Black Cuillin Ridge
Key information: Black Cuillin Ridge
- This long, jagged, airy ridge on gorgeous Skye is Britain’s finest scrambling ridge.
- You can make an extraordinary 2 day traverse, of one of the UK’s greatest walks, famous to thrill-lovers around the world.
- Various day walks can be made, too.
- Walkopedia rating90
- Natural interest16
- Human interest4
- Negative points2
- Total rating90
- Note: Neg: Likely bad weather; heavy loads.
- Length: 2 days, or day walks
- Maximum Altitude: 992m
- Level of Difficulty: Variable
The compact Black Cuillin range rises almost straight from the sea, and has a thrilling semi-circular skyline of sheer cliffs and jagged crags, so has as a result been scrambling and climbing heaven for ever.
The Black Cuillins are the remains of the 60 million year old magma chamber of what must have been a vast volcano. Subsequent heavy glaciation has produced the cliffs, classic corries and airy knife-edges which are the Cuillins’ trademark. Its most famous feature, the Inaccessible Pinnacle (In Pinn), is a – finger of rock on a very exposed section of ridge which you will need technical kit to climb, you can bypass it.
The 2 day, 12-mile-long Black Cuillin Ridge is the internationally famous walk (actually, demanding scramble) on Skye, an extraordinary jagged ridge which swings in a great curve containing no less than 11 Munroes.
Starting at Loch Coruisk to the south (accessible only by boat from Elgol), you climb quickly up rough ground to the wonders of the high ridge. This has been described as both unlike any other walk in the UK, and at the point where scrambling becomes mountaineering; ropes are needed in places, but it is doable if you have a head for heights and have, or are with someone with, good mountain experience. Many people walk the ridge with guides.
The views from the ridge are as good as can be found anywhere – on a good day: vast mountain-and-sea views mediated by beautiful vaporous light.
Once on the ridge (it takes 6 hrs or so to get up and down), the traverse takes anything from 9 to 15 hrs, and requires careful concentration all the way. Ie, it is an exceptionally tough and demanding route, involving more than 4,000m of ascent and descent, so you need to be very fit. Given that (unless you are exceptionally fit and seeking a real challenge) you have to sleep up there, and the need to keep weight down as you lurch along the high crags, careful planning and packing are vital.
You will need to tackle the traverse of the ridge in good weather, so you will need to have a flexible schedule and check the weather forecast and pick a good window. Be prepared to abandon an attempt on a peak if circumstances change. It is said that the difficulties and uncertainties are such that under 10% of groups which begin the route make it round, so come braced with humility and philosophy!
See a brilliant video of what it is like: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_S8x6tbKsZon
This is a one-way route; so you will need to work out how to get to/from the walk.
You can make wonderful day walks on the Black Cuillin, including:
Sgurr nan Gillean: this superb landmark pyramid marks the northern end of the Black Cuillin ridge. It is beyond a normal walk, its easiest (south-eastern) approach still requiring some scrambling and a crossing of a foot-wide knife-edge – and crossing a lot of difficult ground. 14km/more than 8hr in total - or more, depending on your approach route.
The famous Inaccessible Pinnacle on the high ridge
Bruach na Frìthe: this 3,143ft mountain in the north of the Black Cuillin is not difficult (by Cuillin standards), but commands stellar views of the heart of the range. Walkopedia loved it. 14km/5hrs.
Sgurr Alasdair, at the very heart of the southern Black Cuillin. The highest in Skye at 3,257ft. A difficult climb up the Great Stone Chute from Choire Lagan.
Explore the southern beginning of the Black Cuillin Ridge from Loch Coruisk
One of the best Cuillin views of all is from Sgurr na Stri, between Loch Coruisk and Camasunary Beach, a lesser peak but with an inspiring panoramic survey of the ridge.
Skye has notoriously fickle and often bad weather, and conditions on top can be appalling. People die up there, and it is easy to lose your way in cloud/mist. Always come fully prepared.
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For more information and photos, including detailed practical information and some warnings, see our Isle of Skye walk page.
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Safety and problems: All walks have inherent risks and potential problems, and many of the walks featured on this website involve significant risks, dangers and problems. Problems of any sort can arise on any walk. This website does not purport to identify any (or all) actual or potential risks, dangers and problems that may relate to any particular walk.
Any person who is considering undertaking this walk should do careful research and make their own assessment of the risks, dangers and possible problems involved. They should also go to “Important information” for further important information.
Anyone planning an expedition to this place should see further important information about this walk.
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