For a large island, Skye has a narrow waist, across the five miles or so from Loch Harport in the west to Loch Sligachan in the east. At the head of Loch Sligachan the main road from Portree to Broadford meets that from Dunvegan, and here you find the Sligachan Hotel. The original inn was probably built in the 1700s, and half a mile nearer the head of the bay at a ford over the River Sligachan. The name Sligachan is Gaelic for "shelly place", after the shells found at the original location.
In about 1830 a new Sligachan Inn was built at the current location and proved ideally placed when the gentleman climbers of the day discovered that this part of Scotland had mountains that in character (if not in height) could match the best available in the Alps. Most books about climbing in the latter half of the 1800s contain at least one photo of a group of tweed-clad and hobnail boot-shod men, stiffly posed in front of the Sligachan Inn. The hotel itself is home to a small museum remembering the exploits of these early climbers.
Today's Sligachan Hotel lives up to its heritage, and in many ways surpasses it. Having recently undergone a major refurbishment, the family-run hotel offers 21 rooms including singles, doubles and family rooms. As you'd expect from a classic Scottish hotel it comes complete with a fine and comfortable restaurant, the Cairidh Seafood Restaurant, plus a lounge and a bar.
But what has really transformed the Sligachan Hotel has been the way it provides for those wanting something less formal and cheaper than you'd find in a traditional hotel.
So right next to the main Sligachan Hotel is Seumas' Bar. This boasts a selection of 200 malt whiskies, along with real ales, including a number brewed in the Sligachan's own Cuillin Brewery. Coupled with excellent bar meals, children's facilities, a welcoming and easy going atmosphere, and plenty of room for all, Seumas' Bar significantly broadens the appeal of Sligachan.
Meanwhile, the 21 rooms in the hotel have been supplemented by the campsite at the head of Loch Sligachan, and within an easy walk of Seumas' Bar. You will also find nearby a bunkhouse that can sleep 20, two cottages sleeping up to 8 each and a house sleeping 14. What started as an inn and then a hotel now serves as a community catering for the needs of almost all travellers.
And you don't need to stray far from the hotel to see why generations of those travellers have come here. Sligachan lies at the head of Glen Sligachan. This runs for eight miles south to meet the sea at Camasunary near Elgol, and divides the rounded Red Cuillin from the jagged Black Cuillin.
Views from Sligachan itself are dominated by the savage profile of Sgurr nan Gillean. Over the years Sligachan has become a mecca for those wanting to tackle the Black Cuillin: something not for the faint hearted or inexperienced. It is also well placed for less demanding walks into the Red Cuillin or along the glens towards Elgol to the south or Glen Brittle to the south west.
A little west of Sligachan the main road towards Carbost and Dunvegan passes through Glen Drynock. Skye has many ghosts, but perhaps the most unusual has sometimes been seen here at night: the headlights of an oncoming car that simply disappears before it reaches you. A ghost car certainly makes a change from the more usual apparitions you come across in Scotland.