The Quirang on the Isle of Skye

Date: 28-Sept-2011

Map: Landranger 23

Weather: Sunny and cloudy, with a stiff breeze

 

A circular walk from the car park at the Staffin-Uig road out along the base of the escarpment to Fir Bhreugach. Return over the top of the escarpment via  Meall na Suiremach : 4.5 miles – as measured by the Satmap.

After walking the Old Man of Storr in the morning, it was time to walk one of the islands classics – The Quirang. We followed this route from the Walk Highlands website. It was still very windy, but the initial route was down below the escarpment face, so a little more sheltered and the views were superb. This is a great walk and relatively easy on the legs as it runs along the contours below a sharp escarpment. Down below you look down on ground that has the remnants of previous use – old field boundaries, the odd ‘runrig’, peat cutting and an old cemetery. The ground below looks like it is still slowly moving downhill as well, as evidenced by the many terracettes. The views south are to the undulating Trotternish Ridge, no discernible paths, but it looks interesting ground to walk over – I maybe find out next year. As we progressed along the path you get a great feeling of expectation as the crazy pinnacle landscape gets ever closer. There is one small awkward step over a narrow rocky patch, but it was ok after taking some time and care. A new rockfall required the path to cross over some rocky rubble, and I found a great piece of rock, full of ‘vugs’ with small crystals inside. Unfortunately it was too heavy to carry around, but I’ll have a hunt around for it when I go back  – I hid it carefully!

Up above a small waterfall tumbled down the scarp, and at the top the wind was blowing a fine spray back up the slope. The sky was now clear and the views across to the mainland were fabulous, with many iconic peaks recognisable in the distance – the lone ones in particular standing out to the north….and Big Ben really is Big Ben ……mind you it’s a lot nearer.

Along this route there are many features we passed such as ‘the Prison’, ‘the Needle’ and ‘the Table’ – all very distinct. Most of these features come about by the post glacial landslips, and that’s why they look so distinct – there’s not been enough time to wear them down and smooth things over.

The rocks of the  Trotternish peninsula (including the Old Man of Storr) consist of Jurassic sedimentary sequences overlain by thick Palaeogene lava flows – these lavas are quite young relatively speaking. Dolerite sills and dykes intrude into the Jurassic rocks and these can be seen standing out as bands, a little harder than the surrounding rocks. All the rocks dip gently to the west, creating slopes rising gently across Trotternish peninsula from west to east, with steep scarp slopes on its eastern edge, so you’ll always get a good view from the top. There are also north-south trending faults along the peninsula, and  the landslips formed due to the overlying weight of the lava flows, weighing down on the weaker Jurassic limestones and claystones. Under the overburden of the lava beds, the Jurassic rocks sheared along the north-south fault-lines and large blocks sloughed downwards along a rotational glide plane, giving rise to the many interesting features seen today – I loved it along here.

The path tiptoes below the needle and drops down and under the table, passing a small lochan, before rising up towards the top of the escarpment for the return journey. At Fir Bhreugach it’s a simple path that goes to the south, up rising ground, and the views are superb from the top across the water. The north coastline is near with views down to Rubha Hunish, and up above the peak of  Meall na Suiremach beckoned. It’s a long steady ascent that’s not too hard on the legs, and you can get a good view down onto the top of the table from here – we didn’t unfortunately as the wind was still gusting heartily and a little close to the edge wasn’t too comfortable.

I did think about going to the Cuillens today, but it was far too windy with gusts up to 60 – 70mph forecast, although they didn’t feel worse than 40mph to be honest. That’s still too windy for the Cuillens though, for a novice like me.

Once we got to the peak the path swept around to the SW and a boggy path led us to a gate and then contoured around the hillside, before dropping steeply down (that’s the hard part for me) to return to the original path near the start. Then a short walk to the car park completed this fabulous walk – one of those that you couldn’t get bored with…well I couldn’t. Geology hammer is coming next time.

“Photobucket”looking over to the Quirang from the car park

“Photobucket”and looking south down the Trotternish Peninsula

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the path contours across the hillside below the escarpment

“Photobucket”the nearest slumped block is Cnoc a Mheirlich, the prison in the distance

“Photobucket”not much up and down along the route

“Photobucket”plenty of sheep terracettes far below - areas where the land is still slipping

“Photobucket”some old field systems down below - Loch Leum na Liurginn and Loch Cleat below Cleat

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fresh rockfalls reveal some good specimens

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freshly revealed crystals of ? I don't know what

“Photobucket”Cnoc a Mheirlich

“Photobucket”a small waterfall next to a volcanic Dyke on the right

“Photobucket”the prison up ahead on the right

“Photobucket”fresh heather and thyme

“Photobucket”the Prison right ad the Needle left

“Photobucket”this picture illustrates perfectly how the land has slipped on a rotational plane - right to left

“Photobucket”nearly at the Needle

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The Prison

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The Needle

“Photobucket”looking down on Dun Mor with a fort to the right

“Photobucket”the view from the Prison

“Photobucket”looking up to the Needle

“Photobucket”you can just make out the mainland hills

“Photobucket”The Table was up to the left above our heads

“Photobucket”the small lochan before heading up to Fir Bhreugach

“Photobucket”nearly at the turning point

“Photobucket”our route took us up to the right

“Photobucket”the way ahead up to Meall na Suiramach

“Photobucket”looking north to Rubha Hunish

“Photobucket”late afternoon sunshine casts it shadows

“Photobucket”looking down over Staffin and across to the mainland

“Photobucket”nearly there

“Photobucket”the summit of Meall na Suiramach

“Photobucket”a long way back down the Trotternish Peninsula

“Photobucket”all sorts of old land use below, including a couple of dead zones

“Photobucket”the car park beckon, but not before a steep descent

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 very late afternoon at the end of the walk

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