If you like a true adventure, then the 80-metre-deep, spectacular Spar Cave is for you! The cave can only be accessed at low tide so it’s essential to properly plan your visit. Spar Cave doesn’t have information boards, signs, rails or steps like most of the other tourist attractions on Skye. This makes it all the more exciting.
I would go as far as describing Spar Cave as one of Scotland’s greatest hidden gems. If you succeed in finding the cave, I promise it will be an experience you will never forget.
3 Quick Fun Facts About Spar Cave
- Sir Walter Scott’s poem The Lord of the Isles describes a mermaid bathing in the pool of water that’s found inside Spar Cave. This led to the cave being a popular destination for wealthy Victorian day trippers in the 19th Century.
- Spar cave is also known as an Sloc an Altramain (gaelic) or the Nursing Cave. An old folktale from the 9th century tells the story of a local princess who fell in love with a rival chief’s son who was shipwrecked. She fell pregnant and when she gave birth to his son, she hid in the cave to protect him and to hide from her father who would have been furious.
- Adventurer Bear Ghrylls took Actor Ben Stiller to Spar Cave, where they filmed an episode called surviving the night inside the cave.
How to find Spar Cave
Spar Cave is 2km away from Elgol on the Isle of Skye. If you are coming by public transport, you can take the bus to Elgol and walk to it from there. If you are driving you can drive to Elgol and continue along the road to Glasnakille. It is probably best to park before the T-junction as you come into Glasnakile. The path to Spar Cave begins in a farmer’s field directly opposite Spar Cottage.
Go through the gate and follow the faint path through the field which heads towards the coast line. The path leads you through some trees then down a gully that leads down to a sea inlet. The route down from here is quite steep but there is a faint path to follow all the way down. Once at the bottom you have to navigate your way across large stones and boulders that are wet and slippery with seaweed. Follow the coast around to the left. You will come to another flooded inlet with nice green water (we had a dip here on the way back). Continue past this and round the coast to the next inlet (this will only be possible when the tide is fully out).
Finding the Entrance
You will reach a large inlet with high cliffs on each side. Spar Cave sits at the end of this. As you approach the cave you will see the remains of an old 19th century stone wall. A local landowner had built this wall to try and stop access to the cave. Sir Walter Scott fell in love with Spar Cave and had to climb over the wall when he visited in 1814. A sailor has since fired a canon into the wall, making enough space in the wall to get through.
As you approach the cave you will see two entrances in front of you. The one on the left takes you to Spar Cave. The entrance on the right is extremely muddy (I nearly lost a shoe) and it doesn’t lead to much so definitely stick to the left! The entrance to the cave is huge in height with hundreds of small droplets of water falling perpetually around you. On a sunny day the droplets glistens like diamonds, creating a really magical experience as you enter the cave.
Inside the Cave
We arrived an hour or so before the lowest tide to allow enough time to make our way down the steep gully and round the slippery coast line to get to Spar Cave. It gave us a full hour to explore inside the magnificent cave. I almost don’t want to give away too many spoilers but once inside the cave it’s like being transported into a different world.
The white flowstone “steps” that take you high into the cave are like something out of a fantasy novel. As is the circular blue pool that awaits you at the other side of the descent. The interior of the cave reminded me of a Gaudi building, but even more fantastical. Of course, without a torch it’s almost entirely pitch black but as soon as you light that cave up it genuinely leaves you lost for words.
As we made our way through the cave the first thing that we noticed were the high and formidable ceilings. To reach further inside the cave we had to scramble up two storeys of flowstone with the second ascent being much steeper. Everything feels a little more dangerous due to the absence of light and reliance on your torch. As you scramble up the cave the water flows down the floor and drips from the ceiling.
Get ready to scramble
You expect the flowstone to be slippery, due to the water that runs down and over its lumps and bumps. However, the surface provides a surprising amount of grip and traction. We still used both our hands and feet in the scramble to be safe and I would recommend a head torch if you have one in order to leave both your hands free.
The cave floor has the most amazing markings due to the calcium deposits forming around the puddles. The walls and ceilings flow around you in a way that make you feel like you are in the bowels of a living organism. When you shine your torch the whiteness of the spectacular cave is illuminated in all its beauty. Once you reach the highest point of the cave you descend down a flowstone passage-way to the pool at the bottom. Despite our nerves we were determined to enter the pool and see what lay beyond.
The Spar Cave Pool
The pool is clear, cold and dark. The lack of sunlight creates an unnerving experience as you brace yourself to split the icy water. We submerged ourselves into the cold and dark and a couple of strokes saw us at the other side of the pool. The water itself is only about 4ft deep, but the environment makes it feel like anything could be lurking under the surface. At the other side of the pool is a small ledge that overhangs the end of the cave. We shone a torch down into the final cavity- feeling satisfied that we had come as far as we could. Time was ticking so we decided to get dried off and head back to the cave entrance!
Check out our TikTok video of Spar Cave! Spooky!
Tips For Visiting Spar Cave
Our Spar Cave adventure took 2 hours total. It is important to make sure the walk is completed in time or you could get stranded. As awesome as the cave is I wouldn’t want to spend 12 hours in there waiting for the next low tide. There are apps and websites to check the tide times.
It is important to come prepared for visiting the cave. It’s a steep path down to the coast and the rocks and boulders on route to the cave are wet and slippery so make sure you have the correct foot wear. It is really dark inside so a couple of torches are required (It’s always good to have a backup in case your batteries run out). We would recommend bringing head torches as we needed both our hands to scramble up the steep flowstone stairwell when we were inside. It is also advisable to use a helmet as its steep, dark and wet inside.
When visiting the cave do so with at least one other person. The cave is remote and if anything was to happen to you it might be while before anyone else comes to the cave It’s better to be safe than sorry!
If I could change one thing from our visit, I would have taken an even more powerful torch. Take the most powerful one you can reasonably and safely carry. When you see the unbelievable interior of Spar Cave you will understand why!
Enjoy your visit
The return back from Spar Cave is by the same route you came. Enjoy your visit to Spar Cave, plan your experience, take great care, and don’t damage the cave in any way. We can’t wait to hear about your experiences!