The Spar Cave
Normally when you think of Skye you think of towering mountains and peaty bogs. A lot of rock and a lot of bog: a magnet for mountaineers, naturalists and geologists. Potholing doesn’t spring to mind as a popular activity but, surprisingly, there’s quite a bit of limestone around here- we have limestone pavements, a marble quarry and some proper caves. Probably the best known of these is the Spar Cave, near Elgol.
Now, you might be wondering why anyone would want to head underground when there’ so much astonishing scenery on Skye, but there’s a time and a place for everything. The Spar cave is a great day out when the peaks are shrouded in mist and the wind is a bit brisk for hill-walking. However, and I can’t emphasise this enough, the important thing is that your trip must be planned to coincide with a low tide. Unless you’re in a kayak. Or enjoy swimming. Essential kit are a head torch (best take two) and a good set of waterproofs. You might also wish to consider a helmet, but no ropes required, just a bit of scrambling. We’ve visited the cave on a few occasions; once with children. They will get very wet.
To get to the cave, you need to head out of Broadford towards Elgol and turn off just before the crowds and boat trips to a little place called Glasnakille. The cave is in the sea cliffs below this crofting hamlet. Here, you’ll park considerately and have another discussion about tide times and torch batteries. Then you’ll head through a gate, across a field and down towards the sea, which should be exposing a lot of seaweed and rock. If it’s not, best go home.
Once you’ve carefully picked your way along the path down to the shore, you’ll need to work your way along the cliffy shoreline to the cave. There’s a small section where you’ll probably have to use your hands to negotiate a nose of rock sticking out into the sea, but nothing scary. The first time we visited we got so enthusiastic about the traverse along the cliffs we overshot somewhat!
When you get to the entrance of the cave there are two tunnels: the one on the right leads into a big puddle and a dead end and the one on the left continues into the darkness. Using your torch, you’ll find a impressive stone ramp at the end of the passage. This is pure calcite, which you can scramble up to get to the back of the cave. It’s surprisingly grippy, but disconcerting for a mountaineer as it does remarkably resemble ice. Don’t worry, crampons are not required. However, don’t go up without remembering you’ll need to descend again (and you can’t see your feet when you do this). At the top of the ramp there are some nice calcite formations, although you get the feeling that, as usual, rotten Victorian tourists probably went home with some of the best bits.
You can continue onward down the other side of the slope to a mysterious pool. We’ve never done this as you can see it pretty well from the top of the ramp and you can’t get any further anyway. By now you will be really wet.
Descend with care by the way you came and emerge from the cave feeling like you’ve seen another side to Skye. There’ s hidden world down there.
Interested in learning more about Skye’s underworld?