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Hiking The Cuillin on Skye

Hiking The Cuillin

Exploring the jagged peaks of Skye's famous mountain range brings
hikers close to singularly striking vistas...and unquestionably powerful


People flowed out of Glen Sligachan like deer before an approaching storm. The River Sligachan foamed and frothed, tearing at the glen's floor, but the sky was a blue expanse pocked by fluffy clouds whose shadows dappled the golden flanks of Marsco Hill. Beyond it, the umbrageous peaks of the Cuillin poked up like ossified ghouls.

The people leaving Glen Sligachan were merely day-trippers, fleeing the oncoming night rather than the weather. "Are you planning on sleeping in there?" asked a bubbly American as I shouldered my loaded rucksack. Indeed I was; my route would initially follow the most probable trail taken by Bonnie Prince Charlie as he fled from government troops in the wake of calamitous Culloden.

From the old bridge at Sligachan, that route disappeared into the xanthic folds of the glen. Many visitors fail to get much further into the Cuillin than that bridge, but the view from there is only a brief advertisement of the majesty possessed by this revered corner of Scotland.

From the outset I picked my way over sodden paths. Marsco, to the left of the glen, cut a pleasing weathered wedge. Sgrr nan Gillean threw up a rugged black broadside to the right, barely teasing the Black Cuillin ridge's capabilities to climbers.

Marsco belongs to the Red Cuillin; smaller peaks sanded down to svelte curves by millennia of elemental attrition. Sgrr nan Gillean is just one of the Black Cuillin, which are loftier peaks strung together -- a crescent ridge of fierce sentries. The Black Cuillin is best tackled only by the experienced climber. They boast twelve Munros in total (peaks over 3,000 feet). All but one form the ridge. But a single outlier, Blà Bheinn, is nestled to the left of Glen Sligachan among the Red Cuillin.

The full text of this article is available in the Summer 2018 issue of Scottish Life.

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Photo © Paul Stafford