Known by its Gaelic name Healabhal Mor, this is one of two ‘Tables’ above Dunvegan on Skye, flat topped and very distinctive. It’s only 471m in height yet packs a great punch on a fine day with views to the Cuillin, Harris, the Uists , Rum and even Barra rising out of the ocean. A hard place to leave on a sunny day. Last April was our second climb up its steep but easy grassy slopes (ok not easy, a tough if shortish slog). Our previous hike up to the huge flat summit brought no views as the cloud was down, very disappointing.This time , we fared far better. (for another day out we had on this hill followed by lunch at The Three Chimneys, please see: Macleod’s Tables Hike and a Michelin Lunch
Parking is wherever you can squeeze in off the B884 single track road to Colbost (not in a passing place however.) This area is called Osdale. It’s a lovely quiet part of Skye though in summer, there will be regular cars making for Neist Point.We headed out along the tarmac towards a track which leads to two very attractive holiday houses, before branching off right past them across a small field.There is a path but it is very very boggy; thankfully further up it improves a lot.
Our route took us above the Osdale river and a small birch-filled gorge until we drew level with the little burn itself , very easy to cross.We now followed a sheep track up rough ground, essentially making for the broad face of Healabhal Mor itself (it’s known locally as Helluva More, in tribute to the effort needed to ascend it! I found myself repeating that name like a mantra in my head as we slogged up the lower slopes.)
But already, some fine views of north Skye and the Cuillin were opening up, always good for keeping the spirits up.Something we always notice these days is how much harder a walk seems to be compared to previous years. We must have been wee sprightly mountain goats in times past.No more 😦 Still, as Chris always says to me when I moan about my legs being tired ‘we’re doing alright for a couple of old duffers.’ To which I always reply in indignation ‘speak for yourself!”
There are shallow rock bands near the top, easily scrambled through or avoided. There were some hefty showers about, making for dramatic light, but thankfully they missed us.
We were most of the way up when I spied a familiar shape sweeping gracefully across the slopes – a sea eagle! Big white wedge tail, wings like barn doors – a magnificent sight.There are few walks we have done on any of the islands that have not brought good eagle sightings.
Oh the relief after 80 mins or so to reach the flat summit, an area the size of a few football pitches.We were so lucky this time to have the vistas – the Black Cuillin, swathed in cloud.A brief glimpse of mountainous Rum; the shapely Uists on the western horizon.Harris and south Lewis.Even Barra – just.
The pale sands of the Coral beaches beyond Dunvegan Castle were very clear today. Loch Dunvegan itself, a favourite of mine, was looking very fine.
There are several legends about the origin of the name – Macleod’s Tables.Here is a lift from the excellent walkhighlands website:
‘There are a number of legends associated with the Tables. According to the most popular, the Chief of Clan MacLeod was invited to a banquet by King James V in Edinburgh. Hearing the taunts from the assembled dignitaries, Macleod boasted that he had a grander table and more beautiful candles on Skye. When some of these dignitaries came to Dunvegan, Macleod led them up Healabhal Mhor where he had laid out a great feast, with clansmen standing round the edge of the plateau holding torches.’
They would certainly have had an appetite if they’d climbed up here!
After a circular explore of the summit, relieved that the hard work was over, we settled down at a cluster of stones on the western edge, with views to the hill’s twin sister – Healabhal Beag. ‘Beag’ means small but it is actually the higher of the two and can be combined in the same walk to make for a longer day out.Our packed lunch of cheese and mayonnaise and lettuce sandwiches never tasted so good.
But lazy lumps that we are, where we were was ‘Mor’ than enough (groan.)Plus a requirement to cook a family 3 course dinner later on that day meant we had shopping and the like to do too.No rest for the wicked!
It was difficult to leave these views of sea lochs and headlands, islands and ocean but down we had to go.A fine half day out – 4 hours all in including plenty time lounging about on the top, enjoying the vistas.One to do in summer too when the moorland has turned green for different light effects. In April our hills are still dun-coloured, tawny and gold (which I think looks wonderful against a blue sky.)