I have been walking amongst the Black Cuillins of the Isle of Skye! I never expected to be doing something so adventurous amidst those awesome mountains again.
Pete and I haven’t been on Skye for way too long but, fortunately, our Silver Wedding anniversary gave us the necessary nudge to get us back, retracing part of our honeymoon. We made numerous visits pre-children when we climbed several Red Cuillins, as well as one mean Black one (after a previous aborted attempt due to Scottish weather on our honeymoon).
We have also explored the island by car, heading down most of its roads in our quest to see as much as possible. However, on this visit we discovered that there was a particular road, with a very tempting boat trip at its end, that we hadn’t previously been down.
This was the road to Elgol, and the boat was the Bella Jane. The road took you round the south west part of the island to give a view of the Cuillins that was hidden from the main route up the island. Even better, the Bella Jane took you close to the hidden Loch Coruisk, only accessible through the mountains by foot or by boat.
We drove for three quarters of an hour along a single track road, past hamlets and single houses dotted amongst the long rough grass, and on round the wide empty shore of Loch Slapin, with a glimpse of the small isles beyond. Finally, a severe drop down to the sea brought us to the hamlet of Elgol, with its handful of houses, three huts for boat trips, and, most amazingly, a village school! Right on the water’s edge – it must be the best placed school in the country!
The tiny harbour faced the Cuillins across Loch Scavaig. Although they were still a little distant, they managed to look rather less than welcoming. You knew that to climb them would be a challenge, only to be undertaken by an experienced walker (indeed, an experienced climber for several).
Our boat brought us ever closer to the rocks that formed the lower slopes of the mountains. As we drew nearer, the rocks loomed larger, darker and more forbidding. It felt colder, more serious.
The mood was lightened by the sight of seals basking on several little rocky islands. Then we turned into a beautiful dark green lagoon, with Cuillin rocks rising out of it. The boat moored below a flat rock and we climbed a steep metal ladder (with a handle at only one side – I clung on with both hands!).
Now my adventure really began! The walk from the mooring to Loch Coruisk usually took about 10 minutes. It took me about three times as long, with several stops.
The effort was completely worth it. I was walking amongst the Black Cuillins! The path was muddy, grassy and stony. It was uneven and there were puddles. I was properly on the lower Cuillin slopes! Some of the route was even over the distinctive, grippy gabbro rock that made up those mountains.
It was an exhilarating walk and at journey’s end I was able to sit above Loch Coruisk, enjoying the brooding, empty beauty of the scenery. Others may climb the jagged peaks; I have conquered the walk to the hidden loch.
I have to confess that the midges did find us but even they didn’t manage to spoil the moment!
It was a memorable trip, and one of the highlights of our long overdue return to the west coast of Scotland. Oh, those magnificent mountains! They nearly had me weeping!