Driving to Loch Coruisk
We began our drive to Elgol, desperate to get out to sea. The journey to Elgol is a feat in itself – the roads are narrow and windy and the nine-mile trip from Broadford can take up to half an hour. Longer if you come across furry ginger roadblocks like we did! But it was a warm, sunny day and the bluetooth speaker still had some life in it as we bounced past wee crofts, lochans and lambs. The road swerves past the entrance to Bla Bheinn – an outcrop munro of the Cuillin range – and one of my personal favourite climbs on Skye – although on a hot day like this one it felt good to breeze past all the early bird hikers, slathering themselves in suncream on their way to the summit.
Elgol Village & Harbour
Elgol, or in Scottish Gaelic: Ealaghol – derived from a mixture of norse and Gaelic and translated as ‘The Weeping Swan’ (why there isn’t a pub here with the same name beats me) has a small but proud population of 168. The houses are dotted about on little mounds and cliffs, making the entire village look like a picturesque scene from a children’s book, coloured in with bright green moss, choppy blue waves and gable roofed houses.
The aesthetic of the harbour is quaint – one short jetty, two huts and a spattering of tourists. It feels like the very edge of Scotland. We were lucky to get clear visibility out to the inner Hebrides – Eigg, Muck, Canna and Rum are all jostling for space on the horizon. A little kiosk offering fresh lobster rolls and coffees is the only reminder of the busy world nine miles back. According to our crew on the Misty Isle, most of the langoustines and lobsters which are caught here are shipped off to China where they are sold for ridiculously high prices. It’s hard to not feel smug tucking into a lobster roll for £4.50 when you know the exact same lobster will be fetching upwards of £100 in a high-end restaurant in Shanghai. Some seafood, however, manages to stay put on the island and there is no shortage of delightful eateries on Skye where one can taste the local produce. Fantastic local food can be found just up the road at Coruisk House. Due to demand – booking ahead is essential.
Boat Trip To Loch Coruisk
We were ushered on board The Misty Isle, a handsome blue and white vessel, by Duncan and Duncan. We discussed life in Elgol for the two men – and they pointed out the primary school that they both attended – a grey building poking out from the crofts – where there are currently five students enrolled.
Both men are born and bred Elgol – and both have friends and family also working on the Misty Isle. The two men had an easy-going air of optimism and an infectious passion for the local area. One of the Duncans (the younger one) spent about thirty minutes giving us a rich and detailed history lesson on Elgol itself (spoiler alert: there’s a great joke about giants and the etymology of the Cuillins) as we made our way over to Loch Coruisk. Duncan is knowledgeable about the wildlife and the nautical history of the area, and seems to have an answer for every question fired at him by tourists.
Loch Coruisk itself is a small, freshwater loch at the foot of the Black Cuillin, and is (in my opinion) one of the most astounding sites of natural beauty in Scotland. Only accessible by boat or by foot (option one: from Sligachan – a seven mile slog, option two: from Elgol – where one must overcome ‘the bad step’), the solitude and peacefulness of the little loch, nestled in the mountains, is quite confronting. The two Duncans waved us off and we agreed to meet them back at the boat after an hour and a half of walking and exploring.
If you choose this option, allow for three hours as the boat journey is roughly 45 minutes each way. In the past, I have opted to hop on the boat for a one way journey and make the long walk back to Sligachan over the lowest point of the Cuillin range. I would recommend lots of water and excellent hiking boots if you decide to take this route, as the path is fairly arduous. Don’t be put off though, there is something quite exciting about watching the boat drift off, leaving you ashore to fend for yourself. On this occasion however, we took the relaxed route, and ambled down to Loch Coruisk in old trainers, soaking up the incredible view. The loch itself migrates from turquoise at the pebbled shoreline, to patches of orangey-green reeds, and a deep navy in the centre. Take a towel in case the temptation to jump in for a swim becomes overwhelming.
Perfect Fish And Chips En Route to Elgol at Cafe Sia
Back to Elgol and on to Broadford
The loch is said to be the home of a kelpie – a mystical, horse-like sea creature which can assume human form. We didn’t see the kelpie on our trip, however the rocks that surround the ‘port’ where our boat lands are littered with common seals (fun fact: Duncan assures me they are scientifically proven to be 40% cuter than the grey seal, and also not actually the most common of the seals) and it is easy to imagine folklore being born as viking longboats wash up on these solitary shores in the dead of night and try to make out the dog-like figures that slip into the inky water. The mountains themselves are imposing and magnificent, and standing at their very feet, seeing their reflection in the glassy loch, the sense of awe is overwhelming.
The journey back is relaxed, with a bit of chit-chat from fellow passengers and a hot beverage to ease the wind chill. Drink up the last of the ocean view before you land and keep your eyes peeled for water acrobatics – sightings of dolphins breaching and playing are fairly common here.
After a day well spent at sea – especially for those of you who opt for a spot of wild swimming – sourcing something to eat is bound to be a hot topic of conversation by the time you make your way back to the bright lights of Broadford. We stopped in at the original Cafe Sia to carb-load on wood-fired pizza and local beers – but if you fancy a quick fix fish supper, their takeaway outlet is also a superb option.