Sgurr Mhairi (Glamaig) from Sligachan
Glamaig is the northernmost of Skye's Red Hills. It is the seemingly perfect cone of scree that towers 775m above Sligachan and finds its way into the pictures taken by thousands of cameras every year. No matter how wonderful the hill looks from below, it is nothing to what the world looks like when seen on a clear day from the summit. This is one of the great viewpoints of Skye.
From Sligachan it looks, and is, a daunting climb on relentless steep slopes of grass and scree. There is a hill race held here each summer when mad folks run up and then career back down at astonishing speed. A chap called Havildar Harkabir Thapa seems to have started all this in 1899, when he ran from the bridge at Sligachan to the summit in 37 minutes and back down in 18 minutes. Today people do it a only a little faster. Feel free to try this route if you fancy it.
Happily for those of us who welcome the views more than the pain, there is an easier way.
The summit ridge of Glamaig
Glamaig is not actually the simple cone shape that you see from Sligachan. It is elongated to the east along the south side of Loch Sligachan and has a summit at each end. The higher one is Sgurr Mhairi (775m) at the west end. At the east end, above Sconser, is An Coileach (673m). The ridge between the summits is a delight. It is a pleasant walk on a broad ridge with short grass and firm ground – not at all like the sharp arête that it looks like when seen from the south.
Beinn Dearg Mhor from Glamaig
The easier route begins from the A87 just south of Sconser, following the line of the fence that leaves the road at NG536314 and rises all the way to the ridge. There is no real path, but on the first steep section a narrow track has been left by walkers zig-zagging up through the heather on the left of the fence. Higher up, the remnants of the fence lead right up the centre of the scree filled gully seen in the picture below. It is not difficult to negotiate but, if preferred, it can be avoided by picking a line through the crags to the right.
Gully on ascent of An Coileach
The summit of An Coileach (The Cockerel) is soon reached, and all the hard work is done. The views from here are wonderful by any standards, in particular looking northeastwards up the Trotternish coast and over Raasay. Now there is a rewarding stroll of about a kilometre along the whaleback for the final gentle climb of 100m to Sgurr Mhairi (Mary’s Peak). Here you'll enjoy a great prospect over Glen Sligachan to Sgurr nan Gillean and much of the rest of the Cuillin.
Looking down on Sligachan from the summit of Sgurr Mhairi
From the top, you may be tempted to try the 18 minute headlong charge to the bar at the Sligachan Hotel – but I’d recommend not! There are plenty more fine views to see on a return by the same route...
View of Raasay from half way up An Coileach