An Cliseam


One of the highlights of our Hebridean camping trip was a walk on An Cliseam (Clisham), and the tops that make up the Clisham ridge. This ridge, connecting the highest hills in the outer Hebrides, crowns the wild and beautiful landscape of North Harris. Our route was circular, and you can trace it on the map below, beginning at the green arrow.


The route follows a well-marked trail, then turns West at a small lochan to reach the grassy summit of Tomnabhal. From here Clisham assumes a thrilling, near-insurmountable aspect — all cliffs and gullies — but as you begin to climb up its steep boulder fields, a neat little gap appears, through which you can reach the top. You can see the gap at the centre of this photograph:


In cloud, the rocky summit is spooky and spectacular.


But the fun bit of the walk had only just begun. There was a swift descent West onto the bealach . . .


. . . and then an enjoyable zipping up and down along the ridge’s highest points, following the roller coaster of Mulla-Fo-Dheas, Mulla-Fo-Thuath, and Mullach an Langa as they twisted their way North. The cloud was low, but when we glimpsed the view, it was amazing.

Amidst all the gold and green and russet of these hills, the band of quartzite at the top of Mulla-Fo-Thuath seems quite unexpected. It spills its way like snow across the mountainside, white as the skin of a dalmatian.


I love what the lichen has done.


This horseshoe-shaped ridge walk is incredibly enjoyable — a little exposure, and lots of variety and interest. I would heartily recommend it to anyone (with reasonable hill-walking experience) as a great way to get a feel for these marvelous North Harris peaks. But do be warned about the particular route we took: what is not quite so fun (when one has been out in the hills all day and is looking forward to a beer and some sort of tasty snack) is the long return walk that it requires — particularly when the lower slopes are absorbing the effects of a couple months of very wet weather. We contoured round Mo Bhoiogadail (avoiding its steep side) through an ankle-twisting landscape, leaping boggy pools and streams, and trudging stoically through the oomska. Our walk concluded with a speedy two-mile march back up along the road past the Scaladale centre. You may find a better way.


These are fabulous hills. I am already looking forward to going back to Harris.