Geography & Geology

The Isle of Skye is in the Inner Hebrides on the west coast of Scotland. At 1,656 square kilometres (639 sq mi), Skye is the second-largest island in Scotland after Lewis and Harris. The coastline of Skye is a series of peninsulas and bays radiating out from a centre dominated by the Cuillin (Gaelic:An Cuiltheann) hills. The main peninsulas include Trotternish in the north, Waternish, Duirinish, Minginish and Strathaird to the west and Sleat in the south. Surrounding islands include Islay, Longay, Pabay, Raasay, Rona, Scalpay and Soay. Malcolm Slesser suggested that its shape "sticks out of the west coast of northern Scotland like a lobster's claw ready to snap at the fish bone of Harris and Lewis" and W. H. Murray that "Skye is sixty miles long, but what might be its breadth is beyond the ingenuity of man to state".

The Black Cuillin, which are mainly composed of basalt and gabbro, include 12 Munros and provide some of the most dramatic and challenging mountain terrain in Scotland. The ascent of Sgurr a' Ghreadaidh is one of the longest rock climbs in Britain and the Inaccessible Pinnacle is the only peak in Scotland that requires technical climbing skills to reach the summit.  A full traverse of the Cuillin ridge may take 15–20 hours to complete. The Red Hills (Gaelic: Am Binnean Dearg) to the south are sometimes also known as the Red Cuillin. They are mainly composed of granite that has weathered into more rounded hills with many long screes slopes on their flanks. The highest point of these hills is Glamaig, one of only two Corbetts on Skye.

Trotternish is underlain by basalt, which provides relatively rich soils and a variety of unusual rock features. The Kilt Rock is named for the tartan-like patterns in the 105 metre (350 ft) cliffs. The Quirang is a spectacular series of rock pinnacles on the eastern side of the main spine of the peninsula and further south is the rock pillar of the Old Man of Storr.

Beyond Loch Snizort to the west of Trotternish is the Waternish peninsula, which ends in Ardmore Point's double rock arch. Duirinish is separated from Waternish by Loch Dunvegan. It is ringed by sea cliffs which reach 295 metres (967 ft) at Waterstein Head. Oolitic loam provides good arable land in the main strath. Lochs Bracadale and Harport lie between Duirinish and Minginish which includes the narrow valleys of Talisker and Glen Brittle and whose beaches are formed from black basaltic sands. Strathaird is a relatively small peninsula close to the Cuillin hills with several small crofting communities. The bedrock of Sleat is Torridonian sandstone which produces poor soils and boggy ground, although it’s lower elevations and relatively sheltered eastern shores produces a lush growth of hedgerows and crops.

 

 

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