Loch Coruisk

A historical perspective, drawn from the Ordnance Gazetteer of Scotland: A Survey of Scottish Topography, Statistical, Biographical and Historical, edited by Francis H. Groome and originally published in parts by Thomas C. Jack, Grange Publishing Works, Edinburgh between 1882 and 1885.

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Coruisk or Corriskin, a fresh-water loch on the mutual border of Strath and Bracadale parishes, in the SE of the Isle of Skye, Inverness-shire, ½ mile N of the head of salt-water Loch Scavaig, which communicates by steamlaunch with Kilbride upon Loch Slapin (14 miles), as that again by public conveyance with Broadford (6 miles). With utmost length and breadth of 1¾ and &ht. mile, it is of profound depth; contains sea-trout; sends off a rivulet, the ` Mad Stream,' to Loch Scavaig, whilst fed itself by hundreds of silvery torrents; and on its surface bears three green islets, that offer a striking contrast to the desolation around. For Coruisk lies, still and sombre, in the cup of the mighty Cuchullins, which shoot up their bare jagged peaks 3000 feet and more into the sky. To quote Scott's Lord of the Isles-

`Rarely human eye has known
A scene so stern as that dread lake,
With its dark ledge of barren stone.
Seems that primeval earthquake's sway
Hath rent a strange and shatter'd way
Through the rude bosom of the hill,
And that each naked precipice,
Sable ravine. and dark abyss,
Tells of the outrage still.
The wildest glen. but this, can show
Some touch of Nature's genial glow:
On high Benmore green mosses grow.
And heath-bells bud in deep Glencroe,
And copse on Cruachan-Ben;
But here. above. around. below,
On mountain or in glen,
Nor tree. nor shrub, nor plant. nor flower,
Nor aught of vegetative power,
The weary eye may ken.
For ail is rocks at random thrown,-
Black waves, bare crags. and banks of stone,
As if were here denied
The summer sun. the spring's sweet dew,
That clothe with many a varied hue
The blackest mountain-side.'

Whereon Turner, whose pencil delineated the scene to illustrate Sir Walter's poem, remarked, that ` no words could have given a truer picture of this, one of the wildest of Nature's landscapes.' Of many prose descriptions the finest perhaps is that from the Journal of Norman Macleod, under date 1 Sept. 1837:-` Having left our horses at Camasunary, we ascended by a rough road to a pass, from which we obtained a view of Coruisk. Wilson being a bad walker, I was up nearly half an hour before him. Besides I wished to behold Coruisk alone; and, as I ascended the last few blocks of stone which intercepted my view, I felt my heart beat and my breathing becoming thicker than when I was climbing-for I had rested before in order to enjoy the burst undisturbed -and a solemn feeling crept over me as I leapt on the crest of the hill, and there burst upon my sight-shall I attempt to describe it? How dare I? Around me were vast masses of hypersthene, and the ridge on which I stood was so broken and precipitous that I could not follow its descent to the valley. At my feet lay the lake, silent and dark, and round it a vast amphitheatre of precipices. The whole Cuchullins seemed gathered in a semicircle round the lake, and from their summits to their base not a blade of verdure,-but one bare, black precipice, cut into dark chasms by innumerable torrents, and having their bases covered by débris and fallen rocks. Nothing could exceed the infinite variety of outline-peaks, points, teeth, pillars, rocks, ridges, edges, steps of stairs, niches-utter wildness and sterility. From this range there are gigantic projections standing out and connected with the main body. And there lay the lake, a part hidden from our view, behind a huge rock. There it lay still and calm, its green island like a green monster floating on its surface. I sat and gazed; " my spirit drank the spectacle." I never felt the same feeling of the horribly wild-no, never; not even in the Tyrolese Alps. There was nothing here to speak of life or human existence. " I held my breath to listen for a sound, but everything was hushed; it seemed abandoned to the spirit of solitude." A few wreaths of mist began to creep along the rocks like ghosts. Laugh at superstition for coupling such scenes with witches and water-kelpies ! I declare I felt superstitions in daylight there. Oh, to see it in a storm, with the clouds under the spur of a hurricane, raking the mountain summit ! ' (Memoir, 1876). See also chap. v. of Alexander Smith's Summer in Skye (1865), and chap. xxvi. of William Black's Madcap Violet (1876).

An accompanying 19th C. Ordnance Survey map is available, or use the map tab to the right of this page.

Note: This text has been made available using a process of scanning and optical character recognition. Despite manual checking, some typographical errors may remain. Please remember this description dates from the 1880s; names may have changed, administrative divisions will certainly be different and there are known to be occasional errors of fact in the original text, which we have not corrected because we wish to maintain its integrity. This information is provided subject to our standard disclaimer

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