Railway to ridge

By Colin Hogarth

Walk into the shadow of the spectacular Trotternish Ridge on the remains of an old mineral railway running from the coast to a quarry below it. Although the line has long been closed, its trackbed and a track running almost parallel make an easy, well graded, figure of eight circuit.

The 2ft gauge line was built to transport stone from a quarry at Loch Cuithir to a loading quay and kiln at Invertote Bay. Opened in 1890, the track was relaid in 1906 but the line closed nine years later when most of the workers went off to war. It was operated by Skye Diatomite, using a small steam engine to haul the wagons over the short distance.

The ruined kiln remains at Invertote Bay and there's a spectacular waterfall nearby, offering an interesting detour at the end of the walk itself.

From the layby at Invertote, cross the road and follow the minor road up to Lealt, a small cluster of houses. Continue along the track to meet up with the Lealt River a short distance on. The pair run together towards the craggy bulk of the Trotternish Ridge up ahead. The trackbed of the old railway is up to your right, but is not easily seen initially.

The track and the line of the railway converge two and a half miles from the start. Take the trackbed up to the left. An easy climb along the line leads to Loch Cuithir, a popular spot with local fishermen. Along the way you will pass the remains of some old bridges and, in places, rusty old bits of track can be found. Just before reaching the loch there are a couple of small streams to negotiate.

At Loch Cuithir you are in the shadow of the ridge, a dramatic landslip which has thrown up some stunning scenery. Here you meet up with the track. Follow this back down to the point where track and railway cross and then follow the line of the railway for the return.

A little way on it passes through a gate. Don't cross the gate but continue along the right-hand side of a fence which runs along the course of the old railway. This precaution avoids some boggy patches.

The track rises gently over open moorland, passing behind the cottages at Lealt. A little way further on it meets the minor leading back to the layby.

It is possible to get down to Invertote Bay using a path that starts on the other side of the road bridge over the Lealt River. The route down is quite steep in places, so take care.

At the bottom, it emerges by a ruined cottage. Across the river is the ruined kiln and a short way upstream the waterfall.


Distance 6 miles/10km. ;
Map OS Landranger 1:50,000 sheet 23. ;
Start/parking Layby at Invertote on the A855 Portree to Staffin road (grid ref NG 516605). ;
Grading An easy, fairly level walk along a good track and grassy railway trackbed.