Spar Cave

Slochd Altrimen - Cave of the Nursling

Useful Information

Location: On Skye, on the east coast of Strathaird in the village of Glasnakille. Leave A87 in Broadford towards south, road ends in Elgol, from the parking lot follow the single lane road to Glasnakille to the east. Where it reaches the other side of the peninsula the cave is located below the cliff.
Open: Only during low tide. one hour before to one after lowest tide.
Fee: free.
Classification: SpeleologyKarst Cave
Light: none, bring torch.
Dimension: L=100 m.
Guided tours: self guided
Photography: allowed
Accessibility: no
Bibliography: K. Macleay, M. D. (1811): Description of the Spar Cave on
As far as we know this information was accurate when it was published (see years in brackets), but may have changed since then.
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1814 visited by Sir Walter Scott.


Spar Cave was named after the spars, the calcite crystals which once covered the walls. It was a sort of show cave during Victorian times, and visited by many famous travellers, the most famous was probably Sir Walter Scott. After his visit in 1814 he wrote a poem about the cave.

'And mermaid's alabaster grot,
Who bathes her limbs in sunless well
Deep in Strathaird's enchanted cell.'

Sir Walter Scott: The Lord of the Isles, Canto III, stanza XXVIII.

As a matter of fact the shimmering crystals were an effect of the reflection of torchlight, which on the other side destroyed the beauty of the cave. Black grease covers now walls and ceiling. And many of the formations have been destroyed during the centuries. The cave was even used as a traget by a passing gun boat searching for target practice. At this time the entrance was partially bricked up with a wall two meters high and a large gap for a doorway. The door was blown off by the gun of the gun boat.

Today the cave is freely accessible and a nice visit while staying on Skye. But it is a wild cave and a lot of difficulties have to be mastered. First the road to Elgol, which is very narrow and old, then a 20 min walk to the other side of the peninsula, down the steep cliffside, and back to the cave along the foot of the cliff. The cave is located in the niveau of the tide, so it may be entered between one hour before the lowest tide and one hour after. It is possible to stay in the cave during high tide, but it may be boring to wait for 10 hours.

The cave is entered through a narrow gorge which is about 60 m long, and only one metre wide. At the end is a sort of amphitheatre and the entrance of tghe cave on the other side. The cave has two branches, a short one to the right, which is only 20 m long, and a long one to the left, about 80 m long. At the end of the long branch is the socalled Frozen Waterfall, a rather common flowstone formation. The cave ends at an sump.

The visit of Spar Cave is rather easy and a lot of fun, but as always we want to warn of too much carelessness. This is a wild cave and old clothes, sturdy shoes or rubber boots, if available a helmet, and at least two lamps per person, are absolutely necessary. Be carefull because of the tide, it is best to time the visit to one houer before lowest tide and keep the time for return in mind. Never go alone and tell somebody where you are and when you plan to return.

The caves of Skye are located inside a narrow band of limestone and marble, which runs from the ShowcaveSmoo Cave at the northern coast of Scotland to the southeast and across the island of Skye. It is quarried in Torrin, which is located at the road from Broadford to Elgol. The limestone ist full of caves, about 100 have so far been explored. Typically they start right at the border between insoluble rocks (granite or other crystallines) where the water vasnishes in swallow holes. The water returns typically at the sea, where the mounds of the caves are widened by the action of the sea. Nearby is a second cave, which is also accesible during lowes tide, called Prince Charlie's Cave.