Interview: Adrian Trendall of All Things Cuillin
I interviewed Adrian Trendall, the founder of All Things Cuillin, a mountain guiding company on the Island of Skye.
Adrian’s island dream
The Island of Skye measures just 48 miles in length and 25 miles at the widest point, yet Adrian Trendall reveals he would happily never leave.
The climber and photographer says: “Skye has everything I could want, including hills, mountains, coast, views, wildlife and a great community atmosphere.
“I rarely go off the island – I have to be dragged off, to be honest – because it is just such an awesome place to live.”
It was luck – both good and bad – that led to Adrian’s relatively recent move to the famous destination, located off the Scottish north-west coast.
A life of climbing
Although much revered by outdoors enthusiasts, especially because of the Alpine-style Cuillin mountain ridge, Skye is just one of the many places the 56-year-old has spent time throughout his life.
A climber as long as he can remember, Adrian enjoyed an itinerant life in his younger days “roaming the world” in search of the best routes.
He says: “My passion for the sport started with rock climbing and winter climbing courses at Glenmore Lodge, near Aviemore in the Scottish Highlands.
“I wanted to travel and climb and I would work in the UK, doing all kinds of manual jobs, to raise money for my next trip.
“I was fortunate to be able to climb all over the UK, Europe and America, and always in the mountains. I would spend months in each location and I’ve completed many classic routes.”
In his early 30s, Adrian finally settled into a career in the outdoors. He worked for two years in south-west England, guiding walkers over Dartmoor.
He then took a position at Ogwen Cottage in Snowdonia, Wales, as an outdoor and climbing instructor. His role included working with children from disadvantaged backgrounds as part of an outdoor education unit funded by Birmingham City Council.
Adrian, who holds a summer Mountain Leader qualification, says: “I was at Ogwen for 12 years and it was a great job. It was very rewarding. But then there were council funding cuts and I was suddenly redundant.”
More time on Skye
He describes the next period of his life as tough. He says: “I became depressed after the redundancy and I struggled to find focus in my life. My escape was to spend time on Skye.
“I had long had a fascination with the island’s mountains but due to my work over the previous decade I’d had limited time to visit. I started making longer trips to Skye and I think it saved me mentally because I found being on the island very therapeutic.”
During this time, Adrian made comprehensive diaries of his trips, recording his walks and climbs, especially on the iconic Cuillin Ridge. He also set up a freelance guiding business, while still living in England.
What is the Cuillin Ridge?
Often described as the ultimate UK ridge, a traverse of the Cuillin range extends to 12km of scrambling, 4000-plus metres of ascent/descent, several classic climbs and abseils to say nothing of the three-hour walk in – and the same out again.
A big move for Adrian
What came next took Adrian by surprise. He says: “On one trip to Skye I met Bridgette, who is now my wife. It was October 2016, we bumped into each other in Sligachan, near the Cuillin, and we got chatting.
“We were married in November 2018 on Skye. In between, we decided to move together to the island.”
At the time, Bridgette (Blackmore), who has two grown-up children, was living near Bristol and working at the university. Adrian says: “We asked around on-line and found a place to live temporarily at Sconser, a small settlement on Loch Sligachan.
“It felt like the right place to be, near the sea and with amazing views of the Red Cuillin but still close enough for an easy drive to the Black Cuillin and the ridge. It gave us time to work out where we would settle permanently.
“We’ve been very fortunate and have purchased land at Glen Brittle, which could not be more perfect as a mountain guide as it is at the foot of the Cuillin ridge.
“Of course, we could not have foreseen the Covid-19 pandemic and the subsequent lockdown so while the building of our eco-house should have started already, we are hoping it will get underway later in 2020.”
We love Skye
The couple have been delighted by how welcome they have been made on Skye. Adrian says: “The community spirit is fantastic and I feel like we have fitted in quite well. We have been keen to become a useful part of the community and we join many volunteer activities, such as beach cleans and removing litter at the Fairy Pools.
“We like how everyone looks after each other and this has been especially evident during lockdown.”
In 2017, the couple also set up a business, All Things Cuillin, as well as a Facebook group of the same name, which now has almost 7500 members.
Adrian offers his services as a climbing instructor and mountain leader in the Cuillin, while Bridgette prefers to lead people on lower-level walks around the island.
They are both keen photographers and sell their work through the website. In addition, Adrian has become the author of a new book, Skye’s Cuillin Ridge Traverse, published by Cicerone earlier this year.
He says: “I remember during my first trips post-redundancy on Skye, I was frustrated I couldn’t find what I felt was a useful guidebook for a Cuillin traverse. I wanted one that offered all the details in a logical order.
“I think back then I had the first seeds of an idea to write a guidebook. It was only more recently this became a reality.”
A new Cuillin guide book
Cicerone Press was immediately taken by the idea. Working alongside Harvey Maps and combining Adrian’s expertise and photography, the Cuillin Traverse book is in two parts.
The first volume provides a wealth of information about equipment, weather and strategy for completing a full 12km traverse. There are also 10 “classic scrambles” meant as practice routes.
Volume two covers the ridge itself in great detail and is a small enough book for people to take with them on a traverse. The author says: “It is in simplified geographical order with topographical maps, photos and details step by step. It is exactly what I wished I’d had when I first did the traverse.”
Adrian reports that he has seen an increased interest in recent years from people who want to complete a Cuillin traverse and also those keen to reach the summits of 12 iconic Munros on the narrow ridge.
He says: “I think that social media has been a major driver in spreading the word and increasing the popularity of the Cuillin.
“Last year, in particular, was very busy and there were so many incredible times with clients. For example, a springer spaniel called Genghis came with his owner Mac Wright from Kinross-shire to do all the Cuillin Munros.
“There was also a couple, Andy and his wife Gerry, in their 70s, from Cornwall, who had spent more than 30 years walking Scotland’s Munros. They wanted to do the Cuillin Munros but Gerry was terrified. In the end is was one of the best traverses – over three days – I have done.
“There are so many stories that make me smile as I look back.”
Despite being in the Cuillin many times – Adrian works six days a week from April to October in a normal year – and completing countless traverses, he reports he never tires of the mountains.
He says: “It’s the people that make it different every time, plus the weather and conditions. No day is ever the same as another and you never see the same view twice. I couldn’t become bored in such an incredible environment.
“In fact my next project is to produce a coffee table book of photography of Skye. There is so much to showcase, in the mountains, lower level and at the coast. I never want to leave this island.”
Find out more
See allthingscuillin.co.uk for more information about guiding and to buy Adrian’s book.
- The article published in The Scots Magazine, August 2020: