Sligachan Old Bridge, Sligachan & Nearby

Explore the iconic Sligachan Old Bridge on the Isle of Skye, a testament to Highland engineering surrounded by stunning landscapes, history, and a hub for outdoor enthusiasts.
Sligchan Bridge

Sligachan and The Old Bridge

The Sligachan Old Bridge is one of the most iconic places on the Isle of Skye.

The Old Bridge at Sligachan is found in the heart of the island, and is surrounded by stunning natural beauty, mountains, rivers and sea.  The Sligachan Hotel is a popular base for outdoor enthusiasts, as it offers easy access to a range of activities, such as hiking, climbing, fishing, and birdwatching.

Walker and travel writer Ben Humble perfectly described this very scene in 1933 from Sligachan Bridge, a few steps from the hotel: “We had heard of them: we had seen photographs of them: no story or photograph could do justice to a first sight at close quarters of the crags of black rock. At Sligachan Bridge, we were almost surrounded by mountains…”

The bridge is located just off the main road that runs through Sligachan, making it easy to find.

Parking at Sligachan Old Bridge

To Navigate to the Old Bridge at Sligachan use postcode IV47 8SW. There is a small car park at the bridge. For most this is a brief stop for dramatic photographs of the Cuillin.

Sligachan Old Bridge History

Built between 1810 and 1818, the bridge stands as a landmark of Highland ingenuity. The task fell upon Thomas Telford, a leading figure in the Scottish civil engineering scene. The bridge’s design – three spans of rubble construction with a distinctive hump – reflects both practicality and aesthetics, seamlessly blending into the surrounding landscape. Its role as a vital artery on the A87, carrying traffic for over a century, solidified its importance in the region’s development.

Telford’s influence, however, extended far beyond a single bridge. He was a prolific engineer, leaving his mark across Britain and beyond. His canal projects, including the Caledonian Canal and the Göta Canal, stand as testaments to his international acclaim. Closer to Sligachan, his engineering prowess is evident in Portree Harbour, which – although now dated – was a crucial lifeline for the Isle of Skye’s maritime industry.

Early Visitors to Sligachan

The hustle and bustle of climbing parties setting off early in the morning from Sligachan has long been a common sight. During the season of 1869, some 400 names were signed in Sligachan Hotels visitor’s book. Not all climbed, but most visitors came to ascend into the Cuillin.

The most famous of these guests to sign their name into the visitor’s book in 1869 was “Arthur”. This unassuming name written in our history is that of HRH Prince Arthur William Patrick Albert, the 3rd son of Queen Victoria. The 19-year-old “Arthur” would go on to become the Governor-General of Canada, and serve in the British Army for 40 years. It is worth noting that Queen Victoria once wrote to her husband, Prince Albert, about her son Arthur, saying “This child is dear, dearer than any of the others put together, thus after you he is the dearest and most precious object to me on earth.” After choosing to stay with us here in Sligachan, clearly, he was a man of fine taste.

Other visitor’s book entries highlight similarities with the Sligachanthat visitors and locals know and love today were recorded by John Butters in 1883. He found “a wondrously varied multitude of tourists and travellers – members of the Alpine Club, distinguished artists, statesmen and botanists, geologists, yachting parties, pleasure-seekers of all sorts…”

Now, as ever, we are excited about bringing people from all walks of life together and sharing our passion and love for Skye.

Sligachan Monument - A Testament to Mountaineering

Sligachan has always been a perfectly placed resting stop for tourists and travellers undertaking arduous journeys across the island. These visitors would stay alongside pioneer mountaineers like Norman Collie (Portrait with Pipe) and John MacKenzie (Portrait with Beard). At the turn of the 20th century, Collie and MacKenzie used Sligachan Hotel as their base camp while exploring and mapping Skye’s rugged peaks.

Collie was instrumental in producing much better maps of the Cuillin, which had previously defied the skills of cartographers. He was known for his precise and meticulous approach to mapping, as well as his determination to reach the summit of every peak he set his sights on. MacKenzie, a local guide from Skye, played a key role in Collie’s expeditions, serving as his guide and advisor on the best routes to take. MacKenzie was a native Gaelic speaker and is still considered one of the best mountain guides in the whole of Scotland.

Together, they pushed the boundaries of what was thought possible in the world of mountaineering and left a lasting legacy that continues to inspire outdoor enthusiasts today. The two climbers are now honoured in bronze on the banks of the River Sligachan beside Sligachan Old Bridge. Their statue is well worth a visit, not least for its stunning views east to the Red Cuillin, south to Marsco, and southwest to the Black Cuillin.

Sligachan Hotel History

In an industry dominated by reviews, not many can say their reviews go back centuries – but theirs do! They have visitors’ books going back as far as the early part of the 19th century. ‘Sligachan Inn’, as it was then known, goes even further back. It is clearly marked on maps dating back to 1766.

In 1802, a Mrs Murray commented, “The road is extremely bad, particularly from Sconser to the head of Loch Sligachan, where there is a hut of an inn, too bad to sleep at, but there may be had, as I was told, tolerably good eating and drinking”. Humble beginnings indeed.

Sligachan Hotel was constructed in its current location in 1830. It quickly became a mecca for climbers who recognised the unique and challenging qualities of the nearby Cuillin. At that time, several of the Cuillin Peaks had not been officially surmounted. Many came after to Skye to tackle these ridges and place their names, dates, and climbing times in a bottle at the summit.

Climbers like Francis Balfour – who on the 17th of July 1872 wrote in Sligachan Hotels visitor’s book, ‘Started this morning which was very fine for the top of Sgùrr nan Gillean. And not without considerable effort reached there at 10:50 am having left here at 8.10. Put name in bottle and made back down with a thankful heart’. For those thinking of making the same journey, Mr Balfour also notes, ‘Not advisable to go unless with a good guide who thoroughly knows the way, in nothing but clear weather’. We recommend the same today, 150 years on.

Walk from Sligachan to Coruisk

Commencing at Sligachan, the path weaves through Glen Sligachan towards the majestic Loch Coruisk. This route, celebrated for its rugged beauty and panoramic mountain views, requires a careful approach, especially considering the potential challenges posed by weather conditions.

In terms of duration and distance, the journey from Sligachan to Coruisk typically spans approximately 11 to 12 miles (about 17 to 19 kilometres). The time required to complete this trek can vary significantly based on factors such as weather, individual pace, and any chosen detours or stops to appreciate the scenery. On average, walkers should allocate around 6 to 8 hours to traverse this path. This estimate assumes a steady pace with occasional pauses to enjoy the landscape, ensuring a balance between progress and the opportunity to observe the unique flora, fauna, and geological features along the way.

It is essential for participants to prepare adequately for this expedition, equipping themselves with a reliable map, such as the Harvey Superwalker map  mentioned by for its detailed coverage of the region.

Additionally, given the unpredictable nature of the Scottish weather, which can swiftly transform streams into challenging torrents, it is prudent to remain vigilant and ready to adapt one’s route as necessary. Despite these challenges, the journey from Sligachan to Coruisk remains a rewarding endeavour, offering unparalleled views and a profound sense of accomplishment upon reaching the serene beauty of Loch Coruisk.

Glamaig Hill Race

Taking place every year in July the Glamaig Hill Race is no gentle jaunt through rolling hills; it’s a vertical race up a mountain notorious for its steep slopes

The race begins at the Sligachan Hotel before continuing 4.5 miles and 2,500 feet of brutal ascent.

The final push to the summit is a heart-thumping scramble. Legs burn, lungs scream, but the reward is a panorama fit for the Lord of the Isles. The Isle of Skye stretches out before you, a tapestry of windswept moorland, jagged peaks, and hidden coves.

The descent is a white-knuckle ride down scree slopes. Every step requires precision, every tumble is a potential disaster.

It’s a test of physical and mental strength, a race against the untamed beauty of Skye. For those looking to compete, for men the record to beat is 44 mins 22 seconds and the women’s record is 56 mins 9 seconds.

Every year the hotel puts on a ceilidh for the competitors with a few beers thrown in for their effort.

Glamaig Hill Race

Seamus’ Bar is famous as a place for tired hikers to fill up on traditional pub food and a fantastic selection of ‘brewed on site’ beer and whisky. The bar boasts an extensive collection of over 400 whiskeys, making it a paradise for enthusiasts eager to explore Scotland’s most famous export.

The bar’s location offers magnificent views, adding an incredible backdrop to the dining experience. This, coupled with the availability of vegetarian and vegan options, ensures that all guests find something to suit. Accessibility is thoughtfully considered, with the venue being wheelchair-friendly.

The atmosphere inside Seumas’ Bar is famously bustling and friendly, creating an ideal setting for unwinding after a day of exploration. For hikers returning from the trails or families looking for a relaxing meal out, Seumas’ Bar offers a welcoming space. The establishment accommodates the needs of its guests, from storing hiking gear to providing a kid-friendly menu and outdoor play areas. This approachability and readiness to serve make it a beloved stop for many.

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