Hillwalking on the Isle of Skye

Kyle of Lochalsh is amazingly located for hillwalking. With the Cuillin of Skye, the Five Sistairs of Kintail, the mountains of Cluanie and Glen Carron all just a stone’s throw away, there are literally enough fantastic mountains here to keep you entertained for weeks. We recommend the Scottish Mountaineering Club Guide to the Munros for more detailed hillwalking information.

Kyle of Lochalsh is just across the water from the Isle of Skye, home of the world famous Cuillin mountains.  There are 12 munros on Skye, including the most daunting of all Munros, Sgurr Dearg, more commonly known as The Inaccessible Pinnacle.

Sgurr nan Gillean (964m / 3162ft), meaning “peak of the gullies”, is a wonderful mountain, usually climbed from near the Sligachan Hotel.  As in much of the Cuillin, you need to take very great care as the ridges are often very narrow, rocky affairs with steep drops all around.

Am Basteir (934m / 3064ft), meaning “the executioner” or “the baptiser”, is truly spectacular, and is also usually climbed from near the Sligachan Hotel.

Bruach na Frithe (958m / 3143ft), meaning “slope of the deer forest”, is one of the easier of the Cuillin Munros, and is generally climbed from the road to the west of Sligachan.

Sgurr a’Mhadaidh (918m / 3012ft), meaning “peak of the fox”, and Sgurr a’Ghreadaidh (973m / 3192ft), meaning “peak of torment” or “peak of conflict”, are climbed together from the youth hostel in Glen Brittle.

Sgurr na Banachdich (965m / 3166ft), meaning “peak of smallpox” or “peak of the milkmaid”, is at the head of Coire na Banachdich.  The usual route of ascent starts near the Glen Brittle Memorial Hut.

The mighty Sgurr Dearg (986m / 3235ft), meaning “red peak” and more commonly known as The Inaccessible Pinnacle (or simply the In Pinn), is a huge slice of rock sticking into the sky.  This is generally regarded as the most technically difficult of all the Munros, because it requires actual rock-climbing to get to its summit.  Be especially careful on this summit, and it is probably a bad idea to try to climb this in wet, slippy or windy conditions.  A strong head for heights in an absolute must!  The usual route of ascent starts from beside the Glen Brittle Memorial Hut.

Sgurr Mhic Choinnich (948m / 3110ft), meaning “Mackenzie’s peak”, is named after John Mackenzie, who was a well-known guide in the Cuillin.  It is by no means an easy peak to climb, and as always, take very good care on this mountain.  The only feasible way up to the summit is from Coire Lagan, from which two lines of attack are possible.  To get to Coire Lagan, start from just to the north of Glenbrittle House, or from the north east shore of Loch Brittle.

North from Bla Bheinn (or Blaven), Isle of Skye.

Sgurr Alasdair (992m / 3255ft), meaning “Alexander’s peak”, is the highest peak on the Isle of Skye.  It takes its name from Alexander Nicolson, who was sheriff of Skye and who is credited with the first recorded ascent of the mountain, in 1873.  One of its most striking features is the Great Stone Chute, which is a gully 300 metres high and which used to be the most famous scree run in Scotland.  Most of the scree is now sitting in the bottom of the gully, however, so scree running possibilities are diminished – in any case, you should be very experienced if you are going to attempt this kind of thing, and for most walkers and climbers it is out of the question.  It is by no means the only way off the mountain!  Like Sgurr Mhic Choinnich, Sgurr Alasdair is accessed from Coire Lagan.

Sgurr Dubh Mor (944m / 3097ft), meaning “big black peak”, and Sgurr nan Eag (924m / 3031ft), meaning “peak of the notches”, are usually climbed together.  These are really enjoyable mountains to climb, and the usual route of ascent is from Coir’ a’ Ghrunnda, which itself is reached either from near Glenbrittle House, or from the north east shore of Loch Brittle.

Bla Bheinn (sometimes Blaven) (928m / 3045ft), meaning “blue hill” (from both Norse and Gaelic!), stands proudly on its own.  Unlike all the other Munros on Skye, there is no ridge connecting Bla Bheinn to any other Munro.

Other hillwalking possibilities

It’s not just the Isle of Skye that offers fantastic hillwalking possibilities near Kyle of Lochalsh:  the amazing, Munro-studded peaks flanking Glen Shiel also offer a number of great days out in the hills.

How many Munros can you fit down either side of a single glen?  15 apparently!  The Saddle, Sgurr na Sgine, Creag nan Damh, Sgurr an Lochain, Sgurr an Doire Leathain, Maol Chinn-dearg, Aonach air Chrith, Druim Shionnach, Creag a’Mhaim, Carn Ghluasaid, Sgurr nan Conbhairean, A’Chralaig, Aonach Meadhoin, Sgurr a’Bhealaich Dheirg, Saileag, and the three Munros of the world famous Five Sisters of KintailSgurr Fhuaran, Sgurr na Carnach and Sgurr na Ciste Duibhe – will give you a number of amazing days out.

Kyle of Lochalsh is also close to Glen Carron, which is likewise full of Munro-climbing opportunites!

Safety first

These mountains may not have the height of Alpine peaks, but you should not underestimate them or the very changeable weather they are subjected to.  It is not unheard of to have warm sunshine, rain, snow and fog all on the same day – even in the Summer!

You must be prepared for the terrain and for these weather changes.  You should only climb in sturdy hiking or climbing boots, and you must take waterproofs and emergency supplies.  Also take plenty of food and water – it is generally safe to drink from mountain streams, which are usually very clean, but you do so at your own risk.  A map, compass, and proficiency in their use, is a necessity.

Always check the mountain weather forecast before you head into the hills, and if it is winter or there has  been any snow falling or forecast, you should also check the avalanche forecast.  The area is served by an excellent mountain rescue team, but it is your responsibility to ensure you minimise the chances of an emergency which endangers their lives too.

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