Coire Uaigneich

Coire Uaigneich

Waterfalls on Allt na Dunaiche, below Coire Uaigneich on Bla Bheinn (Blaven), Isle of Skye. Available to buy at my Photobox Gallery.

A lovely claggy day on Blaven on the Isle of Skye produced this atmospheric image of the waterfalls on Allt na Dunaiche, which drains Coire Uaigneich. Hope you’ve got your teeth in if you’re trying to pronounce that! According to Ralph Storer, creator of a number of quality Scottish guidebooks, the pronounciation is as follows: Allt na Dunaiche = Owlt na Doonich-ya; Coire Uaigneich = Corra Oo-aignich…actually, maybe it’s not that bad, most welsh place names are much harder to say. If you’re interested in the meaning, this is where it gets all romantic…we’re looking at the burn of sorrow, draining the secret, remote or hidden valley -I can’t find any explanation for the burn of sorrow, but the hidden valley is a good descriptive name for the area between Blaven and neighbouring An Stac, and there are plenty of similarly named valleys across the highlands.

This image is from a classic route up an iconic mountain, supposedly the most straightforward of the cuilins, and one which we must get back to one day -we got as far as the col at the top end of the corrie before we turned back (a combination of fatigue, weather & bad navigation got to us). Early on you follow the burn up into the corrie, before following the shoulder of the mountain to its summit, and my camera got plenty of action in the early stages (until the cloud closed in and my resolve weakened). Part of that was down to the beautiful gorge that the burn flows through. In terms of why these waterfalls (and the gorge) have formed, I understand it comes down to a sequence of Jurassic limestones, which are quite a broad church, including mudstones, sandstones and silt, which are in close proximity to a volcanic intrusion of granite from an eruption around 66-23 million years ago. It appears the heat and activity of the underground eruption changed the limestone, folding it, cracking (faulting) it, changing its chemistry and exposing those hard and soft layers that a waterfall needs to form. It’s actually quite nice and clear to see on geological maps (for a change -it’s often a bit hard to work them out) -I’d put a link to the BGS viewer here, but it’s not working right now. This guy’s got some nice pictures of the various forms of limestone: stunning samples, and great pics.

Hope you enjoy the image as much as I do, I know it’s not quite the classic waterfall picture, I could perhaps have done with a slightly longer exposure for that, but I like the palate and the ambience created by the low cloud. In any case, sometimes I think it’s more appealing to see the stream of water broken up a little bit, closer to how the eye sees waterfalls.


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All images © Stephen Tyrrell, Mountains, Wild Places & Water, 2013. All rights reserved.

Some images also on offer at


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