Stretching walks

Bla Bheinn

Bla Bheinn (or Blaven) is a quite magnificent mountain by any Scottish standards. At 928m high, it is one of the few of Skye's Munros that is accessible to a competent hillwalker, requiring no mountaineering skills to get to the top by this route. It is not an easy walk though. The surfaces are rocky and in parts the climb needs hands on the rocks, so be prepared for that. The views as you climb are good, opening up from Loch Slapin and Torrin to include a vista of the Red Hills, Rum and a large part of the mainland NW Highlands. That would be enough in itself to make the climb worthwhile. But it is as nothing in comparison to what hits you as you crest the summit when the panorama of the Cuillin, Glen Sligachan, Marsco et al explodes into sight.

From the east ridge of Bruach na Frithe Am Basteir (left), Sgurr a' Fionn Choire (right), Sgurr nan Gillean (behind)

It is often said that Bruach na Frithe is the easiest Munro summit on the Cuillin Ridge, and one of the best viewpoints. It is hard to disagree with either of these opinions.

This is a wonderful trip to the top of Britain's only true mountain range, and it is not too difficult for anyone who is at least a competent hillwalker. That said, the weather will make all the difference. Unless you are skilled and experienced, stay well away in all but good settled conditions. The summit, which has the only trig point on the ridge, is 958m high, and can be reached without putting your hands on the rock. (You might choose to occasionally though!)  There is no significant exposure, but you do get to gaze down some big drops in places.

 Loch Coir' a' Ghrunnda

The walk from Glen Brittle up to Coir' a' Ghrunnda is not really too big an undertaking. It's about 9 km return, with an ascent of 700m, but it rates as 'stretching' in this guide for two reasons. Firstly, the route-finding in the corrie itself can be tricky, especially in poor visibility. Secondly, a section of simple scrambling is unavoidable on the final approach to the upper corrie. But in good weather the large sandy shored lochan, surrounded by Cuillin peaks and held by a massive barrier of boiler-plate slabs, is easily reached by any competent hillwalker.  For the non-climber, this is an excellent trip to a very worthwhile destination.

Summit of Garbh-bheinn 

At 808m high, Garbh-bheinn (sometimes anglicised as Garaven) is one of only two mountains on Skye classified as a Corbett (between 2,500 and 2,999 ft high). The other is Glamaig. Despite not reaching Munro status, an ascent of Garbh-bheinn, whose name means 'rough mountain', is right at the extreme end of what constitutes a 'walk'. Reaching the summit requires putting hand to rock, but not before you've reached 40m from the top. The last section is a little narrow in places and is best tackled in decent weather.

View south from Sgurr na Banachdich summit

Sgurr na Banachdich is a 965m summit near the middle of the Cuillin Ridge - at NG440224. It makes a good stop for lunch for those intrepids who are 'doing the ridge'. But for us mere hillwalkers it represents perhaps the best opportunity to get up and amongst it all without any need to put hand to rock. There's nothing too challenging for the vertigo sufferers either. There is only one point on the whole ascent where you can choose to look down a scary drop, and even the summit is a fairly comfortable place to perch.

Northwest from Sgurr na Stri

The outlook from the top of Sgurr na Stri is fantastic. Not only is it one of the best on Skye, but it can hardly be bettered anywhere in Scotland. The picture above, taken from just below the summit, is of Loch Coruisk and the main Cuillin Ridge. It is a truly awe-inspiring view.

Getting to the top of Sgurr na Stri (The Peak of Strife) is not technically difficult. The main challenge in this walk is the long trek in from Sligachan and, of course, the seemingly longer tramp back at the end of the day. Overall it's an outing of around 22 km.

You can cheat a bit though, by getting on one of the boats from Elgol to Loch Coruisk and heading up from there. If you go back to Elgol the same way your total walking distance will be under 5 km.

Beinn na Caillich from Beinn Dearg Mhor

This is a quite excellent walk that takes in three summits with first rate views, a steep scree descent and some wonderful, easy ridge walking - all in the space of 8km and less than 5 hours. There are two Beinns na Caillich on Skye. This is the one that towers 732m above Broadford and is the first major hill that visitors see in front of them if they are driving up the island from the Skye Bridge. The name means the mountain of the old woman. She is a tough old woman, with a steep and boulder strewn face, but she has her good points too. This walk takes us to her summit and then onwards to Beinn Dearg Mhor and Beinn Dearg Beag, before returning to the start point with no retracing of steps whatsoever.

 Summit cairn on Belig

Belig is a shapely pyramid of a hill, rising to an interesting 702m summit between Loch Ainort and Loch Slapin. The views from the top are very good indeed, making it a rewarding outing. It can be climbed fairly easily from the shore of Loch Slapin, but the route from Loch Ainort  avoids all exposure and keeps the scrambling to a minimum, making the outing 'moderate' rather than 'stretching' in the categories used by the Skye Guide. This, then, is the route described here...

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. 

Marsco Summit

Marsco is one of the classic hills of Skye. Its distinctive pyramidal profile dominates the view southwards from Sligachan. The views from its 736m summit are great, with a panorama of the main Cuillin Ridge, close views of Bla Bheinn, Garbh-bheinn and the rest of the Red Hills, and a wide outlook over the mainland.

There are several good routes to the top. The usual one leaves Sligachan following the Loch Coruisk path for about 3km.

Lochan near Sgurr na Coinnich summit

Sgurr na Coinnich, at 739m, is the highest point on Skye outside the Cuillin and the Red Hills. The summit has a panoramic view of the water separating Skye from the mainland - from Raasay in the north to the narrows of Loch Alsh and the Skye Bridge directly below and the Sound of Sleat to the south.

Sgurr a’Mhadaidh Ruaidh

This is a fine walk of around 11km to the best viewpoint on the Trotternish Ridge. Including two summits, and easy options of two more, it is an interesting and scenic walk, with little or nothing in the way of navigational challenge. The total climb involved is around 900m. Sgurr a’Mhadaidh Ruaidh (The Peak of the Red Fox) juts out east from the main line of the ridge, giving a clear view north towards Beinn Edra and the Quiraing, and south past Baca Ruadh to The Storr. At 593m, it offers commanding views to the Scottish mainland as well.

The Trotternish Ridge from Beinn Edra

The Trotternish peninsula in the north east of Skye is dominated by a spectacular ridge of hills that runs for over 30km along its backbone. There are 13 named summits, from Beinn Dearg in the south to Meal na Suiramach in the north. The ridge rises to its highest point at the 719m summit of the Storr, above the tortured landslip topography that includes the iconic pinnacle - The Old Man of Storr. The ridge is home also to the Quiraing, another landslip area of pinnacles and gullies, this time below the summit of Meal na Suiramach. The hills here are composed of horizontal flows of basaltic lavas, which built up on top of each other to a depth of around 800m. On the east side of the peninsula the underlying sedimentary rocks have collapsed under the weight of the basalt, tipping everything sideways to form the distinctive landslips. The result is a wonderful combination of unique scenery, outstanding views and first-rate walking terrain along the crest of this undulating escarpment.