Elgol (Gaelic: Ealaghol) is a tiny village on the south coast of Skye in the Scottish Hebrides, with a population of 168 in 2011. The main attraction is the view of the mountains, especially from nearby Loch Coruisk.
Ealaghol probably means "noble dale". The local clan Mackinnon supported the Jacobites, and sheltered the fugitive Bonnie Prince Charlie here on 4 July 1746. He'd been on the run for ten weeks; he sailed overnight from Elgol to Mallaig on the mainland, to spend a further ten weeks before escaping to France.
Get in Edit
Unless you've got your own boat, the only way in is along B8083 from Broadford, 14 miles. All island roads converge there, as do buses from Portree, the ferry piers at Uig and Armadale, and the mainland via Skye Bridge.
Stagecoach Highlands Bus 55 runs three times M-F from Broadford via Torrin to Elgol, taking 50 min. It runs at around 07:00, 12:00 and 15:30, heading back around 08:00, 13:00 and 16:30.
1 Community Centre is the bus stop in Elgol. The bus then turns east over the headland to Glasnakille.
Get around Edit
Elgol to Glasnakille is two miles so you could walk. Loch Coruisk is usually reached by boat across Loch Scavaig, see below.
You need wheels for other sights scattered along the lane.
- 1 Loch Coruisk is a long narrow fresh-water loch, dramatically framed by the peaks of the Black Cuillin. JMW Turner painted it, fortunately on a better day than the poet Tennyson, who saw only thick white fog. You do need to pick your day to visit; the loch surrounds can be very boggy and the streams flowing in and out impassable after heavy rain. The usual access is by boat trip from Elgol, see below, ascend from the landing stage by the rock steps, and you may have time for a circuit of the loch. Or take the Camasunary hike from the car park 3 miles north of Elgol, but this involves the infamous Bad Step, where you inch along a crack in the rock slanting over the sea. Or hike from Sligachan, 8 miles each way, rough going and you'll need to bivvy somewhere.
- 2 The Bad Step is better admired from the boat trip, since traversing it your nose will be pressed to the rock with only a view of the void beneath your boots. It's a scramble not a cliff-face, simple enough in dry weather and if only a day-bag encumbers you, and the sea would break your fall, probably. Still . . .
- 3 Soay (Sòdhaigh) is the dumb-bell shaped island in Loch Scavaig. The name is Norse for sheep but it's not the origin of Soay sheep, they're from St Kilda. A post-war whale-oil business flopped and most inhabitants relocated to Mull in 1953. In 2011 Soay's population was three. Nothing there but soggy moorland.
- 4 Dun Ringill is a ruined bastion by the coast of Loch Slapin. It began as an Iron Age broch, yet was inhabited into the 16th century, until the Mackinnons relocated to the castle at Kyleakin. It was still used in the 19th century but probably just as a herdsman's bothy.
- 5 Torrin is a tiny village with B&B and self-catering accommodation, and scenic "marble pools" up its river. The terrain here is dolomite, formerly quarried.
- 6 High Pasture Cave (Uamh An Ard-Achaidh) is an extensive karstic cave system a mile south of Torrin, with Mesolithic, Neolithic and Iron Age artefacts. You may find the entrance barred.
- 7 Kilchrist (Cill Chriosd - Christ's Church) is a 16th century ruin. That was the time of the Reformation, and its first Protestant minister swore an oath "that he all treulie according to his knowledge, give up the Clerk of Councell the names of all the Papists he knew within the Isles." By 1840 its catchment villages of Strath, Boreraig and Susinish had been depopulated by the Clearances and the church moved to Broadford. However Kilchrist had a late heyday through marble quarrying, and from 1910 to 1912 a 3 ft (914 m) railway carried marble blocks to the pier at Broadford. The marble was soon worked out and the business folded in 1913 - its 4-4-0 locomotive Skylark was last recorded in Reading in 1951. The trackbed survives as a footpath parallel to the road.
- 8 Boreraig is an abandoned village, with the last of its crofters evicted in 1853 to make way for sheep. Many were helped to resettle in Australia, no thanks to the landowner Lord MacDonald. There's also a standing stone and dun (Boraraig means bay of the fort), and a single-slab bridge over the stream. Boreaig is a nine mile round-trip hike from Kilchrist.
- 9 Rùm is the largest of the islands seen to the southwest, often cloaked in a rain cloud. Boat trips from Elgol occasionally visit, but the regular ferry is from Mallaig.
- Boat trips sail in summer from Elgol jetty to Loch Coruisk and round the bay for sightseeing and wildlife spotting. There are both conventional boats and fast bouncy Ribs. Best book online, but there are kiosks at the jetty so you may be able to turn up and board. Operators are Misty Isle (+44 1471 866288) and Bella Jane (+44 1471 866244 or tollfree 0800 731 3089). Their websites also post the day's sailing prospects.
- Bonnie Prince Charlie's Cave: there are about as many caves in Scotland where he supposedly hid, as places where "Mary Queen of Scots slept here". But most claims are credible, as both BPC and MQoS needed to keep ahead of their powerful enemies. This one is on the headland south of Elgol, accessible by a boggy moorland trail then onto the shore, but only for two hours either side of low tide. (Check Easytide online, or ask at Elgol pier.) The first cave you reach can't be it, as it floods at high tide, but continue to the second hidey-hole. Reckon 3 hours round trip.
- Spar Cave is accessible from Glasnakille by a steep scramble, but only for one hour either side of low tide. Bring a torch to explore inside it, aim to get there just as the tide is nearing the low, and don't linger or you'll be trapped there for 11 hours.
- Elgol Shop by the bus stop sells travel essentials and the cafe has coffee, cake and light bites. It's open M-Sa 10:00-17:00.
- Coruisk House at north edge of the village has rooms (B&B double from £150) plus a restaurant open March-mid Oct, dinner daily at 18:45 & 19:45. Reservations essential (+44 1471 866330) as they need to get in the fresh ingredients.
- Elgol Bistro next door has a good menu choice. It's open Tu-Sa 17:00-22:30.
You'll need to bring your own, there's no public bar.
- 1 Suilven, Elgol IV49 9BL, ☏ , firstname.lastname@example.org. One double room and one pod sleeps 3. B&B double £90.
- 2 Coruisk House, Elgol, IV49 9BL (take a left at Broadford onto the B8083 and follow the road to the end), ☏ , email@example.com. Check-in: 4, check-out: 10. Michelin Guide-restaurant with stylish rooms in the quieter side of Skye. 275GBP.
- Garsbheinn (+44 1471 866300) and Bayview (+44 1471 866389) also do B&B.
- Self-catering within Elgol is at Mary's Thatched Cottages, Cnoc na Loch and Springbank. There's also a few self-catering cottages at Torrin, and a couple more in Glasnakille.
As of June 2022, Elgol and its approach road have no mobile signal. Finish any calls before you leave A87.
Go next Edit
Back via Broadford it must be.