Episode 1: Cúchulainn

A gritty love letter to the Isle of Skye, from the dark waters of Loch Coruisk to the looming heights of the Black Cuillin.

“I come from Yorkshire, but I always said you’d have to chain me up to take me out of Scotland.”

In 1959, sixteen-year-old Ian ‘Spike’ Sykes left school and, after a short period of work at Leeds University, joined the RAF. Already a keen climber, he signed up on the promise of excitement and adventure and was posted to the remote RAF Kinloss Mountain Rescue Team in the north of Scotland.

The Cuillin Ridge on the Isle of Skye is known for being the finest mountaineering day out in the United Kingdom, a true test piece for climbers and runners. In a remote corner of the island, tucked below the Dubhs in the Coruisk Memorial Hut, Spike reflects on his love of Scotland, his affinity with the wild ridge line, and his memories of the tragic mountain rescue call out that took place over the New Year of 1963.

I don’t think there’s anywhere else in Britain quite like it. It’s long. In distance, it’s only I think 7 miles, but it’s up and down. I think it’s like climbing Everest in vertical height. It’s very exposed. You do have a feeling of being up in the air, you know, it’s a very airy place. The most stunning situations. There’s not a tree or any grass or anything like that… it’s just sheer rock stretching for miles in front of you. There’s something very beautiful about the place. It’s always a great day out.” – Ian ‘Spike’ Sykes on ‘The Ridge’.