A 24-Hour Guide to Summiting Sgurr Na Stri, on the Isle of Skye

Trip report, gear recommendations, and dos & dont's for future trips to Scotland's most stunning viewpoint—bothy included

A 24-Hour Guide to Summiting Sgurr Na Stri, on the Isle of Skye

Author

Pete Elliott

Photographer

Pete Elliott

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Pete Elliott is a freelance photographer based on the south coast of England. Follow Pete on Instagram for more epic outdoor scenario and adventure photography.

The Isle of Skye is one Scotland's crown jewels, home to some of the wildest landscapes, most majestic peaks, and stunning lochs. It is also home to one of the UK’s most iconic mountain ranges, the Cuillins. As such, the sizable island is a very popular destination in Scotland, so for the slightly more adventure-minded hiker looking to get off the beaten track, the Cuillins are perhaps best viewed from Sgurr Na Stri on the south eastern side of Loch Coruisk.

At just 494 meters high, the ascent isn’t the most challenging, but this peak guarantees a significant return on investment compared to others at this height, offering some of the finest views in the UK from its summit—and getting there is quite the adventure.

Read on for a full trip report, plus suggested gear and dos and don’ts for your own future trip to summit Sgurr Na Stri.


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Our hike started from Camasunary Car Park, just outside of Kilmarie. Knowing there was a suitable bothy located in Camasunary Bay, the plan was to spend the night at there and set off super early the following morning to reach Sgurr Na Stri for sunrise.

The hike into Camasunary Bay is short and not particularly taxing. After 30 minutes or so we reached the ridge where the ascent part of the hike was finished. Twenty minutes later we reached the bothy.

Now, for the uninitiated, a bothy can be defined as a basic shelter, cottage, or hut mainly located in wild or remote areas in Scotland. They provide very basic accommodation in some of the most beautiful locations in Scotland—and naturally, they’re quite rugged and wild themselves at times. When going to a bothy it’s important to assume there will be no facilities. No electricity, no running water, and even if there is a fireplace, nothing to burn. This of course all adds to the allure of these places, but it’s also worthwhile to be prepared for every eventuality, to ensure a comfortable stay.

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The bothy in Camsunary is without doubt one of the nicest in Scotland, and that can be said with little bothy experience. This bothy is relatively new and has enough sleeping room to accommodate around 15. As hoped, we had it all to ourselves. There was even a box of chocolate bars and tea bags, alongside magazines.

We lit some candles (our own), put our stoves on and enjoyed some whiskey, chatting about tomorrow's adventure and our excitement for it. After this we turned in for the night, alarms set for 4.30 AM to summit Sgurr Na Stri for sunrise.

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I awoke abruptly, as if sleeping had become a dangerous thing. It wasn’t the faint buzzing of an alarm that had brought me back to reality, but the thunderous sound of hail crashing into the metal bothy roof. Back to bed for us. After another failed attempt to rise at 5.30 AM, we finally emerged a couple hours later, made a hasty breakfast, and headed for the Cuillins, weather be damned.

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We quickly reached our first obstacle, in the form of a fast flowing river fueled by the last two days of rainfall. It’s best to be prepared with gators and a walking stick, as it’s difficult to gauge the water level. And when in doubt, don’t even try—even a few inches of fast moving water is enough to wash a top heavy adult of their feet in an unsteady instant. Although there were stepping stones to aid a crossing, and the water ran kneed deep in places, we scouted our path and opted to cross in twos, barefoot, with the larger person being upstream to stem the flow. While uncomfortable, the maneuver worked like a charm.

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Following that escapade we ascended the grassy moorland slopes on a wet trail, putting distance between us and Camasunary Bay. Taking the correct route isn’t necessarily essential in this open area, and you don’t have to worry too much about crossing private land as Scotland’s access rights areyours to enjoy. The right to roam means you can access most land and inland water as long as you do so responsibly.

Within an hour we were at the summit. Like a rising wave of gabbro and basalt, the Cuillins rise out of deep rock basin formed by glacial erosion. They are distinguished yet foreboding—nature’s perfect dichotomy. Loch Coruisk sits below, deep and dark under the soaring mountains surrounding its three sides. The two together, Loch Coruisk and the Cuillins, can only be described as a masterpiece. If the earth has a pulse it surely rose through these peaks eons ago, creating this bold silhouette.

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On the summit we enjoyed some snacks and set about grabbing some photographs. But before long, clouds were visible in the distance, heading our way. The weather can change in an instant in Scotland, and before long we were reminded just this, as squalls of hail clambered free of looming grey clouds, strong gusts of wind sending the hail crashing down into us with a little more venom at each gust.

Then, as fast as it began the sun broke through out again. With stoke levels high we slowed our scramble and enjoyed the journey back down, crossed the icy river for a second time, and headed back to the car to continue our journey north. Amazing what you can see and do in just 24 hours’ time.


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5 Items to Pack for a Trip to the Isle of Skye

Warm Sleeping Bag
Temperature’s drop at night up north and most Bothy’s are extremely basic!

Fire Wood
Do some research on the bothy to check its facilities, but often they have a fireplace or wood burning stove. Nothing elevates the mood—or dries soaked clothes—like a well stoked fire.

Scotch Whisky
For me, an essential after-hike item. Something local will do the job nicely.

Head Torch
An essential for any outdoor activity, especially when setting off late/early. Also, bothy’s normally don’t have electricity, so it’s needed to moving around anytime later in the day.

Water Filter
When you’re somewhere remote access to water is essential. Bringing a lightweight filter means you can tap into local streams and waterways.

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10 Dos and Don’ts for Exploring Scotland's Isle of Skye

DO research the Bothy before your trip to confirm available facilities. There’s a book called ‘The Scottish Bothy Bible’ which should have you covered.

DON’T trust the weather forecast. The weather changes so fast in Scotland you just have to be prepared for all conditions and go for it (unless extremely high wind/rain forecast, then maybe heed the warning and save it for another day).

DO bring a spare set of clothes. The weather can get wild in Scotland, even your best waterproof outerwear and trusty boots may struggle.

DON’T leave any mess in the bothys. Leave no trace applies here, too.

DO bring a cooking stove and lightweight food with you. Best to be prepared to whip up a meal wherever, be it in a bothy or on the trail.

DON’T forget Toilet paper. Self explanatory.

DO pack bug spray and/or a bug net. Depending on the season Scotland’s infamous midgeys can be a nightmare!

DON’T expect a reliable cell phone signal. If you’re solo, let someone know where you’re going before setting off.

DO wake up early to enjoy the sunrise, Scotland landscapes draped in Golden light are quite the sight (even if we weren’t so lucky on our specific trip).

DON’T forget to bring an extra roll of film or spare SD card. Scotland is so beautiful it’s easy to get trigger happy on the ascent and find yourself out of luck on the return.

Published 05-21-2020

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