|Falls of Measach, Corrieshalloch Gorge|
|The suspension bridge|
First stop was Corrieshalloch Gorge, meaning Ugly Hollow in Gaelic but I think it is pretty stunning. I think we all did. It is a National Trust for Scotland site and they maintain the suspension bridge, which was built in 1874 by Sir John Fowler (one of the chief engineers involved in the Forth Bridge), and the viewing platform. The gorge itself was cut by glacial meltwater 2.5 million years ago.
I have visited in the past, the last time around 20 years ago when I was on a student hillwalking trip (I wasn’t a cool and trendy student!)….but I think I found it far more impressive this time. Perhaps having children to keep an eye on had something to do with my sense of perspective!
|Looking from the viewing platform to the suspension bridge|
Next stop was Ullapool itself. It is a real picture perfect little highland town, it couldn’t really be in a more beautiful spot. It was designed in 1788 by Thomas Telford for the British Fisheries Society when fishing became an organised industry at the height of the herring boom*. It still operates as a small fishing harbour, and the main ferry point for Stornaway in the Outer Hebrides, but nowadays tourism is very important.
Normally we are religious about taking a picnic lunch with us, it costs a lot to buy lunch for us all. But because this was John’s special day we had fish and chips as a treat. It was delicious, helped no doubt by the view of the harbour and the fresh sea air.
|Cul Beag, Stac Pollaidh and Cul Mor|
Next stop was Knockan Crag. This National Nature Reserve has some of the oldest rocks in Europe and the excellent interpretation tells the story of the role this site played in our understanding of key geological points – such as how rocks move from where they were formed and how older rocks can lie above younger ones.
The Moine Thrust is internationally famous – at Knockan Crag you can clearly see the much older and darker Moine schist lying above the lighter and younger Durness limestone. Peach and Horne were the two mappers for the Geological Survey of Scotland who, in the early 1900s, worked out that tectonic movement explained the conundrum.
|Yellow mountain saxifrage at home on a patch of limestone|
|Big steps for small legs|
I’m sure we’ll have many more trips west to this special part of our country. I would love to explore some of the other sites in the North West Highland Geopark and the hills are some of the most dramatic you could hope to see and walk. The main hills shown in the photos above are Cul Beag, Cul Mor and Stac Pollaidh.
I hadn’t intended to write so much but I truly loved this trip and the places we visited and I found myself sharing lots more than planned. I would most definitely urge you to visit if you ever get the chance!
* I don’t know nearly as much as I should about the story of the herring industry in Scotland. The boom in the early 1800s was fuelled by a government bounty of £3 per tonne to every owner of a boat of more than 60 tonnes and a further bounty for fish sold overseas. Much of the industry was based in east coast towns and further north it offered hope for those suffering from the Highland Clearances. I’m planning to re-read Neil Gunn’s The Silver Darlings – a novel set in a north east fishing village and told through Finn and his mother Catriona.