The Cuillin of Skye from Elgol, oil painting

The Cuillins and Skye Paintings

With its jagged peaks and sharp aretes the Cuillin of Skye is beloved of the hardiest and most skilled of mountaineers; these are without doubt the most awesome and challenging mountains to be found anywhere in Britain. The main Cuillin ridge is also known as the Black Cuillin to distinguish it from the Red Cuillin, or Red Hills, that lie to the east of Glen Sligachan.

The peaks of the Black Cuillin are composed mainly of gabbro, a very rough igneous rock that provides a superb grip for mountaineers, and basalt, that can be very slippery when wet. The main ridge is about 14 km long and forms an arc around Loch Coruisk, which lies at the heart of the range. The highest point of the Cuillin, and of the Isle of Skye, is Sgurr Alasdair at 992 metres (3,255 ft).

Separated from the main ridge but of the same geological composition and character is Bla Bheinn, a fine peak that rises in magnificent isolation above the waters of the beautiful Loch Slapin.

In contrast to the Black Cuillin, the Red Cuillin are mainly composed of granite, a paler rock than the gabbro that has weathered into more rounded hills. Here there is vegetation cover to summit level along with long scree slopes on the mountain flanks.

The mountains of the Cuillins of Skye rise up dramatically from the sea creating enclosed sea lochs with the absence of foothills enhancing their vast scale. Many iconic views of Scotland are centred here, for example Sgurr nan Gillean soaring above Sligachan, Loch Scavaig and the Cuillin ridge from Elgol, or Bla Bheinn above Torrin.