An Sgurr from Arisaig

An Sgurr from Arisaig

This walk involves a glorious boat trip from Arisaig on the mainland to the wonderful volcanic island of Eigg. From the docking pier at Galmisdale you will take on a moderate walk to climb to the top of the island's highest point An Sgurr. The walk isn't too difficult. An Sgurr looks impressive and daunting from a distance but there is a weakness to this huge volcanic inselberg. After walking through the woodlands of Lodge Gardens and past the idyllically located Galmisdale House a footpath ascends the heather to the north side of An Sgurr and to its far end. From there a fairly easy route ascends to the crest of its wide ridge. A small ridge walk is taken to the summit which gives incredible views of Scotland's West Coast on a clear day. You will retrace your footsteps for the descent route. You can enjoy views to the neighbouring island of Rum over Loch nam Ban Mora on the descent. Ascending the same route back to the port to catch the return boat to Arisaig in the afternoon. This walk is completely dependant on the boat timetables and this information should be sought and confirmed before planning the actual walk. Arisaig Marine run the wildlife and island trips from Arisaig you can phone them on 01687 450224 or visit there

Route Directions

  1. Arisaig is a beautiful village sat on the shores of Loch nan Ceall at the end of the 'Road to the Isles' just a few miles south of Mallaig. Arisaig has a busy little marina where many wildlife and island boat trips depart from year round. You need to make sure you have a trip that can involve you being on the island for a minimum of four and a half hours. At time of typing these details the boats to Eigg leave Arisaig at 11:00 daily arriving in Eigg at 12:00 and then later leave Eigg at 16:30 to return to Arisaig for 17:30. This leaves four and a half hours for the full walk which usually takes around four hours on a good day.
  2. The boat leaves Arisaig and heads out of the end of Loch nan Ceall, from the port there are plenty of opportunities to see local bird life like Grey Herons and Buzzards that can be seen circling over the woodlands on the mainland. Soon after leaving Loch nan Ceall the boat follows the shallows of the South Channel. The pointy profile of Rum will come into view to the immediate north west sticking out of the sea behind the unique profile of Eigg. The island of Eigg from the mainland is a fantastic looking island with a long and steadily rising strata of lava on its right hand side and dropping to sea level on the left except for the unique fin shape of the An Sgurr which you will climb on this walk.
  3. The boat passes rocks full of Shags and Seals on its way out of the South Channel, the going gets slightly rougher as the boat enters the main sea channel. The boat now heads straight to Eigg and even the Isle of Skye and the huge Cullin Ridge come into view to the north. As the boat comes closer to the island you will see the amazing strata in its north eastern cliffs, showing the whole north of the island to be a lava flow that came from the volcano that now makes up the profile of the island of Rum.
  4. Once on the island you will depart from the boat and head towards the visitors centre with its excellent facilities including toilets, local information, craft shop, cafe and even a surprisingly well stocked grocery shop. The craft shop has a few local guide books and a pack of walks on postcards which you may find useful and the grocery shop has the local ordnance survey maps. After using the facilities at the pier area head up Pier Hill on the track avoiding the road on the right. You will pass a standing stone on the right which commemorates the island community buy out of 1997. Follow the track through a woodland with the odd housing on the right. You will reach a kind of crossroads at the end of the road where a road goes left towards a farm and a road goes right into the woods. Here instead of going left or right go straight ahead on a track that heads steep uphill through beautiful woodlands with plenty of wild flowers and bird life.
  5. The path through the forest turns right and heads through a gateway and then out on to open grazing fields. The building ahead of you here is known as Gamlisdale House. Galmisdale House has a long history on the island, the original buildings were built in the 18th century and since then it has served as a hunting lodge, hotel and even the islands post office. It is set in an almost perfect location with An Sgurr towering above it and incredible views to the Scottish mainland. Go past the front of Galmisdale House and through the metal gate at the back of it. Go left on the track behind and then go almost immediately right onto the path to An Sgurr. The path here is a bit of a nightmare, as it leaves the track to the right it enters the heather and heads towards a water butt for the house below but actually turns sharp right here onto the hill to the right, but unfortunately it isn't well signposted and people do tend to head along the straight path that has now eroded towards the water butt and stream. So my advice here is as you leave the track onto the path it does turn right and uphill, not into the streams small valley.
  6. Once on the path it heads slowly up hill towards the Nose of An Sgurr, as you get closer it becomes even more impressive. The path eventually reaches the northern side of An Sgurr after crossing often boggy moorlands. Once on the northern side of An Sgurr the path continues and due to the mass of An Sgurr now being on your left and also south side you often end up in its cold shadow. The north side is a huge wall of steep scree and is by no means walking territory. Stick to the path until you get to the other end of the ridge which is longer than you would have thought. Once at the far end the path will start ascending towards a slight col, here looking right and north west you will get a tremendous vies across Loch nam Ban Mora to Rum. The path climbs onto the back of the ridge and you can also now see the isle of Muck in the waters to the south of the island.
  7. Muck is also one of the Small Islands. The view down onto the shoreline from this col is to the old abandoned township of Upper Gruline and the ruins of its many round buildings are clearly seen. Also in the cliffs to the right here you will see the basalt columns that make up so much of the islands geology. You now have two options, there is a path that takes you along the south edge od the crest of the ridge or you can simply keep heading east along the ridge sticking to the easy rock on its crest which is great fun. After a while and a slight down then up you will reach the highest point of An Sgurr where you will see a unique circular stone trig pillar.
  8. An Sgurr is a volcanic replica. The lava flow from the main volcano which now profiles the neighbouring island of Rum ran off in this direction and created a huge valley which over time has eroded, leaving only those parts that were to tough to erode, one of which fortunately for us was this fin of rock you are now standing on. It is a fascinating piece of geology, seen from the mainland it has intrigued me for years and to stand on top of it is just as exciting. Take the same route back down of An Sgurr and the same route back to the pier passing Galmisdale House on the way. You should be able to make it back to the pier four hours after you set off leaving you plenty of time to enjoy a short break before the boat arrives to take you home. From the boat home you'll be able to look back at your achievement.

Paper maps for this walk

Click to buy OS Explorer 397 Map Click to buy OS Landranger 39 Map Click to buy Harvey Super Walker Rum & Eigg Map Click to buy Eigg : The Story of an Island

Route map of this walk

Photos & Trip Reports

Planning for a walk

Check the weather

The weather is a very important part of hill walking. Weather conditions and daylight hours will dictate where you walk, what gear you will need to carry, how far you walk, and may even decide if you go at all. The following links will help you gather information on weather conditions for areas of Britain...

Plan your journey

Planning your journey before you set off for your walk can save you vital hours on the day. You need to make sure you know the area surrounding your starting point as many factors can influence or change the place you park. Don't forget change for parking meters and fees.

Maintenance of your vehicle and being ready for breakdown situations when driving to remote areas is also vital. Pack a full spare petrol can in your boot, and take de-icing tools in winter, including a shovel. The Transport Direct website below is a great resource for anyone wanting to get to the start of their walk using public transport...

Pack the right gear

Carrying and wearing the right gear is essential for walkers to remain comfortable and safe while hill walking in Britain. However, the best gear in the world is of no use to anyone who doesn't know how to use and care for it. Knowing how to use your gear will give you a much more enjoyable experience. The following items are, in my opinion, the essential items to wear and carry for a hill walk in Britain. It would be foolish to head into the hills and mountains of Britain without these essential items and the knowledge of how to use them. Check out the gear section of this site for techniques and gear lists...

  • Footwear
  • Clothing
  • Rucksack
  • Warm Clothes
  • Waterproofs
  • Map & Compass
  • Emergency Kit
  • First Aid Kit
  • Food & Drink
  • Seasonal Gear

Know what to do in emergencies

It is good practise to tell someone where you are going, and when you expect to return. If you don't get in contact when you said you would on your return, and those you told can't get hold of you, at least they will be able to provide the search party with your general location.

Emergency equipment in the check list above means items such as a survival bag, whistle, and emergency food rations. This isn't anything special; any whistle will do, the orange emergency bags only costs a few pounds, and basic food rations can consist of a couple of chocolate bars. Carrying a head lamp is also an important component and a vital piece of kit used for signalling when you require rescuing.

You should always try and get out of a difficult or emergency situation using your own gear, knowledge and energy. If you cannot do this, then you should dial 999 and ask for the police. Use all the gear you have to keep any unwell or injured members of your party or yourself safe and warm, and use your signalling devices to let the rescuers know your whereabouts. To do this blow six good long blasts on your whistle, or flash six flashes of your torch. Stop for one minute. Repeat. Carry on with the whistle blasts until someone reaches you, and don't stop because you've heard a reply.

Never contact mountain rescue unless absolutely necessary, but on the other hand don't ever feel guilty for having to do so, especially if you are a prepared walker. The Mountain Rescue teams are full of fantastic like-minded souls who love nothing more than people who are prepared for being safe in the mountains.