Words and Photographs by Kayla Hansen
Loch Coruisk is a strikingly beautiful freshwater loch located remotely on the south-west coast of the Isle of Skye. Not only is the loch surrounded by the famously rugged Cuillin mountains, but it is also believed to be the home of a Kelpie – a shape-shifting water creature. With no access available via road, how do you get to this incredible loch?
To reach Loch Coruisk you have two options. The first option is to take a boat from the small town south of the loch called Egol. For this, all you need is your wallet, waterproofs and Wellies. This will provide you with enough to keep you dry while exploring the loch and coastline.
If you’re looking to save a few pounds on boat fare or would prefer to get your steps in, the other option is to hike to the loch. If you’re up for the challenge, keep reading to find all of the information you’ll need to reach Loch Coruisk by foot.
Hiking to Loch Coruisk is not to be underestimated. It may not be a strenuous walk with only about 826 metres of elevation, but it’s a long walk. The trail boasts a 25 kilometre round trip, which will take most people six to eight hours to complete. For this reason, it is essential that you pack as you would for any other long adventure. Ensure that you wear your hiking boots, pack lots of layers – including your waterproofs – and bring plenty of food. You’ll also want to carry lots of water, but there will be opportunities to top up your bottle in a river along the way.
The walk starts in Sligachan – a tiny village on the west coast of the island – and can be reached by taking the A87 south from Portree or north from Broadford. Parking can conveniently be found at the front of the hotel or in one of the large lay-bys that offer enough room for vehicle parking. There are no signs to point you towards Loch Coruisk, so to find the trailhead you’ll first want to seek out the Old Sligachan Bridge. This bridge is perhaps one of the most photographed places on the Isle of Skye, next of course to the Old Man of Storr. Don’t forget to take a minute and capture a stunning photo for yourself! From there, follow the path towards the Collie and MacKenzie statue – a recently unveiled sculpture to commemorate two pioneers in mountaineering. After spending a moment to admire the artwork, search for the path that heads towards the valley. This is your trail.
The majority of this hike will be spent walking through the valley. The path is clear and therefore easy to follow, so you should have no trouble determining if you are still heading in the right direction. If the mist isn’t too heavy, you will soon see that the trail makes its way up a small hill to the right, while the valley seemingly takes a turn to the left. The hill is the way to go!
From the top of the hill, the loch and ocean will start to become visible. Here, you have two options. The first option is to head straight down the hill towards the loch. Once at the water’s edge, you can go for a swim and search for the truth behind the Kelpie folklore, or take a walk around the shoreline. However, please be aware that the circular walk around the loch is long and will extend the length of your hike by a minimum of two to three hours
The other option is to turn left from the top of the hill and head towards Sgùrr na Strì, which translates to the Peak of Strife. This is a small mountain located on the south end of Loch Coruisk and overlooks both the loch and the ocean inlet known as Loch Scavaig. Whether you’re a seasoned munro-bagger who eats hills like these for breakfast or you’re dreading the very thought of the burning calves that will inevitably accompany an incline, it’s worth the final push. Sitting at 494 metres above sea level, Sgùrr na Strì never fails to impress.
Despite its modest height, the final stretch up Sgùrr na Strì will present challenges. Not only does the path lose its clarity, but you will also encounter sections of rock face that will be difficult to tackle in poor weather conditions. If you find yourself wondering which way to go forward, the best thing to do is use your discretion. The route up the water-facing side of the hill is more technical and difficult to manoeuvre than than the grassier, inland side. Take the route you are most comfortable with to reach the peak.
The top of Sgùrr na Strì offers vast and breathtaking views of Loch Coruisk, Loch Scavaig and the surrounding Cuillin mountains – views made all the better by the immense effort put forth to get there. Before beginning your descent and long journey back, ensure to drink plenty of water and have something to eat, remembering to bring any protein bar wrappers or empty sandwich bags back with you in order to help preserve the beautiful and wild nature that is Loch Coruisk.
‘As someone with a passion for the outdoors, living in Scotland has been a dream. The raw, rugged nature of the landscape is humbling, and the inexplicable beauty is something I believe all should enjoy. Photography and writing have therefore come naturally as a means of sharing my experiences and encouraging others to explore new territories, ultimately increasing the love and respect for nature.’