The unique Collie-Mackenzie Monument at Skye’s celebrated Cuillin Mountains
Over a century ago, two men went on an adventure to reveal the thrills and exhilarations of the Black Cuillin Mountains in Scotland. They climbed, discovered and mapped their routes on one of the most challenging mountains in Britain, bringing the Cuillin within reach of the many mountaineers who followed in their footsteps. The Cuillin Mountains were climbed before but not most of the treacherous Black Cuillin. Its dark coarse, knife-sharp pinnacles were largely unknown territory until these were explored by the two renowned British mountaineers, Collie and Mackenzie. Today, there is a fitting tribute to these two remarkable men. The unmissable unique Collie-Mackenzie monument sits at the foot of Skye’s celebrated Cuillin Mountains in Sligachan.
About this post
This post gives an overview of the two remarkable mountaineers, and the alliance they formed to achieve many of the climbs at the Cuillin range. A fitting tribute to their courageous accomplishments is now placed in area they both loved at Sligachan, Isle of Skye.
About the two remarkable mountaineers — John Mackenzie and Norman Collie | The Collie-Mackenzie Monument
John Morton Mackenzie (1856 – 1933)
John Morton Mackenzie was born in 1856 in Sconser, Isle of Skye. He began climbing at a young age. He conquered Sgurr nan Gillean when he was just 10 years old. In his teens, he worked at the Sligachan Hotel as a pony man.
At the age of 14, Mackenzie was part of the ascent to the Cuillin’s 973 metres (3,192ft) peak Sgurr a’ Ghreadaidh. Sgurr a’ Ghreadaidh is the highest summit on the northern half of the Black Cuillin ridge. At 18, Mackenzie accompanied another climber for the first ascent to Sgurr Dubh Mor, which is 944 metres (3,097ft). In 1887, he tackled the first ascent of Am Basteir at 934 metres (3064ft). There were a few more remarkable achievements by this intrepid explorer who went on to become the first professional mountain guide.
John Norman Collie (1859 – 1942)
John Norman Collie was born in Alderley Edge, Cheshire on September 10, 1859. He was commonly known as Norman Collie and by profession, was a scientist specialising in chemistry. Collie went on to embrace exploring and mountaineering.
In 1886, Collie and his brother were on a fishing trip to the Isle of Skye. The brothers stayed at the Sligachan Hotel and were inspired to climb the Cuillin Mountains. They were partly inspired by the views of men climbing the Cuillins observed from the windows of the hotel. The two brothers made an ascent of Sgùrr nan Gillean twice and were unsuccessful on both occasions. Afterwards, they enlisted the advice of John Mackenzie, who was a professional mountaineering guide by now. Mackenzie gave them the guide on the route for a successful climb.
The Collie — Mackenzie alliance
Collie returned to Skye regularly and climbed the Cuillin Mountains with Mackenzie. Both forged a remarkable friendship while exploring the range. Together they made many first ascents, overcoming some of the toughest climbing challenges.
During the course of their adventures, Collie sought to produce much better maps of the Cuillin Mountains while Mackenzie struck up new routes. They also named some of the mountains and rocks. The Sgurr Mhic Choinnich is named after Mackenzie.
Both Collie and Mackenzie are regarded as the greatest mountaineers of their time. They ventured into tough, uncharted territory with basic clothing, boots and rope in circumstances of no chance of rescue if they encountered difficulty.
Mackenzie died in 1933. He was a mountain guide for fifty years.
Collie retired in 1929 and spent most of his summers in Skye. During his final years, he became a permanent resident of the Sligachan Hotel. He often sat at a window with views of the Cuillin Mountains. That room is named after him and is known as Collie Lounge.
Collie passed away in Sligachan, on November 1, 1942, from pneumonia. In accordance with his wishes, he is buried next to his friend, John Mackenzie in an old graveyard at Struan, Loch Harport within sight of the Cuillin Mountains.
The Cuillin Mountain range | The Collie-Mackenzie Monument
The Cuillin Mountain range is one of the world’s infamous landscapes and has attracted geologists from around the world. The range can be categorised into two groups. The jagged ridges of the Black Cuillin contrasts sharply with the smooth red hills, known as the Red Cuillin. Both were formed deep in a volcano about 60 million years ago. The mountains seen today were gradually exposed both by geological uplift and intense weathering and erosion from above.
The exposed rocks of the Cuillin were sculpted by glaciers over the last million years or so, forming sharp ridges and U-shaped valleys that is seen today. The glaciers also moved huge blocks of rocks and these juts out from the mountain!
At 992 metres (3255 ft), Sgùrr Alasdair is the highest peak of the Cuillin Mountains as well as the highest peak on the Isle of Skye. The Cuillin has 12 Munros (mountains of more than 3000ft). With narrow ridges, pinnacles and rock buttresses, these Munros are acknowledged as the hardest to climb. In addition, the long scrambles over loose rocks before reaching an ascent has proven to be equally challenging.
One of the most challenging climb is the Inaccessible Pinnacle, commonly known as Pinn. The Pinn is a large rock of about 50 metres at the longest edge and sits atop Sgùrr Dearg. It is well-known as the most notorious of munros to climb at the Cuillin, a challenge that requires determination and a strong nerve.
The Collie-Mackenzie Monument
Both Professor Norman Collie and John Mackenzie were instrumental in exploring and mapping the Black Cuillin. Their pioneering climbs has set a route for others to follow and used by climbers today. To celebrate the men’s achievements as well as their friendship, a unique memorial to the two mountaineers was unveiled in September 2020 at Sligachan.
This unique artwork sits at the picturesque location that marks the route into Glen Sligachan, a path that was familiar to Mackenzie when he worked as a pony boy and later, as a professional mountain guide. The bronze sculpture of both men sits high on rocks, with Mackenzie sitting and Collie standing. The men gaze at their beloved Cuillin Mountains for all time.
How to visit the Collie-Mackenzie Monument at Sligachan, Isle of Skye
The Sligachan area on Isle of Skye is a popular destination. Almost all tour groups stop here briefly en-route to Portree.
Sligachan is located along the A87, that links Broadford to Portree. There is a small car park for Collie-Mackenzie monument visitors and several lay-bys where you could park safely.
Parking is also available at the nearby Sligachan Hotel but this is strictly limited to guests only. Perhaps, you could stop by at Collie Lounge, sit by the window with views of the Cuillins just as Norman Collie did many years ago while sipping one of their 400 malts after exploring the monument and surrounds?
Alternatively, there are a number of group tours that might be of interest to you. One thing you may want to ensure is that the tour group you join will stop at Sligachan.
On a final note…
The Collie-Mackenzie monument marks a new tourist attraction amidst a splendid natural setting on the wild countryside of The Highland, Scotland. Regarded as the island of the faeries, the Isle of Skye boasts many myths and legends. Old bridges, castle ruins and waterfalls has a story that will captivate your imagination , right from the moment you cross into Skye. There is much to see, and experience here.
There is a dedicated page on Scotland where you will find all articles written on this beautiful country.
I look forward to sharing more with you. Stay connected with Timeless Travel Steps for stories on travel, culture and history. You may also receive exclusive readership offers to plan your travels ahead of time.
Have a splendid time visiting the Collie-Mackenzie monument on Isle of Skye.
Georgina in Scotland
“While in Scotland, I went on a number of small group guided tours. I find guided tours to be great value for money activities and an excellent tool to get the best overviews of a region.
With this overview, and time on my hands, I explored specific areas of interests for a more personal experience.
My trip to Scotland was self-funded, and none of the activities were sponsored in any way. All opinions, views and experiences are my own. I happily share them with you to inspire you to visit this magical land.
What to expect when being part of a tour group:
Safety precautions were in place. Guides are Scottish who have first hand knowledge of the regions I visited. They shared fascinating stories of legends and history of the Highland, both the bad and the ugly!
Quick facts on Scotland
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Social courtesies: Handshaking is customary when introduced to someone for the first time. When visiting someone’s home, a small gift such as flowers or a box of chocolates is appreciated.
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