Ben Tianavaig, Skye

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Camastianavaig is a sheltered crofting settlement just along the Braes road from Portree, an idyllic spot to start a hill walk up the conical mountain that overlooks Portree from the east.

Most of the walk follows the steep cliffs on the east of the mountain and as such, this walk is not recommended for those with severe vertigo, nor in the dark, nor with highly mobile, energetic children who might not notice the potential danger of the situation. Although all these people could complete most of the walk by keeping well away from the cliff edge, the point of the walk and the thrill would be lost. And besides, the summit is on the edge of the cliff, as you will see at Waymark 05.

From start to finish there are no fences to cross. Leave the vehicle in the lay-by at the beach and wander along the shore to the east until it is easier to walk on the grass and sheep tracks. They slant upwards to a sloping skyline ahead and any height you gain now will count towards your goal. Climb up steep slopes left of cliffs rather than descending them and you will soon be on the less steep ground leading up towards the distant summit. The views open up steadily: strange pinnacles and hollows to the right and the rough mantle of Skye, with Portree to the left.

Wildlife can be brilliant. During the recce, two golden eagles were constantly on the move in the sky, above us and below. A fox jumped up at our feet and we watched as it raced off into the distance. Heathland flowers can be found on the slightly richer areas.

As this is the southernmost example of the great Eastern Skye Landslip – the largest in Britain – the ground below the cliff is rough and bumpy; units of hard rock have slipped as weaker rocks below have failed.

There is even a hidden loch, hidden from view from this walk and only accessible if you take a very arduous detour down a long diagonal descent from Waymark 04. Then reascend and traverse long slopes below a lower band of cliffs. Return to Ben Tianavaig from the loch is by a steep reascent beyond the lower band of cliffs to a grassy col north-east of the main summit. Although wonderfully wild and adventurous, this alternative cannot be recommended for anyone without a good head for descending steep slopes and good hillwalking boots. It could be lethally slippery in wet conditions. The main route can be slippery in places, but should not give anyone any problem if wearing hillwalking boots.

One disappointment in researching this walk is to draw a blank on McQueen, whose name attaches to the hidden loch and to McQueen's Rock (unspecified on OS 1:50,000). Was McQueen an outlaw who hid on the east side of Ben Tianavaig? The omniscient Internet is silent on this point. This is doubly intriguing. Why is the Internet silent about this? Any enlightenment would be welcome.

Scotland - Highlands and Islands - Highland - Skye


Birds, Flowers, Great Views, Hills or Fells, Moor, Mountains, Sea, Wildlife
09/09/2020 - Ian Runcie

A steep direct walk up the hill with splendid changing views all the way up. Those with children may like to know that there is an easier, if less dramatic, start near the post box in the village.

09/09/2020 - Ian Runcie

A word about the directions: the word 'continue' at the end of waymark 1 and at the start of waymark 2 and the instruction to continue along the sheepath, I (and others) found confusing. About 20m after exiting the copse one needs to take a very sharp left and haul oneself straight up the hill side to reach the main path.