Nestled in the heart of the Cuillin Mountain range on the Isle of Skye, the turquoise waters at Coire Lagan attracts walkers, climbers and even the odd sheep. To get there, you’ll have to take on one of the island’s most spectacular hikes, ascending 2,000ft before you reach a picturesque lochan (a small loch) ringed by rocky summits. Here you can swim, enjoy a picnic or just sit and take in the breathtaking views.
Looking up at the imposing ridgeline from the start point of the hike, you’d have no idea that Coire Lagan is snuggled amongst the peaks. This makes the journey feel like a real adventure! Although Coire Lagan has grown in popularity in recent years, it still sees far fewer visitors than Skye’s busiest attractions.
Compared to the Old Man Of Storr, the Quiraing or the Fairy Glen, hiking to Coire Lagan offers a quiet, albeit challenging way to spend the day. It’s unlikely you’ll have the trail to yourself but the rough hike and short scramble puts off the majority of Skye’s day-trippers. Trust me when I say, it is well worth the effort to get there!
Although you don’t need to be an experienced hillwalker to hike to Coire Lagan, I would advise only taking on the trail if you have a decent level of fitness and walk regularly. Although I am an avid hiker, I found this trek to be pretty tough, owing to the sharp ascent and rocky terrain.
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Coire Lagan Hike Stats:
- Starting point: Glenbrittle Campsite
- Length: 9km (5.5 miles)
- Time: 4-5 hours
- Difficulty: Moderate/strenuous
Coire Lagan Route
The route up to Coire Lagan begins at the Glenbrittle Campsite. There is a substantial amount of parking at the side of the road as you approach, however, this fills up very quickly as Glen Brittle is a popular access point to the Cuillin Ridge.
Be aware that the road down to Glen Brittle isn’t the best and is plagued by potholes. In order to make sure you get a parking space, I’d recommend arriving early to secure a spot, especially in the middle of summer.
To begin the hike, head towards the back of the campsite on foot. The trail up to Coire Lagan begins just behind the toilet block and follows an obvious path. It is pretty easy to navigate because the footpath is a well maintained pitched stone trail.
Continue to follow the path and look out for cairns along the route. These will help you to stay on the right track. If you’re attempting the hike on a sunny day in peak season, chances are you won’t be the only person heading up to Coire Lagan lochan so you can always follow your fellow hikers or ask someone if you’re confused.
The terrain gets rougher as it ascends the mountainside and you will eventually arrive at a gully. Although this initially looks a little daunting, especially if you aren’t familiar with going right up into the mountains, it is an easy enough scramble (even for beginners).
Once you’ve completed the scramble, you can rest assured that you’re nearly there. However, the last section of the hike is arguably one of the toughest. A further steep ascent with some loose rocks is mercifully short but still challenging.
Once you arrive at Coire Lagan, allow yourself some time to drink it in. I recommend enjoying a pre-packed backpacking lunch here to get your energy up for the descent. If you are really brave, you could always opt for a bit of al fresco swimming in the lochan too. It’s a great way to cool down after the sweaty hike up but if the sun is behind the Cuillin ridge, it can be cold!
Arguably the best thing about this trek is the incredible views. On a clear day, you can see all the way out to the islands of Rum, Eigg and Canna from Coire Lagan. In my opinion, it is one of the best views on the island.
Whilst you can complete the hike to Coire Lagan as an out and back trail, I prefer to vary the return route. Descend the same way you came, including the scramble back down the gully. At the large cairn, follow the path right onto an alternative return route.
This trail takes you back to your start point but is much less crowded and far more scenic. The terrain along this route is much less rocky and descends a little less steeply, making it easier on the knees. The highlight of the return journey is passing Eas Mor Falls, the highest waterfall on the Isle of Skye. It has a drop of around 40 metres and the most stunning setting you could imagine!
Eventually, you’ll cross a footbridge before coming out onto the Glen Brittle road. From here, make your way back to the parking area by turning left and heading back towards the campsite.
As with any kind of hike into the mountains, the trek to Coire Lagan should only be attempted in good weather. Be aware that the weather changes quickly in the Cuillin and always allow enough time for your journey. If you are visiting the Isle of Skye in winter, I generally wouldn’t recommend this trek as ice and snow could make it very difficult.
What to Bring on Your Coire Lagan Hike?
- Waterproof jacket: The weather can change quickly and it’s always best to come prepared!
- Fleece: I like to layer up when hiking so I can better regulate my temperature. A fleece is lightweight and easy to pack away.
- Trekking trousers/sports leggings: Regular readers of this blog will know I swear by the activewear range by Lucy Locket Loves. Zip-off hiking trousers are also a good shout for this trek.
- Swimwear: If you fancy a dip at the lochan, bring swimwear. Although it might not be as crowded as the Quiraing, you’ll have an audience if you decide to skinny dip!
- Hiking boots: These will need to be sturdy to deal with the rough terrain.
- Camera: Views like these need to be captured!
- Hiking poles: I swear by hiking poles and use them on pretty much all my hikes. They are particularly helpful on the Coire Lagan trek because of the steep ascent.
- Suncream: Depending on the season, you may want to lather up with sun protection. I still caught the sun during my most recent trip in September.
- Supplies: I recommend bringing a packed lunch or at the least, a few snacks for the journey. This is to keep your energy up, not to mention stopping for a bite to eat is a great way to enjoy the scenery!
Have you hiked to Coire Lagan on the Isle of Skye? Let me know in the comments!