One Minute Mountain: Bla Bheinn

In our series of bite-sized intros to Britain's favourite hills, James Roddie hops over the bridge to Skye, for what is arguably the greatest single mountain in the Cuillin - the mighty Bla Bheinn.

Bla Bheinn 2, 160 kb
Bla Bheinn 2
© Robert Durran, Feb 2016

Height: 928m

What's in a name? A linguistic/historical mashup, from the Norse bla (blue) and Gaelic bheinn (hill), Bla Bheinn is often misspelt Blaven... which at least gives a good indication of the correct pronunciation.

Personality: Varied, isolated, beautiful. A grand craggy mountain range in its own right, standing proud of the Cuillin main ridge and offering both some of the best views of said ridge, and a memorable day out for everyone.

Something for everyone, you say? Bla Bheinn's summit can be reached via every kind of route, ranging from (admittedly rough) walks to serious scrambling and rock climbing journeys. Its island - and isolated - location overlooking the Cuillin Ridge and Glen Sligachan makes it one of the best viewpoints in the country, and it can be a great hill for spotting wildlife.

Greatest routes: For confident mountaineers, the famous traverse over the outlying rock peak of Clach Glas - the 'Matterhorn of Skye' and onto Bla Bheinn is one of the best, most varied and most exciting mountaineering routes in the UK. Often considered a good 'warm up' for the main Cuillin Ridge traverse, The Clach Glas-Bla Bheinn traverse more than stands on its own merits too. Confident route finding is a must on this Moderate/Difficult grade rock climb, and consider bringing a rope too.

An easier but just as worthy route is the extremely long south ridge – straightforward apart from a short section of grade 2 scrambling right at the top, and offering continuously superb views for its entirety.

The Impostor, on the south ridge of Clach Glas, 224 kb
The Impostor, on the south ridge of Clach Glas
© Dan Bailey

What else is there to do? If you're fast, the five-mile normal route to the summit and back is easily possible in a half day, so a great option for afterwards is to head down to the coast at Elgol and take a boat trip out to Loch Coruisk (mistyisleboattrips or bellajane). It's an utterly spectacular trip into the jaws of the Cuillin, and there's a good chance of seeing dolphins or whales.

Mysterious surroundings: Bla Bheinn forms the backdrop to an area of caves, abandoned buildings and sobering history. Intriguing glimpses into the past can be found everywhere and certainly add a sense of mystery to this iconic mountain. The ruined church at Cill Chriosd is well worth a quick visit.

Where to stay? There are numerous B&Bs and a choice of self-catering accommodation in the nearby village of Torrin. Broadford is only a drive of a few miles and offers an SYHA hostel and a handful of hotels. Or if you're not swayed by mod cons, why not go for the pick of the bunch in terms of location - the stunningly positioned bothy at Camasunary, slap bang at the foot of Bla Bheinn's south ridge?

Bothy? Tell me more! Opened in 2016 to replace the old beach-side bothy at Camasunary, the new MBA-maintained bothy is found on the east side of the bay about 1km from the old one - now no longer open to the public. It holds around 15 people, but there's no fire or stove so bring a jumper.

Best pub? Though it's a bit of a drive, and the atmosphere can tend towards the coach party-ish, the Sligachan Hotel has the requisite mountaineering heritage.

Blaven at sunset, from Loch Hourn, 197 kb
Blaven at sunset, from Loch Hourn
© fhuaran, Apr 2013

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