Sligachan

By Craig Neil
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Summary

Sligachan is an area on the Isle of Skye in the Inner Hebrides of Scotland.

The landscape at this location is breathtaking as it’s comprised of heather-covered moorland crisscrossed by a number of rivers, with the entire scene framed by the imposing Red and Black Cuillin mountains.

Sligachan is a popular destination for photographers as well as walkers and cyclists who use it as a central base to explore Skye on trails and roads that head out in all directions from the famous Sligachan Old Bridge.

Sligachan Skye
Address:Sligachan,
Isle of Skye,
IV47 8SW
Opening Hours:Sligachan is accessible 24/7, 365 days a year.
Admission Price:N/A
Parking:There is a dedicated car park on the A87 which allows access to Sligachan Old Bridge and the Collie and Mackenzie statue.
Alternatively, there is a car park at the Sligachan Hotel which is reserved for customers.
Contact:N/A
Facilities:The Sligachan Hotel has a bar, restaurant, toilets and a children's play park. There are bus stops on the A87 next to the hotel.
The nearest shops are in Portree which is located 9 miles north on the A87.

The highlights

1: This is, without doubt, one of the most beautiful places on Skye.

The Sligachan Old Bridge provides a stunning viewpoint where the dramatic mountain ranges of the Red and Black Cuillin mountains wind their way to the south of the island, separated by the heather-covered moorland of Glen Sligachan and endless crystal-clear rivers and burns.

2: The Sligachan Hotel is a must-visit tourist destination. This historic inn has been a departure point for intrepid mountaineers for well over a hundred years so it has amassed quite a collection of photos which are now displayed in the hotel’s own museum.

There’s also a fantastic bar – Seamus’ Bar – which stocks one of the finest whisky collections on the island, and they even sell their own beer which is brewed at the on-site Cuillin Brewery.

3: Sligachan is one of the best departure points on Skye for exploring the island.

Heading north there’s a great walk along the shore of Loch Sligachan and heading southwest and southeast there are trails that make their way into the Red Cuillin and Black Cuillin mountains.

There are also trails south that go as far as Elgol on the Sleat Peninsula and another that heads west to the Fairy Pools which is one of Skye’s most popular attractions.

Sligachan Skye

Visiting tips

1: All visitors intending to explore the Black Cuillin mountains should carefully prepare for the terrain which is considered one of the most hazardous in the UK.

Climbers that set off from Sligachan to complete the entire 20-mile Cuillin Ridge should only attempt it if they are physically fit and able to complete an exhausting 2-day adventure.

The website of the British Mountaineering Council is a good resource for finding information about tackling this extreme climb and long-distance hike.

2: Visitors looking to spend a couple of hours walking in the area should try to park either in the Sligachan Old Bridge car park on the A87 or the Sligachan Hotel car park.

There’s another parking area outside the Sligachan Mountain Rescue Base on the A863 but visitors must keep clear of the gate as it’s required for access by rescue teams.

3: There are too many walking routes to fully explore in one article but I have to give mention to the 7-mile trail that starts at the Collie and Mackenzie statue and heads south through Glen Slagachan to Camasunary on the southwest side of the island.

The path is in great condition and the views are breathtaking from start to finish. Walk Highlands has a great resource for the route, although they actually finish another 4 miles south at Elgol.


Overview

It’s a well-known fact that the Isle of Skye is one of the most beautiful places in Scotland, especially when it comes to tourist-favourite destinations like the Old Man of Storr and the Quiraing.

However, another equally captivating part of the island can be found at Sligachan on the southeast coast around 8 miles south of Portree and 12 miles north of Broadford.

Sligachan Skye

Sligachan lies at the inland end of Loch Sligachan, a sea loch that opens up to the islands of Raasay and Scalpay and is framed by the peaks of the Red Cuillin mountains on its southern side.

This area has been a popular departure point for hill walkers and mountaineers for well over a hundred years due to the fact that it offers relatively easy access to the Black Cuillin Ridge which is widely acknowledged as one of the best places in Britain to experience Alpine-esque peaks.

The Black Cuillin Ridge is more than 7 miles long and has several peaks that rise above 3,000 feet in places, one of which – the ‘Inaccessible Pinnacle’ – is regarded as the most difficult climb in the UK.

Thankfully though, you don’t have to set off with a pair of crampons and a length of rope to enjoy Sligachan and it’s possible to immerse yourself in the beauty of the surrounding mountains simply by walking the length of the glen that lies beneath them.

Sligachan Skye

This rugged, windswept glen allows visitors to truly experience the wilderness of Skye on a rocky path that crosses gushing burns and a sweeping expanse of moorland to its final destination at Camasunary bay.

Highlights along the way are the majestic Sgurr nan Gillean and Bla Bheinn in the Black Cuillin range which are amongst the highest peaks in the region, though both fall short of the highest mountain – Sgurr Alasdair – which is 3,254 feet high.

Visitors that would rather just snap a couple of photos before moving on to their next destination will find plenty of photo opportunities at Sligachan including the statue of the mountaineering duo Collie and MacKenzie who created many of the routes across Skye in the late 1800s.

Sligachan Skye

The statue was commissioned by a heritage group that also installed a car park near it allowing visitors to take a break from the A87 and visit another landmark that’s featured on countless postcards – the Sligachan Old Bridge.

The bridge was built between 1810 and 1818 as a means to cross the River Sligachan, but it has since gained a fair amount of fame for the view from it looking south which is backed by the mighty Sgurr nan Gillean.

This is a must-visit location for photographers as it’s possible to get some great shots no matter the weather – though be warned that because of its popularity it’s almost impossible to take a photo without tourists getting in the way.

Early morning and late evenings are therefore the best times if you’re heading to Sligachan with a camera in hand, though be mindful that these times are the worst for midges so you might find this article worth reading before you visit: The Best Midge Repellents.

Sligachan Skye

Tourist information

While the entire Sligachan area is a tourist attraction in itself, I recommend spending at least a few minutes in the Sligachan Hotel which has a small museum dedicated to the intrepid climbers who first attempted to conquer the summits of the Black Cuillin range.

There’s also a decent children’s play park where you can let the kids go wild and a garden area where you can sup a pint while soaking up the view across Loch Sligachan.

The hotel makes a superb base to explore the island due to its location on the A87 which allows visitors to drive to Portree in around 15 minutes and Broadford in around 20 minutes.

Both settlements are the main places on Skye to stock up on supplies and both offer access to two regions of the island that I highly recommend visiting – the Sleat Peninsula near Broadford and Trotternish near Portree.

Sligachan Old Bridge Skye

Sligachan is also close to another much smaller settlement at Sconser which is the location of a wee ferry terminal that has regular sailings to the nearby Isle of Raasay.

This hilly island has roads that cut across it from north to south that offer a full day of cycling at a steady pace after which you can reward yourself with a bite to eat at the elegant Raasay House.

You can also take a car onto the island which will allow you to spend more time exploring unusual attractions like Brochel Castle and Calum’s Road which are both located a fair distance from the ferry terminal.

Back at Sligachan, the activities tend to revolve around hiking as the off-road paths are largely unsuitable for mountain bikes.

Aside from the trail that runs south through Glen Sligachan, another superb route that I recommend heads west past the Sligachan waterfalls to the picturesque Fairy Pools on the other side of the Black Cuillin range.

Sligachan Skye

The start of this trail begins 1/2 mile past the Sligachan bridge on the A863 which is marked by a side road to Allt Dearg Cottage.

While the trail is obvious there aren’t any signposts to tell you which way to go so you might consider purchasing an OS Map (details below) to show you the way.

Personally, I use the OS Maps app on my phone which gives me every single OS map of the entire country along with walking routes and points of interest for less than 30 quid a year – a genuine bargain in my book.

Finally, if you’d like to know more about the walking trails that thread their way through Sligachan you’ll find several pages about them on the Walk Highlands website which is well worth bookmarking for any visitor to Skye.

Explore this area with a detailed paper map from Ordnance Survey:

Skye – Portree & Bracdale – 410 Explorer.
Skye – Cuillin Hills – 411 Explorer.

South Skye & Cuillin Hills – 32 Landranger.

OS Explorer Maps: Best for walking, mountain biking, and finding footpaths. 1:25,000 scale (4 cm = 1 km in real world). Buy OS Explorer maps direct from Ordnance Survey.

OS Landranger Maps: Best for road cycling, touring by car, and finding attractions. 1:50 000 scale (2 cm = 1 km in real world). Buy OS Landranger maps direct from Ordnance Survey.


Things to do nearby

Sconser Ferry Terminal. Address: Sconser, IV48 8TD. Distance: 3 miles.
Sconser is a small crofting community located on the shore of Loch Sligachan. Due to its position on the A87 and its proximity to Raasay, Sconser is the main departure point for sailings to the island.

Sailings to Raasay on the Calmac ferry take just 25 minutes and there are departures every hour from 8.30 am to 7 pm.

Sligachan Waterfalls. Address: Isle of Skye IV47 8SW. Distance: 1 mile.
An attractive waterfall on the Allt Dearg Mor river not far from the Sligachan Old Bridge.

Sligachan Skye

There is a well-used path from the waterfalls to the Fairy Pools which is one of Skye’s most popular walking trails.

Sgurr nan Gillean. Address: Isle of Skye, IV47 8SW. Distance: 3 miles.
This is one of 11 Munros in the Cuillin mountains and it’s arguably the most famous. Climbing Sgurr nan Gillean is quite a challenge so it’s best left for experienced hill walkers and climbers, but the views are well worth the effort involved in making the ascent.

Talisker Distillery. Address: Carbost, Isle of Skye IV47 8SR. Distance: 8 miles.
Talisker is the oldest working whisky distillery on Skye. The distillery produces a highly-rated single malt from its location on the banks of Loch Harport. Visitors can enjoy guided tours as well as exclusive tasting experiences.

Red Cuillin Viewpoint. Address: A863, Isle of Skye, IV47 8SW. Distance: 1 mile.
This location on the A863 provides one of the finest views of Skye which overlooks the open moorland of Sligachan and the dramatic peaks of the Red Cuillin mountains.

There is an off-road layby near the viewpoint and another midway between the viewpoint and Sligachan. This second layby is close to the path that leads to the Sligachan waterfalls.


Frequently asked questions

How old is Sligachan bridge?

Sligachan Old Bridge was built between 1810 and 1818 by the engineer Thomas Telford. The bridge was listed as a Category B structure in 1971 and is now only used by cyclists and pedestrians.

What is the statue at Sligachan?

The life-size bronze statue at Sligachan is of two famous mountaineers – John Mackenzie (1856-1933) and Norman Collie (1859-1942). The statue was fundraised by the Collie and Mackenzie Heritage Group and was installed in 2020.

How long does it take to do the Cuillin Ridge?

The Cullin Ridge Traverse is considered to be one of the most difficult mountain ridges to walk in Britain. Completing the 7.5-mile trek takes around 20 hours in ideal weather conditions.

What are the Cuillins on Skye?

The Cuillins are two mountain ranges that dominate the southern half of the Isle of Skye. The Black Cuillin ridge is the higher of the two with peaks that rise above 3,000 feet in places. The Black Cuillin mountains are considered to be expert-level climbs.

The Red Cuillin mountains (named after their red granite) are much gentler with a maximum elevation of 2,543 feet. This mountain range is very popular with hill walkers.

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