Walking on Rum and the Small Isles
This guidebook to walking and backpacking on Rum, Eigg, Muck, Canna, Coll and Tiree includes a tough 55km backpack around the coast of Rum, a circuit of the Rum Cuillin and an ascent of An Sgurr (Eigg). The 16 routes across all these Western Isles of Scotland are suitable for a range of abilities exploring coasts, mountains and wilderness.
Seasonsspring, early summer and early autumn are the best times as the weather is mildest and the midges are in abeyance; high summer is the busiest season and midges can be a nightmare on Rum; winter days are short and storms are frequent, but the solitary grandeur of the islands in winter weather is ample reward for the well-prepared walker.
CentresKinloch, Dibidil, Guirdil (Rum); Galmisdale, Cleadale (Eigg); Port Mòr (Muck); A'Chill (Canna); Arinagour (Coll); Scarinish, Balephetrish, Hynish (Tiree)
Difficultyroutes range from the challenging to the relatively undemanding; weather can change suddenly in the Hebrides - be prepared for wet, wild and windy conditions.
Must Seethe Rum Cuillin, Kinloch Castle, Kilmory bay; An Sgurr and Cleadale on Eigg; Canna's cliffs and rock stacks; verdant landscape and sparkling shores of Muck; white sand bays and flower-carpeted machair of Coll and Tiree; wildlife, geological features and ancient monuments; stunning coastal landscapes
The Small Isles, and the nearby Hebridean twins Coll and Tiree, offer adventurous walkers a fine range of routes, from the jagged volcanic peaks of the Cuillin on Rum to the beaches, dunes and machair pastures of its lower-lying neighbours. Many of the walks follow sublime coastlines, dotted with striking geological formations and teeming with wildlife.
Easier routes on Rum, along long-established paths, explore the National Nature Reserve with opportunities to spot deer, golden eagles, feral goats and Rum ponies along the way, and detailed information is included on each island's history, geology, wildlife, plants and flowers to help walkers make the most of their experience.
Walking on Rum
Rum is by far the largest of the Small Isles, and arguably the most mountainous island of its size in Britain. Rum's highest peaks, Askival and Ainshval are Corbetts, and it's also the smallest Scottish island to have a summit over 762m. A round of the Rum Cuillin is included in the guidebook, but walkers will also find there's much more to discover.
Walking on Eigg, Muck, Canna, Coll and Tiree
Eigg, second largergest of the Small Isles, lies a little less than 7km south-east of Rum, and boasts the most varied scenery and range of wildlife habitats. Canna is the westernmost and the second smallest of the Small Isles. It's linked to its tide separated sister, Sanday by a bridge and by sandbanks and a road a low tide.
Muck is the smallest and most fertile of the Small Isles. Muck is also known for its seal population, and for the porpoises in the surrounding waters. Coll and its near neighbour, Tiree are often referred to as the Hebridean Twins.
This guide describes 16 routes across Rum, Eigg, Muck, Canna, Coll and Tiree, suitable for a wide range of abilities, and exploring coast, mountains and wilderness.
- 15 day walks, including the Rum Cuillin, and one 3-day walk around the coast of Rum
- illustrated with OS map extracts and inspirational photographs
- with comprehensive information about travel, accommodation, equipment and other practicalities
When to go
Ferries and flights
Maps, route finding and access
Safety and emergencies
What to take
Using this guide
Walk 1 A round of the Rum Cuillin
Walk 2 The Dibidil Horseshoe
Walk 3 Around the coast of Rum
Walk 4 Kinloch to Guirdil
Walk 5 The Guirdil Horseshoe
Walk 6 Around Rum’s western hills
Walk 7 Kinloch to Kilmory Bay or Harris
Walk 8 An Sgùrr and Grulin
Walk 9 Around the coast and cliffs of north Eigg
Walk 10 Around the coast of Canna
Walk 11 Around Sanday
Walk 12 Around the coast of Muck
Walk 13 Coll’s western tip
Walk 14 Ben Hogh and the Breachacha castles
Walk 15 Tiree’s east coast
Walk 16 Tiree’s west coast and three highest points
Appendix A Route summary table
Appendix B Accommodation
Appendix C Further reading
It is essential that you have the appropriate maps for the walks described in this guidebook. There are few waymarks, signposts or paths of any kind, making accurate route finding all the more important. A degree of navigational proficiency is indispensable.
This guide incorporates Ordnance Survey 1:50,000 mapping with highlighted routes. These should be used in conjunction with OS Explorer 1:25,000 maps because of their greater topographic detail. Do not rely solely on the maps in this guidebook as it is essential that you are able to ascertain your position in the wider context, should you need to abandon your walk and make for the nearest road or habitation. The walks described in this guidebook are covered by the following Ordnance Survey maps:
- OS Explorer 1:25,000 sheet 397 Rum, Eigg, Muck, Canna and Sanday
- OS Explorer 1:25,000 sheet 372 Coll and Tiree
- OS Landranger 1:50,000 sheet 39 Rum, Eigg, Muck and Canna
- OS Landranger 1:50,000 sheet 46 Coll and Tiree
A compass is indispensable and a ‘wristwatch’ altimeter is also very useful for navigation, especially on the hills of Rum. It’s not quite so easy to get lost when walking along the island coastlines, but it is important that you know exactly where you are, especially in poor weather/visibility and if for any reason you need to head inland from the coast.
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p68 and p88 The footbridge across the Kilmory River was washed away in 2017 and as yet the Isle of Rum National Nature Reserve have not responded to enquiries as to if and when a replacement will be installed. Depending on the tide it is possible to cross the outflow of the river where it crosses the beach. Unless the river is running high it is also possible to cross using a sill in the bank though great care should be exercised.
p41 It has been reported that the route as described in the first paragraph of Walk 1 A Round of the Rum Cuillin has become difficult to follow. The following is a suggested alternative:
Walk a short distance north of Kinloch Castle to the junction by the bridge that leads to the community hall. Turn left here and continue for 150 metres before turning left at a metal gate. Follow the track past the old castle garden walls to the generator and continue along the Allt Slugan to the edge of the woodland before emerging onto rising open ground.
p43 'at around 650m, follow the path off the ridge as it skirts around Askival’s east flank' Reader, Michael Smith reports that 'the path we found was higher (as measured by GPS rather than contour on the map) at 694m. Before the substantial old cairn is reached indicating the right turn to go up to the ridge, there are several tempting but inferior ways up'.
The Rum Bunkhouse, managed by the Isle of Rum Community Trust, is now open (autumn 2014) and has accommodation for up to 20 people in four mixed dorms and one twin room. There are two fully equipped kitchens and a lounge with a wood burning stove and sofas.
For further information and bookings, email firstname.lastname@example.org
Kinloch Castle hostel will be closed definitively from the end of May 2013. Funding for the construction of a new bunkhouse has just been announced (April 2013) and in the interim temporary, self-catering hostel accommodation next to the castle will be available from 8 June 2013. For more details contact:
'Of particular interest is the introduction to each island, including geology, history, wildlife, plants and amenities. Accommodation is limited so the listing at the back can be comprehensive with varied options.'
Canoeist Magazine, November 2012
'Clearly the author has explored and enjoyed these islands very extensively, and this comprehensive guide should encourage many to follow in his footsteps.'
Strider, April 2013
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Since moving to Scotland from the south of England in 2006, Peter has developed a passion for the Hebrides. He lives at Rhenigidale on the Isle of Harris with his wife, Fiona and their Labradors, Dougal and Mara.View Articles and Books by Peter Edwards