The Western Isles – or There and Back Again (II)

By Bernie Bell

The Land of Mad Mountains

Mad mountains abound. Over – I don’t know how many – crests in the road, you encounter a view and go “Blimey!!!!”.  A whole landscape of wonder.  I love Orkney, I love its varied landscapes, I still marvel at the fact that we live here, and that, any weekend, we can ‘go on our holidays’ – even just driving to and from work, Mike appreciates what he is driving through. But……the landscape of Assynt is…….something else.  Different –  very exciting.

Five years ago, we also stopped at the Knockan Crag visitor centre, but didn’t have time to walk along the geology trail.

This time, we did.  All I can say is – go there.  You feel as though you’re right in there, as the world shaped itself.  I know that the geology of the earth is always there, all around us.  It often dictated where people first chose to live, or could manage to live.  But – being on this trail, standing and looking about you, you really do feel how the earth – formed – shaped.  The view down through the mountains…The view across


The crags looming over all.  Something of the Dwarfie Hammars of Hoy, or maybe I was hankering after home!

Peach Horne and B Bell geology trailThe geology is there, the rocks, mountains and lakes are there, and whoever set up those trails, to involve the people of today, in this place of the deep past, has made a lovely job of it.  It’s a place of many wonders, in many ways.

I met my old friend the eminent geologist , and he introduced me to his friend, then Mr. Peach, Mr. Horne and myself, discussed matters geological.


These sculptures, by Alan Herriot, have a real presence.

geology trail B Bell stone ballThen we walked along and encountered a line of stones, telling of  Scotland’s place  in relation to the formation of the land masses of the earth ( something like the time–line at Skara Brae), with a globe formed by Joe Smith overlooking it all.

In a previous piece for TON, Bernie Bell: Orkney Walks (with Stories) – Rousay    I took you on a walk through time on the Orkney island of Rousay.  At Knockan Crag, we have another walk through time, on a geological scale!

And…that stone globe….I WANT ONE!

Further along the track, we encountered some carvings of fossils,  by Susheila Jamieson, placed, just right, by a little bridge and it’s flowing hand rail.

geology trail B Bell fossil carvings

Then – well, we came to some very steep, very rocky, very – everything – steps, which I simply couldn’t manage.  Such is the cussedness of the smallbear, that I stood and stared at them, planning how I might be able to attempt them one section at a time – then got real. I think it might be something to do with the place – it fills you with life, and makes you think you CAN.  I couldn’t though.

In these situations, I often sit for a bit, while Mike continues on the trail, but, in this case, he decided to be content with the section which we had done, and we  re-traced our steps back to the car park.

There are three kinds of walk, of varying difficulty, and the more agile, could do the whole circuit, taking in the walk along the top of the crag.  Even for a slightly knackered person, it’s a wonderful place to be, to look, to think, to connect.  It’s one of those places that you don’t want to leave.

And, at the other side of the visitor centre from the  ‘old’ geologists, we encountered a young geologist.  The future, right there in the deep, deep past.

geology trail B Bell young geologist

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The Western Isles – or There and Back Again (I)

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