The Gillen walk follows a forestry track that crosses the Waternish peninsula from east to west to reach the beautiful Gillen beach. The clifftop on the west coast offer impressive views down over the beach below then out to sea and the Ascrib Islands. The track down to the beach is steep, but the beach is well worth visiting as it makes a great place to have lunch.
This walk has a total distance of 7km to the beach and back. It takes an average time of 2hours to complete with no stopping. The route has been graded as Medium in difficulty due to the steep section back up from the beach, though underfoot the track is solid the whole way.
The walk is in Waternish 22miles from Portree. Parking is 0.3mile beyond ‘Skye Skins’ where you will see a stone wall and large gate on the left, the Gillen parking is directly across the road on your right. There is space for about 6 cars without blocking the access.
The walk starts off by crossing a cattle grid and following the solid stony track uphill, there is croft land on either side. This part of the walk has large gorse bushes along the edges of the path. Ahead you will see a recently planted section of the Waternish Forest. It is worth stopping and looking back behind you to see the stunning views of Loch Dunvegan and Minch.
The track takes you to the second cattle grid.
You are now entering Waternish Forest, continue along the track through the young forest. You will see heather moorland to the left with the forest to the right. The track slowly climbs up taking you to a small junction in the track. Continue straight ahead to get to the beach.
The track reaches the summit, you will start to see views out to sea on the east coast and over to the Ascrib Islands. The track takes you on to a second junction. Here you will see an old quarry used to dig out gravel to build and maintain the forestry track.
At this junction turn right to stay in the forest (if you carry on strait you will cut out some of the walk).
After turning right there is a gate across the track, but it can easily be walked around.
Follow the track which takes you up into an older section of the forest, some of which has been harvested. Over to the left in the distance you will see the houses in the townships of Gillen and Geary.
Follow the track as it starts to drop down you will soon reach a large agricultural barn.
Pass the agricultural barn and you will reach the clifftop where you will get a first glimpse of the view down over the bay.
Follow the track as it zigzags steeply down the cliff side.
Once you reach the bottom of the cliff follow the muddy track along next to the shore on your left and the forestry to your right.
The path cuts down to the beach. Take some time to explore. When the tide is lower is reveals grey sand at the far end of the beach.
The beach makes a great spot to have some lunch or even a swim in warmer weather.
Just up from the shore there are the ruins of a traditional black house.
Follow the track back the way you came. The route up the cliffside is a little intimidating and may test your fitness.
Once back at the barn, you can choose to take the same track back the way you came, or you can go to the right of the large barn. This route is slightly shorter but has two river crossings which may be difficult to cross after wet weather. This option takes you back to the junction by the quarry where you then follow the main track back to the carpark.