Loch Coriusk on the Isle of Skye

Location MapI saw a stunning painting of Loch Coriusk and I was hooked immediately. Cows fed on the grass by the shores. The calm waters of the loch reflected the intimidating Black Cuillin and a dark shroud of clouds. I just had to figure out how to get to this intriguing place.

Getting in and where I stayed

As I tend to do, I just had to hike there. After touring the Isle of Skye with some friends, I got them to drop me in Sligachan. I should point out that this blog is still all on the Isle of Skye, but on the Minginish Peninsula near the Black Cuillin.

Skye has a basic public transport network and a few buses go past Sligachan from the other Skye towns. I used them on the way off the island though.

I got dropped off at the Sligachan campsite (just £7.50 for my pitch), but I didn’t camp there that night. There was a good weather window, so I left my spare bag with the warden and headed off to Loch Coriusk to free camp the night. Many people also free camped within the vicinity of Sligachan if you want to save a few bucks. Mind the midges though!

Preparation

There are no shops in Sligachan, so getting all your supplies in Broadford or Portree is a must unless you want to eat all your meals at the Sligachan hotel (prices are pretty reasonable though).

In any case, they are the only place with WiFi (accessed via time capped vouchers given with purchases) and they also have a huge topographic map of Minginish on the wall.

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The map in Hotel Sligachan showing the path to Loch Coriusk

Day 1 – Sligachan to Loch Coriusk

Distance: About 10km (6mi)
Duration: 3-4 hours

Just to the left of the Sligachan hotel is a junction and on the opposite side of that the walking tracks begin. Various tracks split off to climb the Black Cuillin munros and one even goes all the way to Fairy Pools (2 hours one-way).

Sticking to the east side of the river, you will find a track that passes the boundary of some cottages and then off into the glen.

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Starting the walk from Sligachan I stumbled across a photographer in its native habitat

It’s fairly flat and simple for the first few miles. In late August it was fine sunny Scottish weather, with a light breeze and plenty of wild flowers colouring the heathland. The light breeze was a very important factor for my walk because the lochs are often full of midges who are kept away by light gusts of wind. They also don’t seem to like the heat either fortunately.

Along the way I met a red haired chap who loved blue hiking gear. His name was Tom and he was a travelling chef from the Orkney Islands of far northern Scotland. He was crossing the Isle on the Skye Trail that goes from the northern tip to Broadford.

We chatted for almost an hour before I realised that I’d over shot my turn off for Loch Coriusk. I had to double back a bit to find the trail, to avoid what I thought would be flat marshy ground.

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Where I left Tom from the Orkneys to double back

The river crossing had a number of large stones so there was no need to get my feet wet. Then the path climbed up a few hundred metres over a ridge. Along the way I passed a few people with dogs which was amusing and pleasant. In Australia, I can’t take my dog to national parks because all our native animals are too piss weak and whimpy to deal with even the scent of a dog…

At the top of the climb there was a small lake (maybe a tarn?) and there began the descent to Loch Coriusk. It was shimmering in the sunlight and not so far away at all. I had read that an early explorer described Loch Coriusk as “a dark and horrible place in which the sun never shined”, but clearly they were mistaken.

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Descending towards sea level and the loch

The way down was quick, but muddy in places. It was still Scotland after all. Before hitting the bottom I found a small hilltop which seemed to drain well and so I set up my tent before exploring.

Unfortunately if I hadn’t done that in haste, I could have setup at this awesome spot at the river’s edge!

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Where I camped vs the better campsite

A kayaker brought his boat into the loch and paddled around. I don’t think I saw him leave, but I assumed he left via the river until I hit these rocks. Not a bad place to chill and read a book while the midges were stayed by the wind.

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The tidal river that flows out of Loch Coriusk

At sunset I climbed the valley walls and perched myself on a nice outcrop. I startled some wild deer as I clambered up the tussocks and up to the rocks.

There were views back to the mainland and out towards the Atlantic ocean too – the frontier of the Inner Hebrides.

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Sunset towards the Atlantic ocean

The clouds rolled in after dark, so there was to be no astrophotography, so I just hit the hay and enjoyed the soft cushioning grass.

Day 2 – Return to Sligachan via detour

Distance: 11-14kms (6-8½mi)
Duration: 5-6 hours

The next morning I woke for sunrise only to find that the wind had completely died off. This left me stranded in midgey town. I must have used half my bottle of Smidge spray to coat myself and my tent while I danced around it.

It wasn’t as nice as sunset, but at least I got some pictures to make the itchy bites worth it.

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Dawn over Loch Coriusk

I fell asleep again after that until 1030am. I woke to find the tent sweltering hot under the blazing sun and rushed to pack up and go. Thousands of dead midges covered my tent revealing the exact places that I’d sprayed. They were still being pests so I ran off to eat breakfast further up the mountainside.

I really wanted to climb up the ridge Druim Nam Ramh along the eastern side of the loch to get a better view of the loch and Cuillin. The climb took a little over an hour for about 500m gain, but it was rewarding and varied the return journey.

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The Loch from above

I enjoyed the moment for a while and the wind kept things midge free. Later I bush bashed down the mountain towards the river of Coire Riabhach and between the cliffs to the river at Harta Corrie. That took another hour or so to arrive at the river bed where a flock of deer were gathered.

Then I followed the river and cut across the top of Lochan Dubha to rejoin the trail. From there it was just a typical slog to get back to Sligachan around 4:45pm. Late lunch was amazing though for £10!

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A hearty late lunch at Hotel Sligachan with some Scottish humour

The photographer in me decided it was a good idea to jog along the track to Fairy Pools for one last sunset. The way was nice, but the light wasn’t hugely colourful unfortunately. I posted the photos in the previous blog on Skye.

Getting out

The next day I took the public bus to Armadale to get the ferry to Mallaig. It’s actually worth a quick stop at Armadale Castle if you need to wait for the ferry (book the ferry in advance if you have a car!).

The castle cost £12, but since I hadn’t seen any castles for a while I gave it a go. It is just a ruin, but the museum on the MacDonald clan and the Jacobites is interesting.

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The ruins of Armadale Castle near the ferry

Last but not least, you can get a great little bacon and cheese roll next to the ferry terminal for £2.50. I was so hungry I demolished two.

An old chap behind me was short of money and seemed to desperately want something so I gave him the change for where he was short. He humbly thanked me and amusingly called me “a gentleman and a scholar of the highest order!”. How very… medieval of him. That and the little help I could offer made my day. A win-win result for just a few p. How about that!

I boarded the ferry for Mallaig for £2.80 and then it was just £8 to get from there to Glenfinnan. It’s just as well I bought supplies in Mallaig because there was next to nothing in Glenfinnan!

After passing back through Glenfinnan, I continued on to Glasgow and Falkirk to visit a close friend’s aunt who looked after us last time I was in the UK.

See what happened during the rest of the month in the UK here.

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