What is Spar Cave?
Tucked away on a wild stretch of Skye coast is one of the strangest yet least known natural wonders in Scotland, Spar Cave is an astonishing, cathedral-like structure, 50 metres deep, with a marble-like flowstone staircase and huge columns formed from the centuries of water dripping through the limestone. The cave was visited by Sir Walter Scott in 1814. He later described it in “The Lord of the Isles” as: ‘The mermaid’s alabaster grot, who bathes her limbs in sunken well, deep in Strathaird’s enchanted cell’
A visit to the Spar Cave requires some forward planning and great care should be taken. The cave should only be visited at low tide!
Getting there (part 1)
You'll find Spar Cave near Elgol, at Glasnakille on the western shore of Loch Slapin .. Drive down the winding road, at the T-junction in Glasnakille and after 50 metres, opposite the first white house, you will see a stile on your left that will take you to the route down. Park by the telephone box
Address: Elgol, Isle of Skye IV49 9BQ
Getting there (part 2)
If you are standing at the telephone box on the T-junction you want to head to the right for around 200 metres. You will have a field on your left and will see a stone croft with no roof, this is the field you want to cross. Climb the stile into the field. You can walk to the right of the croft heading directly to the coast. Or walk to the left of the croft, following the fence (as we done, the rest of instructions follow the left-hand path we took). There is a faint path/ flattened grass pathway which you will follow, the path then leads down a hill to a lower meadow, the walk can be a little steep in parts, just keep to the path. Once past the grassy field you will have descended to the shore.
Getting there (part 3)
There will be a rocky inlet, from there, facing the ocean, go to the left along the shoreline beneath the cliffs. Clambering over rocks and large boulders to the left you will see an inlet, this is not Spar Cave. Continue around the headland to the next canyon to reveal the inlet for Spar Cave. It is about 50 metres long, with vertical sides of 15 metres high.
This should only be attempted at low tide, you can either wade in the extremely slippery and lethal seaweed or traverse around the edge of the rock ledge, this is around 10 foot high. You will have to climb down the side using the rocks as foot and hand grips.
Traverse your way around the rocks to the far end of the canyon where you will find the remains of a wall. (This was built in the 19th century to enable the then proprietor to charge entrance fees. When Walter Scott visited the Spar Cave in 1814 he had to climb over the wall using a rope, but a later passing sailor fired a cannon at the wall, demolishing it)
Getting there (part 4)
Looking ahead at the cliffs, with the sea behind you, you will see two entrances, one on the right and one on the left which is Spar Cave.
The passage is fairly wide and has a very high cathedral like roof. The floor is muddy at first, but once the cave turns to the right, the walls, floor and ceiling all become covered with Spar or Flowstone (Calcium Carbonate) formations. Soon you reach the steep and treacherously slippy looking staircase. In fact, the smooth calcite deposits have much more grip and is much easier to ascend than appears.
At the top of the staircase you are treated to a clear crystal pool, in which you can swim if you wish. Return the same way, again, the staircase will have good grip, even if it doesn’t look it. The walls and ceiling of the cave are amazing, and it is to be believed that it was even more amazing before the Victorian times, but then tourists took many of the stalactites as souvenirs for themselves.
What to wear
You may get wet, even inside the cave with water droplets. Wear waterproofs and wellies. Torches are required and take spare torch/ battery with you. Also make sure you bring your camera!
When to go
Note again that this walk is only possible for around one hour either side of low-tide. It is quite possible to become stranded in the Spar Cave, so it is best to reach the sea shortly before low tide and visit the cave as soon as possible, leaving time to return, you will have a safe 2 hours to find the cave and explore.
A visit to Spar Cave is not without risk. Do take care!!
It may seem like a bit of effort; however, it is totally worth it!
Click here to check for low tide times
Be sure to check out our other Skye posts here!