Walk of the month

Bag Gla­maig on the Isle of Skye

Trail (UK) - - CONTENTS -

In the shad­ows of the in­fa­mous Black Cuillin, Skye’s more gen­tle and se­date range, the Red Cuillin, can of­ten be dis­re­garded. But this un­der­dog band of peaks is mar­shalled by a tal­is­manic cap­tain in the name of Gla­maig and it is dis­missed at one’s peril.

Also known as Sgurr Mhairi, Gla­maig is the north­ern­most and high­est moun­tain in the Red Cuillin, and with an el­e­va­tion of 775m it rep­re­sents half of Skye’s pop­u­la­tion of Cor­betts. As seen from Sli­gachan in the west, Gla­maig ap­pears per­fectly con­i­cal – as though a colos­sal limpet had once emerged from the deep of Loch Sli­gachan and hun­kered down on the rugged land­scape. In re­al­ity, the moun­tain has a south­east­ern spine, the Bealach na Sgairde, that links it to the rest of the Red Cuillin.

Given its cir­cu­lar­ity, there are a good num­ber of ways to bag Gla­maig. Tack­ling its western face is the most di­rect as­sault, re­quir­ing an as­cent of a bru­tally steep slope of grass and scree that ef­fec­tively rises from sea-level and equates to a 600m climb over just one lung­pun­ish­ing kilo­me­tre. More com­monly walked is the horse­shoe route (page 97), while as­cend­ing the north-east nose to An Coileach is ar­guably the finest way to be­gin a foray into the snaking Red Hills range.

Gla­maig’s rounded top is typ­i­cal of the Red Cuillin’s gran­ite com­po­si­tion, which was less re­sis­tant to the mil­len­nia of glacial ero­sion than the saw-edged peaks of gab­bro and basalt that sculpt the Black Cuillin. The apex, though, of­fers up one of Skye’s most dra­matic view­points, a hum­bling panorama of the whole of the isle plus al­most the en­tire west coast of main­land Scot­land at your mercy.

So, if you’d al­ways thought Skye’s Red Cuillin had lit­tle to of­fer over its more sin­is­ter and iconic neigh­bour range, think again.

TOM BAI­LEY

Com­posed of gran­ite, the Red Cuillin fea­tures a red­dish tinge in cer­tain light, hence its name.

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