the Bella-Jane from Elgol …..a 4-mile boat trip on Loch Scavaig to the atmospheric, rock-enclosed Loch na Cuilce. (Being pedantic, boats do not sail to Loch Coruisk).
Sailings are April to October, 7 days a week, weather and circumstances permitting.
Booking is advisable (phone from 7.30am until late…0800-731-3089). The journey from Broadford to Elgol car park, opposite the village store above the pier, may take 45 minutes. There is also a bus service.
With its accessibility by boat, Loch Coruisk was one of those must-visit spots for Victorian tourists and artists. “Loch Coruisq near Loch Scavaig” by William Daniell is one of the best-known paintings. On the way our boat passed close by The Bad Step, a narrow ledge across a sloping slab above the sea, and a tricky spot for those walking in from Camasunary. Almost as if pre-arranged, two walkers were traversing the step… an easy dry day scramble for those with no heavy backpacks.
Now for the walk, starting with an immediate climb. The tide was out when we reached the landing stage, hence a long climb up the metal ladder. The dogs had to be part lifted, part cajoled, over the grating steps. To applause from those waiting to go aboard, the dogs, with tails a-wagging, scampered ashore. Nearby is Coruisk Memorial Hut, built in memory of two climbers who died on Ben Nevis. I last stayed there 30 years ago; a Highland Hillwalking Club weekend of glorious weather.
Margaret spent a while in the area before returning by boat. For those who walk to the Hut and with no escape by boat, there is always the possibility of becoming marooned. To the west is the Allt a’Chaoich, known as the Mad Burn, and to the east the short outflow from Loch Coruisk, the Scavaig River. Both are frequently in spate. However, with the Scavaig but a gentle flow, we crossed the famous Stepping Stones dry shod.
We saw a rare sight…..four folk from a yacht moored in Loch na Cuilce bathing in Loch Coruisk…not that we actually saw them swimming. West of the loch (“carved from the naked gabbro in a rock basin without parallel in Scotland”….Tom Weir) a prominent ridge leads over Sgurr Dubh Beag to Sgurr Dubh Mor. “Doing the Dubhs” is one of the classic Cuillin scrambles.
Continue on a choice of paths to the burn that flows from Loch a`Choire Riabhaich. The rough gabbro path later eases to a grassier zigzag to reach the 320m bealach on the Druim Hain ridge. From a choice of cairns, admire the Cuillin peaks, whose seven-mile traverse in one day from Gars Bheinn to Sgurr nan Gillean is the classic long distance mountaineering route in Britain. That brought back memories of doing the traverse years ago with Peter. To the east is the long SSW ridge of Bla Bheinn, my favourite way up.
The descent path, now of red granite, is steep and eroded in places, but then it is an easy stroll to join the path from Camasunary and the indistinct watershed by Lochan Dubha. Despite the superb path, the gradual descent to Sligachan took us a long time; a slow pace given the heat and time spent chatting to the Swiss, Spanish and German tourists we met. On the left is Sgurr nan Gillean, very marginally the most northerly peak, and Pinnacle Ridge, a jagged series of four sharp rock towers, leading direct to the summit.
Our traverse ended at the new car park off the A850, east of the bridge over the River Sligachan, and my pre-placed car.
Map: Ordnance Survey map 32, South Skye
Distance: 8 miles
Terrain: Mostly good paths
Start Point: Elgol
Time: 4 to 5 hours depending on photo stops
Nearest Town: Broadford
Refreshment Spot: Broadford Hotel, Torrin Road, Broadford