The unique Collie-Mackenzie Monument at Skye’s celebrated Cuillin Mountains

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.

collie-mackenzie monument

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.

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Have a splendid time visiting the Collie-Mackenzie monument on Isle of Skye.

Georgina xoxo

Georgina in Scotland

Georgina_Highlands and Steam Train tours
“Just as I board the West Highland and Jacobite Steam Train”

“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

__________

Population: Over 5.4 million (2020)

Common Language: English. Gaelic is spoken by 1.3% of the population mostly in the west and in the Highlands.

Currency: £ – Pound (GBP)

Capital City: Edinburgh. Home to the first fire brigade in the world, and is the second largest city in Scotland. The largest metropolis in Scotland is Glasgow.

High season: Summer (July – August)

Religion: Christianity – 40% Church of Scotland. 15% Roman Catholic and 6% other Christian denominations. Minorities include Buddhist, Muslim, Hindu and Sikh with a quarter of the population has been recorded as having no religion.

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.

Scotland: Travel and Transport

Scotland: International Travel

UK Government: Foreign Travel Advice

UK Government: UK nationals travelling abroad

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The 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 for their remarkable accomplishments at the foot of Cuillin Mountains via @GGeorgina_timelesstravelsteps/The 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 for their remarkable accomplishments at the foot of Cuillin Mountains via @GGeorgina_timelesstravelsteps/

Mallaig – 12 Very best Things To Do at the harbour town in West Coast of the Highlands Scotland

Mallaig – 12 Very best Things To Do at the pretty harbour town in West Coast of the Highlands Scotland

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Mallaig Scotland

Where is Mallaig in Scotland

You can see the location of Mallaig from the map below – rather remote on the west coast of Scotland. Other places are included in the map which will be mentioned in this article to give you some destination inspiration to help design your itinerary.

How to use the map above: Click on + at the top left to open the drop-down list of places on the map. Click on the highlighted marker to learn a little about the destination.

About the historic harbour town, Mallaig

The word “Mallaig” is derived from the old Norse “Mel Vik” which means ‘a sand dune bay’ and is less than 2 centuries old. It began back in 1840 when the owner of the North Morar Estate, Lord Lovat divided his farmstead known as Mallaigvaig which had a population of just 23 into 17 plots of land. He encouraged his tenants from the more populated part of the estate, Loch Morar and Loch Nevis to resettle here and adopt fishing as a way of life. By 1851, the population had grown to 134. The population and economy grew rapidly in the 20th century and became a thriving fishing port thereafter.

How to get to Mallaig | Transport connections to Mallaig

There are several ways to get to Mallaig.

By Rail

By Road

Shiel buses operate many of the local routes between Fort William and Mallaig.

Ferry services

How much time do you have in Mallaig?

What to see and do in Mallaig depends very much on how much time you have.

Most visitors do the round trip journey on the Jacobite Steam Train which means they have about 90 minutes to have lunch and to sightsee. Some stay overnight at this fishing village and immerse in the surroundings, taking a piece of Mallaig with them when they leave. Some others stay a little longer, a couple of days and use the harbour town as base to explore the Isles and other surrounding remote destinations. Depending on how much time you have in this picturesque town, you could select from this comprehensive list to create your itinerary.

Best 12 Things to See and Do at Mallaig

Rather remote in the west coast of the Highland is Mallaig, a pretty harbour town that offer 12 best things to see and do on your visit.

1 | Mallaig Heritage Centre

Just next to Mallaig Railway Station is a nice little spot, home to a treasure trove of stories on West Lochaber, its people and landscape. Mallaig Heritage Centre is a place to learn about the local history. The Centre tells the stories on the history of the fishing industry in Mallaig, the building of the West Highland Railways, and explains everything you need to know about this pretty harbour town. The Mallaig Heritage Centre has a multimedia display, film show, lifeboat exhibition, a model railway and a gift shop. It is worth visiting if you have about an hour or so.

Address: Station Rd, Mallaig PH41 4PY

Opening hours: From 11:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.

Admission: Adults £2.50 : Senior Citizens £2.00 : Students £2.00 : Children free

Special rates are available for groups of 8 persons and over.

2 | St Columba’s Church of Scotland Mallaig

St Columba sits on a small hill overlooking the harbour of Mallaig, with spectacular views over the Small Isles. The church was built in 1903 and has one stained glass window. The window depicts Christ walking on water. A little further up, near the Manse, you have stunning views across the Sound of Sleat, and the Small Isles.

Address: Annies Brae, Mallaig, PH41 4QX

3 | Western Isles Cruises – Wildlife cruise

The Western Isle Cruise operate the Knoydart Ferry Service at Mallaig. They offer a one-hour wildlife cruise which is a great opportunity to spot some wildlife.

The boat travels past the isles of Skye, Rum & Eig on the right, crossing the entrance to Loch Nevis, onwards to Green Island in the Knoydart Peninsula. The waters here are visited by birds, seals, porpoises, dolphins, whales and basking sharks.

Tour details:

The tour is designed to fit in with the Jacobite Steam train and Scotrail arrival and departure times at Mallaig.

Tour departs the harbour at 12:45 p.m. and at 5:00 p.m. daily between April and October. Arriving back in time to catch your trains back to Fort William.

Dogs welcome. Fully licensed bar and toilets.

4 | Mallaig Circular Walk

Ideal if you wish to explore more of this picturesque village. A pleasant, short circular walk around the hills and village of Mallaig offer great views over the Isle of Skye and Small Isles.

Route:

i | Park by the harbour, at East bay car park;

ii | Head away from the village centre, towards your right, to a path signposted as Circular Walk;

iii| Head up the hill at the back of the houses and onto rough pasture. The path passes through a valley.

iv | Continue along the track, past the signpost to the top of the hill. There is a bench ideally placed for best views.

v | The path then heads towards the coast, joining a track, passing some houses to wards Mallaig Beag. On a clear day, you are rewarded with views over the Sleat Peninsula, Small Isles and Knoydart Peninsula.

vi | The track continues to the road. Turn left and return to Mallaig town centre.

**Every now and again, stop to look back at the views. Views of the coast, cliffs, birch and willow are spectacular. Look out also for marine life and coastal birds.

NOTE: This information on Mallaig Circular Walk is intended as an overview and provided in good faith. Walkers are responsible for their own safety, hiking responsibly by properly dressed, using appropriate footwear, have a map and/or compass as well as prior research on the route.

5 | Explore the harbour at Mallaig

Mallaig harbour is lovely. The view of fishing boats, calm waters, the generous curve of the land, sunlight and breeze – moments where no clock can measure. It’s a place to easily dream away your time while watching the boats come in with their catches.

6 | Morar Cross

Morar Cross is located near Mallaig Railway Station. If you can climb to the Morar Cross, you will be rewarded with some spectacular views of the bay. The climb is a little steep and there is a handrail in some parts.

There is a car park next to the train station. At the gate, look out for a sign that says ‘Steps to the Cross’. Takes about 5-7 minutes to reach the top.

7 | Visit Morar

Morar is located to the south of Mallaig, about 4.8 kilometres (3 miles). Morar is ideal for spectacular views. Watch the Steam trains go past on the West Highland line and stunning views of the Small Isles. The beaches of Morar are famous for its silvery sands where movies such as ‘Highlander’ and ‘Local Hero’ were filmed. Take a relaxing stroll along the wide shoreline of soft, pristine sand and crystal clear waters in what seems a paradise.

8 | Loch Morar

Close by is Loch Morar, the deepest freshwater loch in Europe. It is 19 kilometres (12 miles) long and 300 metres (1000 feet) deep in some places. Here you can hire boats and canoes or try some fishing.

Hiking guide – Map on Loch Morar & Mallaig

8.1 | Morag

If you do decide to head out to the waters, be sure to have your cameras ready to capture a photo of Morag, a monster said to be a long time resident of the waters. Legend has it that the first sightings were in 1887. A reported incident in 1969 of a large creature of 25-30 feet long with three humps led to several surveys of the loch undertaken by the University of London in the 1970s. Three further sightings have been reported since but no one has been able to capture an image of her. Who knows, she may pop her head up when you are out there, so be sure to capture an image of her.

9 | Jacobite Steam Train

If you plan to get to Mallaig by car or bus, then a journey aboard the Jacobite Steam Train from Mallaig to Fort William is highly recommended. Well-known as one of the most scenic train journeys in the world, this ride goes over the 21 arch Glenfinnan Viaduct with extraordinary vistas, creating timeless memories. It does not matter if you are not a fan of the wizardry world of Harry Potter, but a ride on the famous Hogwarts Express is a bucket list experience for many travellers. I highly recommend that you give it a go.

Recommended read: Jacobite Steam Train Journey in The Highlands aka Harry Potter Train – Best 6 reasons why you should experience it

Hiking guide – Map of Mallaig & Glenfinnan

10 | Shops

11 | Festivals

12 | Other attractions near Mallaig

You may wish to explore some of the surroundings at Mallaig.

12.1 | Arisaig

Arisaig is located about 13 kilometers (8 miles) south of Mallaig and is famous for its beaches and views of Small Isles.

12.2 | Loch Nan Uamh – Loch of the Caves

Located south east of Arisaig, this is where Bonnie Prince Charlie landed to start the Jacobite uprising in 1745. This is also the spot where he fled to France in 1746.

12.3 | Lochailort

Located halfway between Arisaig and Glenfinnan, Lochailort is home to Inverailort Castle that was the headquarters for 42 Commando during the Second World War.

12.4 | Glenfinnan

Glenfinnan is a hamlet located at the head of Loch Shiel. It was here that Bonnie Prince Charlie raised his standard to regain the throne for the Stuarts. A monument is erected here to commemorate the event.

Sitting in a tranquil spot, the Glenfinnan Monument is 18 meters high and you can climb to the top via a narrow spiral staircase for outstanding views. Surrounded by mountains and overlooking the shores of Loch Shiel, the Glenfinnan Monument is a Highland gem worth visiting.

The Monument is owned by National Trust Scotland. It is open from April to October. The site has a Visitor Centre, gift shop, restaurants and amenities.

Visit the Glenfinnan Railway Station that is home to Glenfinnan Station Museum and if your visit is in mid August, you could witness the Glenfinnan Highland Gathering (Highland Games).

Address: Glenfinnan Monument, Glenfinnan, PH37 4LT


Places to Eat at Mallaig

Mallaig prawns

Mallaig offers varied choices of an abundance in fresh produce from land and sea. There are cafes, takeaways, restaurants and fine dining for all budgets along with panoramic sea and island views. My top 3 are as follows:

1 | Cornerstone

The Cornerstone Seafood Restaurant has a cosy atmosphere and offers elevated views of Mallaig harbour. I dined here and their fish & chips is the one to go for!

Address: Main Street, Mallaig, PH41 4PU

Check Tripadvisor Reviews on The Cornerstone Seafood Restaurant

2 | The Terrace Restaurant

The Terrace Restaurant has a range to offer – from light bites, soups, sandwiches to classic favourites and specialities. It ensures the freshest and locally available produce is used.

Address: Davies Brae, Mallaig, Inverness-shire, PH41 4QZ

Check Tripadvisor Reviews on The Terrace Restaurant

3 | The Fishmarket Restaurant

If you love seafood, the Fishmarket Restaurant is the place to be. Fish and shellfish are as fresh as they can be from the local boats! Ideally situated in the centre of town, with beautiful views of the harbour.

Address: Station Road, Mallaig, Inverness-shire, PH41 4QS

Check Tripadvisor Reviews on The Fishmarket Restaurant

4 | Jaffy’s

The one place in Mallaig that does Oak Smoked Kippers – Jaffy’s

Address: J.Lawrie & Sons ‘Jaffys’ , Station Road, Mallaig, PH41 4QD

Check Tripadvisor Reviews on Jaffy’s


Where to Stay in Mallaig

Booking.com

A final note on Mallaig

Mallaig is fascinating and it is different to other tourist destinations in The Highland. It is the harbour that is the centre point of activity rather than the town. Visitors soak up the atmosphere of a working fishing port while also relax in the untouched remoteness of this pretty harbour town. Due to its location, Mallaig is the gateway to the archipelago of islands on the west coast of Scotland. Definitely a perfect destination to spend some quality time and an escape to for some island views, seafood dining and sunsets.

Have a splendid time exploring Mallaig and The Highland.

Georgina xoxo

Georgina_Highlands and Steam Train tours
“Just as I board the West Highland and Jacobite Steam Train” – photo by a fellow traveller

Georgina on Scotland

I love going on guided tours especially when I am on my first visit to a destination. I find guided tours to be great value for money activities and an excellent tool to get the best overviews of a region.

I went on a number of small group tours when I visited Scotland. 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! 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.

Quick facts on Scotland

__________

Population: Over 5.4 million (2020)

Common Language: English. Gaelic is spoken by 1.3% of the population mostly in the west and in the Highlands.

Currency: £ – Pound (GBP)

Capital City: Edinburgh. Home to the first fire brigade in the world, and is the second largest city in Scotland. The largest metropolis in Scotland is Glasgow.

High season: Summer (July – August)

Religion: Christianity – 40% Church of Scotland. 15% Roman Catholic and 6% other Christian denominations. Minorities include Buddhist, Muslim, Hindu and Sikh with a quarter of the population has been recorded as having no religion.

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.

Scotland: Travel and Transport

Scotland: International Travel

UK Government: Foreign Travel Advice

UK Government: UK nationals travelling abroad

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Mallaig – Very best 12 Things To Do at the pretty harbour town in West Coast of the Highlands Scotland first published at timelesstravelsteps.com

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Mallaig | Pretty harbour town of Mallaig | West Coast Scotland | The Highland | Scottish Highlands | Scotland's prettiest harbour towns | Lochaber | Morar | Arisaig | Road to the Isles | How to get to Mallaig |  Mallaig Heritage Centre | via @GGeorgina_timelesstravelsteps/Mallaig | Pretty harbour town of Mallaig | West Coast Scotland | The Highland | Scottish Highlands | Scotland's prettiest harbour towns | Lochaber | Morar | Arisaig | Road to the Isles | How to get to Mallaig |  Mallaig Heritage Centre | via @GGeorgina_timelesstravelsteps/