Caves, waterfalls, fairies....and dinosaurs!
Dinosaurs on Skye
Dinosaur footprint on Staffin beach, with a 10p coin for scale
Although the vast majority of Skye is composed of fossil-free basalt rocks, there are exposures of sedimentary beds in several places around the coasts. Many of these exposures are difficult to reach, and many of them are rich in fossils. For the casual fossil seeker, the most attractive of Skye's sites are the ones with evidence of dinosaurs. Luckily, two of the best places to find them - Staffin and Duntulm - are very easy to get to.
Any collecting of fossils, or damage to fossils or prints at any of these sites can lead to a fine of up to £40,000.
Dinosaur Prints at Staffin
On the beach at An Corran, Staffin, are some remarkable footprints. They were left by a family of dinosaurs that walked across the sand here some 165 million years ago. To put that in context, the gabbro rocks of the Cuillin were formed about 60 million years ago, and they were carved by the glaciers of the last ice age on Skye just 11,000 years ago. These are very, very old footprints. To be able to see and touch them in-situ is an amazing experience. There is a sense of connection with these beings from an unimaginable distance in time.
Fairy Glen - Uig
Although categorised here under 'natural wonders', this place is actually supernatural. It is also not well known - there are no roadsigns to point the way. Luckily, it isn't too difficult to find, just a short way off the main A87 south of Uig.
Leave the main road at NG397633, just by the Uig Hotel, climbing the hill on the wee road signed to Sheadar and Balnaknock. The fairies live about a mile up here. You'll certainly know when you have reached their special place.
Fairy Pools - Glen Brittle
Skye’s Fairy Pools have become rather famous in the past few years. They feature in ever-growing numbers of international lists of ‘Places to see before you die’, ‘The world’s best wild swimming locations’ and suchlike. With their growing popularity have come challenges around car parking and facilities. Indeed, the area gets so busy at peak times that I recommend visiting early or late in the day, or in the winter, or when the sun is not shining. There are many fine places to go to on a summer day on Skye, and there are plenty of alternative waterfalls and wild swimming locations all around the Cuillin range. You could do worse than follow the hike from Sligachan towards Bealach a' Mhàim.
The famous Kilt Rock is a sea cliff in north east Trotternish. It is said to resemble a kilt, with vertical basalt columns to form the pleats and intruded sills of dolerite forming the pattern.
This is a popular stopping point on the road between Portree and Staffin and there is a large car park by the waterfall at NG508655, at Ellishadder.
Spar Cave is an astonishing, cathedral-like structure, some 50m long, with a marble-like flowstone staircase and huge columns formed from the centuries of water dripping through the limestone. In places the roof of the cave has been discoloured by the candles and torches of visiting Victorians, who also removed as souvenirs many of the stalagmites and stalactites. They didn't manage to destroy the magic though.
The cave was visited by Sir Walter Scott in 1814. He later described it in “The Lord of the Isles” as:
The mermaid’s alabaster grot, who bathes her limbs in sunken well, deep in Strathaird’s enchanted cell.
You'll find Spar Cave near Elgol, at Glasnakille on the western shore of Loch Slapin - NG538128. Go south at the T-junction in Glasnakille and after 50m, opposite the first white house, you will see a stile on your left that will take you to the route down.