…the terror that walketh in darkness, here walks by day...
The Quiraing is awesome. It is supernatural. It is a place of wonder and amazement. It is outstanding by any measure. If you are fit enough to walk the narrow path and scramble up and down the steep slopes – you must do it. To visit Skye without experiencing the Quiraing seems unthinkable.
Go on a bright and clear day for views of the Outer Hebrides and the Scottish mainland, framed by the pinnacles, cliffs and great buttresses. Go on a wet and windy day to feel your spine tingle as the clouds and mist swirl around you in this unreal and menacing landscape. Whatever the weather, you’ll not forget the experience.
The hike is under 5km return for the direct route, or about 7km if you make it a circuit and include the summit above the Quiraing itself. Either way, the starting point is from Bealach Ollasgairte at NG440679.
Park at the bealach and follow the good, sign-posted path northwards from there. It will take you on a fairly level walk along the hillside, with good views to be had the whole way. There is a slightly awkward crossing of a burn, made worse if it happens to be frozen. Other than that it is entirely straightforward.
After about a mile, the path steepens as it climbs between the outlying rock formation known as the Prison, to your right, and the entrance to the Quiraing on your left. As soon as you crest the high point of the path there is a cairn. Turn left here, leaving the path, and climb the steep, earthy slope to reach the Needle. You’ll not miss it – it’s 40m high. Go to its left, still climbing, and you will soon find a narrow path that goes right again, leading to a narrow gap in the cliffs. Climb up through this gully. If the weather is wet, you are going to get filthy here. Don’t worry about that – it will be worth it.
Emerging from the gully, you are close to the heart of the Quiraing. I’m told that cattle used to be concealed up here to protect them from raiders. How anyone got cattle up here I just can’t conceive. They would be well hidden though, in this secret place behind the cliffs. A path beyond the gully at first drops a bit, and then zig-zags up another steep rise towards the Table – a strangely flat expanse of short grass, just like a football field in the sky. You can scramble up the edge of the Table at the corner where you arrive, but it is simpler to follow a track to your left that passes in front of the Table and then turns right and rises easily to the level of the top. You’ve made it!
The only (safe) way out is back down to the cairn by the Prison. Once there you can return directly to the start point, or go left and follow the path further along the foot of the cliffs. Just after a small lochan the path splits. Take the left fork, still following the cliffs. The path rises to a break in the cliff line at Fir Bhreugach (NG448704
). From there, double back southwards along the top of the cliffs. Soon you are above the Table and looking down on the complex landslip of the Quiraing. The nearby summit of Meall na Suiramach is unspectacular, but is easy to reach and the trig point at the top is a good spot from which to take in the views to the north and west. Returning from here to the car park, keep well above and to the right of the deceptive clifftop. There is a fairly obvious track that cuts away to the south-west and goes steeply downwards to join the outward route close to the starting point. On a clear day there are excellent views along the Trotternish Ridge directly in front of you as you descend.