Distance – 8 miles
Time – 6 hours
OS Map Explorer 375
Grading – Hard
Terrain – Rocky narrow cliff paths, vertiginous drops
Please be aware that although popular, this is a difficult walk and should not be attempted on ones own or if one has a fear of heights. The terrain is very uneven and involves some clambering over boulders. Often the path is nothing more than a goat track with steep vertiginous drops. One slip could well be fatal!
Park at Carsaig Pier accessed by a minor road which leaves the A849 at Pennyghael. There is only room for four or five vehicles so it’s best to set off early in the day. Take the track which runs along the top of the beach heading west. At the fork, bear left and go through the gap between the wall and the gate.
On arriving at the second gate do not cross the stile but head along the beach as there are two burns to navigate and this is much easier to do closer to the shore. Once the burns have been forded take the path at the top of the beach. This can be muddy at times but make use of the planks of wood that have been left in strategic places by former walkers!
Go through the kissing gate and continue along the stony path under the cliff. The path is rather indistinct in places and seems to alternate between the narrow cliff tracks and boulder strewn paths at the top of the beach.
After approximately one hours walking the Nun’s Cave is reached. This shallow cave is sandstone topped by basalt columns. Here, the nuns are thought to have taken refuge when they fled Iona Abbey during the reformation. There are some religious carvings on the walls of the cave, said to date back to the 6th century. There are also marks made by the stone masons who used the cave to dress the stone ready for use in Iona Abbey. Unfortunately there is also evidence of present day graffiti.
After leaving the Nun’s Cave the going becomes slightly easier but it is still a good hour and a half to two hours walk from here to the Carsaig Arches. Once the first arch is reached, those who have a good head for heights can clamber up the narrow goat track and walk over the first arch down the fairly treacherous path to the second arch. Please note that this path is narrow and exposed and should not be attempted in bad weather or by inexperienced walkers. Once down on the beach it is possible to stand under both the arches which are actually sea caves that have been eroded all the way through, creating the arches.
Return by the same route.