Walk: Massacre & masses on Eigg's south coast

[Entrance to Cathedral Cave]

Spring 1577 was a particularly dark moment in the Isle of Eigg's turbulent history. The island's entire population sought refuge in a hidden cave on the south coast, taking cover from the MacLeods of Skye who had just landed on Eigg during a clan feud. After searching in vain for three days amidst snow and freezing temperatures, the MacLeods departed to return to Skye. Just as the islanders seemed safe, the MacLeods spotted a lookout. Returning to Eigg they followed his tracks through the snow to discover the cave, lighting a fire at the entrance. Trapped, nearly 400 islands were suffocated inside the cave by the smoke - some sources claim the muddy floor is still strewn with their bones. The cave is reached by a short walk from the island's ferry terminal: after negotiating the low entrance passageway you can explore the pitch-black interior which stretches back eighty metres, though you mightn't want to stay inside for too long. A short stumble to the west over slippery boulders is Cathedral Cave with a much larger and more visually impressive entrance: apparently mass services used to be held inside. Good rock pool territory lies in between the caves, but watch out for the tide.

[Entrance to Massacre Cave]

📌 Walk: Massacre & masses on Eigg's south coast ★★★
▶ 4 km / 2 miles | ▲ 90 metres | ⌚ Short walk
Points of interest: Massacre Cave (Uamh Fhraing); Cathedral Cave (Uamh Chràbhaichd)
Start / finish: Eigg ferry terminal, Galmisdale, G.R.: NM 485838 ///tasks.poem.vowel

Route: Galmisdale - path in front of house at G.R.: NM 479837 ///obey.grows.courts - descend to coastline immediately west of Massacre Cave - Massacre Cave immediately to east - Cathedral Cave a few hundred metres to west - return by outward route
Terrain: Good tracks and paths with rough descent to sea level. Slippery rocks to negotiate to reach (and explore) both caves from here. Massacre Cave requires crawling or a low stoop at first.
Wildlife today: Buzzard soaring above the caves; sheep; rockpool life including starfish, crabs and small fish.
Weather today: Sunny with light winds, temperature in mid-teens.
Anything else? Approach to Cathedral Cave submerged at high tide (and probably a couple of hours either side). Torch essential for Massacre Cave, and useful for Cathedral Cave.

[Starfish near Cathedral Cave]

Getting to Eigg

Most visitors probably arrive on the CalMac sailing from Mallaig, but there's also a seasonal passenger ferry from Arisaig run by Arisaig Marine Ltd. The latter option makes single-day trips feasible on certain days, otherwise you'll need to find accommodation on the island which can be tricky. Cars aren't normally allowed on the island without a permit.

[View east from the descent to the shore]

Route credit: Walkhighlands (modified)


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