The Isle of Skye is home to Scotland's most spectacular mountain range, the Cuillins: or to take the inadequate Ordnance Survey description, the Cuillin Hills. A magnificent horseshoe arc of jagged mountains are linked together by a high level ridge whose traverse calls for rock-climbing skills and a head for heights. Contained within this horseshoe arc and completely invisible from anywhere beyond the surrounding mountains, is Loch Coruisk.
Loch Coruisk has exercised a fascination over visitors to Skye for centuries. Part of its fascination lies in its truly remarkable surroundings. Another is its inaccessibility.
To get there on foot involves crossing the surrounding mountains; or embarking on a five mile walk from the road north of Elgol over a 600ft bealach, past Camasunary and along a coast path whose traverse includes the infamous "bad step", a narrow rocky section of the path with drops straight down into the sea; or a seven mile walk down Glen Sligachan from Sligachan and over a 1032ft bealach before dropping down to Loch Coruisk.
Or you can take what it is fair to call "the traditional" way of getting to Loch Coruisk. After all, you can bet that the author Sir Walter Scott didn't walk when he visited Loch Coruisk, neither did the painter J.M.W. Turner, or those early tourists to Skye, James Boswell and Samuel Johnson. Instead, they all took advantage of the fact that the southern end of Loch Coruisk is less than a quarter of a mile away from the head of the sea-loch, Loch Scavaig.
This means that if you have access to a suitable boat, and someone with the skills to operate it in these rocky and sometimes turbulent waters, you can easily access Loch Coruisk by sailing to the head Loch Scavaig and taking the short and easy walk from there. Since the early 1990s, the Bella Jane has offered visitors to Elgol exactly this service.
From April to October (weather permitting) this STB-rated 4 Star Visitor Attraction operates three round trips per day from Elgol to the head of Loch Scavaig. This allows the option of a simple round trip on the boat; a trip with 1½ hours ashore; a trip spending much of the day ashore; or a one way trip to or from the head of Loch Scavaig, walking the other way.
There can be few more spectacular locations anywhere in the world in which to enjoy boat trip. As you leave Elgol, you gain some unique views of this scattered hillside village. Once clear of Elgol, you really do get a feeling of heading into the unknown. Ahead of you the views begin to be dominated by the ever growing bulk of the Cuillins. Three mountains feature especially prominently.
Ahead of you and a little to the right is the fairly solitary mass of Bla Bheinn or Blaven. Ahead of you and a little to your left is Gars-bleinn, the peak that marks the southern end of the Cuillin ridge. But by far the most dominant peak, and directly ahead of you for much of the trip, is the split face of Sgurr na Stri. At 497m in height this is little more than half the height of many of the other mountains you can see: but it dominates because it is much closer than the others.
These mountains, like the background to the local wildlife you are likely to see en route, are included in the excellent commentary that helps passengers enjoy their trip to the full. On the way in you also get a close-up view of "the bad step": though you have to be especially lucky to arrive just as a group of walkers are demonstrating how (not) to traverse it.
Journey's end is a steep set of iron steps over rocks at the head of Loch Scavaig that allow boarding and disembarking at any state of the tide. Not far from the top of the steps is the white Coruisk Memorial Hut, a private bothy operated by the Junior Mountaineering Club of Scotland. From here it is only a short walk along the Scavaig River to Loch Coruisk.
It is worth noting that although this feature is about the service operated by the Bella Jane, there are other boat trips available from Elgol. Misty Isle Boat Trips offer a service intended, like the Bella Jane, to give access to Loch Coruisk. Meanwhile AquaXplore use a powerful RIB to allow trips out to Canna, Rum, Soay, and Eigg, as well as to the head of Loch Scavaig.
Visitor InformationView Location on Map
Bella Jane Boat Trips
STB 4 Star Visitor Attraction.
Elgol, Isle of Skye, IV49 9BJ.
Tel: 0800 731 3089.
Int Tel: +44 1471 866244.
Sailings and fares: For detailed schedules and current fares, check the Bella Jane web site.
What3Words Location: ///stated.plus.wake