Spectacular Views Of Valley And Skye — The Sgurr Na Stri Out And Back
With a gripping intro, several cliffhangers and an ending you’d never guess, this hike reads like a thriller
Flat river valley hikes really don’t do it for me, so it took a fair bit of convincing for me to even look at this day-long walk.
This convincing came in the form of exhaustion after a brutal 5-day stretch of Munro bagging. We were in the mood to consider a slightly less vertical challenge and were won over by the effusive commentary from previous hikers leaving 5-star reviews about this river valley out-and-back.
Despite our initial reservations, it did not disappoint.
Elevation gain: 2,710 ft
Distance: 14.5 miles
Time: ~6 hours
Special equipment: None needed
Parking next to the Sligachan Hotel put me in an excellent mood at the start of the day. Scottish breakfast smells wafted from the kitchen, setting the promise of a hearty post-hike feast firmly in mind.
Shaking off my food reverie I turned to face the trail and my jaw dropped. The Black Cuillin range rose to the west while the majestic Red Cuillin peaks soared skywards to the east. Both ranges would act as clear waymarkers throughout the day as we made our way across the plains of Glen Sligachan.
We start marching through the river valley, feeling smug that the way was so easy to follow. An obvious path followed meandering streams as we traced a line due south towards the Peak of Strife, Sgurr na Stri.
Only a single point in the first section presented a navigation challenge when the path split, one arm bearing westward towards the sea loch Na Creitheach and the other gently leading up a slope to bring us eventually to the peak.
As we climbed slowly towards our goal, each new twist of the trail gave us breathtaking views out towards Loch Coruisk and the eastern flank of Sgurr Dubh Mor. Light patterns shifting through clouds turned the loch water from grey to sapphire blue.
Exposed red earth and river-worn stones gradually ceded to dark granite slabs and spongy Highland grasses. We kept climbing as the heat of the day warmed the rocks and demanded we de-layer.
By the time we reached the headland, we were sweating in t-shirts and low on water. Anticipating a wild, tormented sea view to match the place's name, we donned jumpers once more but were astonished to arrive at the final vista: a glassy-smooth, teal-green sea, barely rippled by the northern breeze. Fluffy clouds scudding across a deep blue sky. A clear sight of Canna, Rum and Eigg islands emerged across the Sea of the Hebrides.
At odds with its name, the panorama in front of us couldn’t have been closer to heaven:
Our low water situation was easily solved by the abundance of clear streams running off the headland and down towards the sea.
The journey back across the rubbly valley landscape happened almost in silence, the breathtaking view over the sea from Skye leaving us in a contemplative mood. The sun heated us from the west, both mountain chains kept us warm on the valley floor and we felt extremely grateful to be alive and to have witnessed that view.
A short note about the Sligachan Hotel: book ahead! We missed out on our chance for dinner there and had to “make do” with local venison stew and Talisker whiskey a few miles down the road.