Loch Coriusk
Loch Coriusk

Loch Coriusk is a stunningly beautiful freshwater loch in the heart of the Black Cuillins. The loch lies in a bowl of high peaks and can only be reached on foot or by taking one of the regular boat trips that depart from Elgol, across Loch Scavaig.

The loch is about 2 miles long (roughly 3.2km), and runs in a northwest to southeast direction, with the outflow in the southeastern corner becoming the Scavaig River. It is 400 yards across at its widest point (about 366m).

The rock that acts as a setting for Loch Coriusk is gabbro, an exceptionally rough volcanic rock. Gabbro's rough surface makes it good for climbing, but it is often covered with moss due to the damp conditions, and the moss can be extremely slippery.

Loch Coriusk from Sgurr na Stri
Loch Coriusk from Sgurr na Stri

The Skye Boat Song

Loch Coriusk has inspired famous artists, writers, and poets over the centuries. Perhaps the most famous episode came in the 1790s, when Annie Macleod, a visitor to Skye, heard the oarsmen rowing her back from the loch singing a song as they laboured. She jotted down the tune as she listened and later developed the melody with the addition of lyrics that became the iconic Skye Boat Song.

As an aside, my mother used to sing the Skye Boat Song as a lullaby to myself and my three sisters when we were young. One of my sisters misheard the line, 'Speed bonny boat', and ever after was given to asking my mother to sing the 'bunny boat song'.

Other visitors inspired by their experience here include the painters William Daniel, Alexander Lydon., and JMW Turner, who was commissioned by Sir Walter Scott to paint a watercolour of the loch to illustrate one of his poems in 1831. Scott had visited the loch 17 years earlier in 1814. Turner's sketches of the loch are held in the Tate Britain in London but the finished watercolour is at the National Galleries Scotland in Edinburgh.

Loch Coriusk is said to be home to kelpies, mythical shape-shifting water horses.

Looking northwest up the loch
Looking northwest up the loch

The Loch Coruisk Memorial Hut

This picturesque mountaineering hut was erected in 1959 near the mouth of the Scavaig River, where it spills into Loch Scavaig at the southern extremity of Loch Coriusk. It was built by Lachlan Mackinnon of Elgol, whose son now runs one of two companies offering day trips from Elgol to Loch Coriusk.

The hut was built in memory of two climbers who lost their lives while climbing Ben Nevis in 1953. It is maintained by the Junior Mountaineering Club of Scotland and offers very basic shelter to climbers and hikers exploring the Black Cuillins.

Loch Coriusk Memorial Hut
Loch Coriusk Memorial Hut

Walking to Loch Coriusk

You can reach Loch Coriusk on foot from Sligachan, an 11km trek (one way). The trailhead is at the Sligachan Hotel, which acts as a departure point for several of Skye's most popular walks. The route follows the River Sligachan, then climbs the shoulder of Sgurr Hain before dropping down to Loch Coriusk. If you add up the numbers, that's 11km return plus another 7km for the loch circuit, which makes a total of 29km (18 miles) for a return walk from Sligachan.

There is also a challenging route from Elgol which should only be taken by experienced climbers.

When we took a day trip by boat from Elgol the boat skipper pointed out a rock ledge known as the 'Bad Step' or the 'Big Step', with a sheer drop into the [shallow] waters of the loch being the punishment for a missed step or a slip.

The Bad Step has been the scene of many an accident, when inexperienced hikers fall or become stuck. The skipper told us that he had been called to rescue stranded hikers on numerous occasions. Don't be one of those! If you are not an experienced hiker or mountaineer, do not attempt the trail from Elgol.

Loch Coriusk reflections
Loch Coriusk reflections

Boat Trips

Most people will visit Loch Coriusk on a boat trip from Elgol. As of this writing, two companies offer a range of trips, Misty Isle Boat Trips and the Bella Jane. The trip across Loch Scavaig take as little as 15 minutes aboard an inflatable boat, or RIB, and 45 minutes aboard a normal boat. Both companies offer departures throughout the day. There is parking as you enter the village and near the pier.

Please note that boat trips may be cancelled if the water is too choppy for a safe passage, It is always a good idea to phone ahead the evening before your planned trip to make sure the boat will be making the crossing from Elgol.

Boat trips run throughout the year, but only occasionally from October through March.

The Scavaig River outflow
The Scavaig River outflow

Each boat company offers several different options, with the main difference being the length of time you get to spend ashore. There are also options to simply make the crossing but not disembark at the Loch Coriusk end of the voyage.

With both boat companies you have the very real possibility of seeing local seal herds, bottlenose dolphins, and whales. Seals can often be seen drawn up on the rocks near the shore to sunbathe.

The Black Cuillins rise above the loch
The Black Cuillins rise above the loch

The Loch Coriusk Walk

If you want to circumnavigate Loch Coriusk, plan on 3 hours of hiking time. The circular route is 7km long (just under 5 miles). The ground is boggy in places and will be wet and muddy after heavy rain, so come prepared! When I say, boggy, I mean very, very boggy. You really do need good waterproof footwear and some common sense.

That said, the route around the loch is mostly level, and your reward for your exertion is some of the best scenery in Scotland.

Please Note: after heavy rains the Scavaig River at the foot of Loch Coriusk may be too swollen to cross! That will make a circumnavigation of the loch impossible, though you can still, of course, walk one direction and then return the same way if you have enough time.

Most photos are available for licensing, please contact Britain Express image library.

About Loch Coriusk, Skye
Address: Black Cuillins, Elgol, Isle of Skye, Highlands and Islands, Scotland
Attraction Type: Countryside - Loch
Location: The easiest route is to take one of the regular boat trips from Elgol, allowing plenty of time ashore to explore. Pre-booking is not essential but is always a good idea. Alternatively, you can walk from Sligachan (11km one way).
Website: Loch Coriusk, Skye
Location map
OS: NG482206
Photo Credit: David Ross and Britain Express


NEARBY HISTORIC ATTRACTIONS

Heritage Rated from 1- 5 (low to exceptional) on historic interest

Coire Lagan - 2.4 miles (Countryside) Heritage Rating

Eas Mor - 3.9 miles (Countryside) Heritage Rating

Fairy Pools - 4.1 miles (Countryside) Heritage Rating

Eas a' Bhradain Waterfall - 4.8 miles (Countryside) Heritage Rating

Prince Charlie's Cave - 5.6 miles (Countryside) Heritage Rating

St Maelrubha's Chapel, Eynort - 7.4 miles (Historic Church) Heritage Rating

Cill Chriosd (Kilchrist Church) - 8.3 miles (Historic Church) Heritage Rating

Dunscaith Castle - 8.8 miles (Castle) Heritage Rating



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