#225 – Coire Lagan and the Cuillins

Coire Lagan

(Left click images to zoom in, use browser return arrow to go back)

The Cuillin Hills of Skye are a mountaineer’s paradise – there’s an alpine feel about the place and the area remains popular with hikers, climbers and mountaineers from home and abroad.    There is one fly in the ointment though – in fact, on a summer day there are tens of thousands of them!    I’m talking about the humble Scottish midge.    Add the unpredictable weather (it isn’t called the ‘Misty Isle’ for nothing!) and you might question why Skye remains so popular.   The answer to the question is the quality of the climbing.

The route – there and back!

The Cuillins

Getting up onto the Main Ridge of the Cuillins generally involves some fairly hard-core rock climbing or mountaineering, and my missus would be the first to say that she doesn’t ‘do’ hard-core!    However, there’s lots to go at that doesn’t include the risk of sudden death, but still gives the buzz of being somewhere special.    One such place is Coire Lagan above Glen Brittle.

Glen Brittle campsite and beach

Chris and I were at the campsite at Glen Brittle.    In my youth, this was a fairly primitive campsite, but things are catching up now – they even have hot showers, for heaven’s sake!  The trick with the old cold-water showers was to wait until the heat of the sun had got through to the collecting tank above the toilets, then to make a move before everyone else on the campsite did the same – it was still bloody cold though!

Setting out – Corie Lagan just right of centre

Passing Loch an Fhir Bhallaich (Lake of the speckled trout)

The lower part of the path, between the campsite and the small lake of Loch an Fhir Bhallaich, used to be one big bog in anything but a drought, with the path becoming about 20 metres wide with people trying to avoid getting filthy in the black peat.    Some impressive work with drainage and path improvement has changed all that, though the good weather we were enjoying certainly helped.

Gaining height ….

…. but not too steep yet (Loch Brittle behind)

The crags of Sron na Ciche come into view

Beyond the small loch, the path heads up to the impressive Coire Lagan – the mountain scenery becomes more and more impressive, though the views behind looking out to sea tick a few boxes as well.    In the corrie, one feature dominates above the rest – this is the impressive set of cliffs that make up the crags of Sron na Ciche.    It’s hard to appreciate the size of the place at first – suffice it to say, there are a couple of 1300 ft (400 metre) rock climbs with several more approaching that length.    It’s an impressive place to climb.

*    *    *    *    *

Our 1972 rock climbs on Cioch Buttress (The small circle is the Cioch – see photo below)

One of my earliest climbs here in 1972 was a combination of three linked routes.    We started on Cioch Direct (500 ft/150 metres) followed by Arrow route (200 ft/60 metres) – Cioch Direct has re-assuring chimneys and cracks which give an illusion of security, whereas Arrow route, although a grade easier, takes off up an almost bare slab.    On arrival, the top of Arrow Route gives access to an amazing rock feature, The Cioch (see photos below).

1972 – The author climbing on Cioch Buttress

Rock climb ‘Cioch Direct’ (rope just visible left of centre, climber Andy Berrill just above centre)

Second climb – Arrow Route, leading to the Cioch

The Cioch is a rock pinnacle that seems to defy gravity, hanging on to the side of Cioch Buttress.    It’s almost unthinkable to climb up there without going out onto the almost flat top, and although it looks small there’s enough room for a picnic – just make sure you don’t invite too many friends!     After finishing your picnic, the best end to a climbing day is to continue up a third climb, Integrity (250 ft/75 metres) which takes you to the ridge of Sron na Ciche.

The Cioch – © John Wray

The Cioch as seen in the film ‘Highlander’

The Cioch is also famous for being a location in the 1986 cult movie ‘Highlander’, though rumour has it that Sean Connery was helicoptered in – if he was, he missed some ace rock climbing!

*    *    *    *    *

Getting a bit steeper now!

Short rock wall leading to Upper Coire Lagan

Getting closer to the rock wall

Over the obstacle – looking back down the track we had followed

Chris and I hadn’t come for the rock climbing on this trip, though Chris must have thought I had lost the plot when the path we were on led us up to a short rock wall.    Now, for some, the short rock wall is an easy scramble to add a bit of interest to a walk – for others, including Chris it must be said, a short rock wall was not on the agenda.    However, we found an easy enough way of working through the obstacle, though predictively, Border Collie ‘Mist’ was already up and waiting for us.

A bit more height gain ….

…. before the corrie opens out – Sgurr Mhic Choinnich above in the centre

(l to r) Sgurr Mhic Choinnich, Sgurr Thearlaich, Sgurr Alasdair and Sgurr Sgumain

The author and ‘Mist’ by the tiny loch in Upper Corie Lagan

Upper Coire Lagan gets right in amongst the action!    The rock architecture is almost alpine in scale and appearance, and it’s a lovely quiet spot to have the picnic you might have had on the Cioch.    The climber and mountaineer will probably be busy identifying the different peaks and routes, but on a pleasant warm day it’s a great place to idle away a few minutes in the sun.

‘Mist’ chilling out, with our return route in the background

Setting off back down ….

…. with a last look back into Coire Lagan

What’s more, if you go in May as we did, there’s a good chance that you will have settled weather and no midges.    However, sooner or later the time comes to move, either up on to the ridge above for a bit more sport, or back down for a cold cider, as was our plan.  Whatever you go for, it’s a great day out.

Time to head for home

Text and images © Paul Shorrock except image tagged John Wray, which is taken from the Geograph Project and reproduced under a Creative Commons Licence


About Paul Shorrock

I've been mucking about in the mountains for longer than I care to mention. I started out by walking my local hills, then went on to rock climbing, mountaineering and skiing. Still doing it, and still getting a buzz. I'm now sharing the fun, through my guided walking business (Hillcraft Guided Walking) and by writing routes for other publishers, mainly Walking World and Discovery Walking Guides. Just to make sure I keep really busy, I am also currently a member of my local mountain rescue team.
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5 Responses to #225 – Coire Lagan and the Cuillins

  1. Pingback: #226 – Coire na Creiche and the Fairy Pools | Paul Shorrock – One Man's Mountains AKA One Pillock's Hillocks

  2. Pingback: #227 – Coire Mhic Fhearchair and the Beinn Eighe air-crash, 1951 | Paul Shorrock – One Man's Mountains AKA One Pillock's Hillocks

  3. Pingback: #232 – Carrock Fell in the Northern Fells of the Lake District | Paul Shorrock – One Man's Mountains AKA One Pillock's Hillocks

  4. Pingback: #252 – Glamaig and the Northern Hills of the Red Cuillins | Paul Shorrock – One Man's Mountains AKA One Pillock's Hillocks

  5. Pingback: #321 – Return to Coire Lagan in the Black Cuillins of Skye | Paul Shorrock – One Man's Mountains AKA One Pillock's Hillocks

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