Spar Cave – Isle of Skye, Scotland - Atlas Obscura

AO Edited

Spar Cave

Though difficult to access, this stunning cave has a place in Scotland's poetic history. 


Located on the Isle of Skye, Spar Cave is only accessible for an hour on either side of low tide, but for those prepared to brave the wet and brief clamber over the rocks, hides a beautiful cavern and a place steeped in local legend and literary history. 

Reaching the cave is no easy task. Visitors must traverse a canyon that drives some 200 feet inland, where walls of rock rise at least 100 feet tall on either side. The moss-covered remains of an old wall stand over the entrance to the cave. It was built in the 19th century to prevent people from visiting the cave without a guide. But it failed to deter many intrepid visitors.

In Gaelic, the name of this cave is Slochd Altimen, or “Nursing Cave.” This refers to a 9th-century princess who fell in love with a shipwrecked sailor from a different clan. Fearful of the repercussions of their liaison, the princess is said to have hidden their baby in this cave.

During the 19th-century, the cave had become a spot along the tourist trail. It was famously visited in 1814 by Sir Walter Scott, who described the cave’s cathedral-like interior, covered with calcite luminous “spars” in his poem ‘The Lord of the Isles.” The poem tells the story of a mermaid bathing in a pool concealed deep within the enchanted cell.

Know Before You Go

The cave is only accessible an hour on either side of high tide, tide times are available here.

It is very easy to become trapped by the rising tide in the cave, while the cave does not flood this could be for 12 hours so is best avoided. Even at low tide, there is a steep descent and tricky clamber over wet rocks.

Once in, the cave to the left hides the calcite formations, to see the pool hidden at the back you must climb up these. This appears impossibly slippery and steep, however, there is actually good grip on the stone. Torches, ideally head ones, are essential.

In partnership with KAYAK

Plan Your Trip

From Around the Web