Volcanoes hailed as Scotland’s new rock stars

Glencoe. Geologists urged to visit an array of sites. Picture: Ian Rutherford
Glencoe. Geologists urged to visit an array of sites. Picture: Ian Rutherford
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THEY have been a mainstay of Scotland’s landscape for millions of years and are now seen as tourist attractions in their own right.

An offbeat new tourist guide for budding geologists has hailed the number of volcanoes peppered across the nation.

Wanderlust, one of the most respected and widely read travel sites, has encouraged visitors to flock north to see for themselves the mountainous masses throughout the country.

In a rundown of the top nine volcanoes to visit in the UK, the website picks no fewer than five from Scotland.

Wanderlust said that although the country does not have any active volcanoes – the last eruption took place around 55 million years ago – that should not deter people from visiting, thanks to the way “the landscapes they have sculpted are a sight to behold”.

Wanderlust, which also publishes a popular travel magazine, picked out Arthur’s Seat in Edinburgh as the most spectacular destination in Scotland forged out of volcanic rock.

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In its appraisal of the tourist hotspot its editors state: “A long-extinct volcano thought to have first erupted 350 million years ago, it offers the best panoramic view over the city. The walking trails, especially to the summit, can get busy during the day. To beat the crowds, aim to climb it either early morning or late afternoon, or even at dawn to see the sun rise over Scotland’s capital.”

Although the top spot of the guide is reserved for the Giant’s Causeway in Northern Ireland, Ardnamurchan on the west coast claims third place in the unusual list.

Wanderlust describes it as a place which “offers an unspoilt, undisturbed peninsula,” adding: “The north-western corner of Ardnamurchan contains an underground volcanic complex that is 55 million years old. One of its only access points is a single track road – perfect for cyclists and walkers seeking some solace.

“The geo-trail along the peninsula is the best, where you can see the rocky cliffs formed by the area’s first volcanic eruption. Mingary Castle sits atop two sheets of cooled, harden molten rock, while the abandoned village of Glendrian is situated within the volcanic amphitheatre, or ‘ring-dykes’.”

Another Edinburgh volcano, Castle Rock, makes the list, coming at number five. Although the site of Edinburgh Castle is already a hugely popular tourist draw, Wanderlust points out that the rock on which the building was built is just as noteworthy.

“The rock is around 340 million years old, providing the land with a natural defence and the castle itself is defended by cliffs up to 80 metres high,” the guide explains.

For the two other Scottish entries in the guide, Wanderlust advises travellers to venture north, firstly to Glen Coe, recently featured in the James Bond film, Skyfall.

Placing the ancient super volcano at seventh in the list, Wanderlust points out it is very much an active part of outdoor life in the Highlands, with skiers, climbers, snowboarders, hikers and mountain bikers all making the most of a “landscape sculpted by volcanic eruption and glaciation”.

It explains: “Most walkers take the Devil’s Staircase across the hill to Kinlochleven, while the best routes for hillwalkers can be found in the mountain range of the Bidean nam Bian. Buachaille Etive Beag and Buachaille Etive Mor are also good sites, the latter of which is one of the areas’ best spots for climbing.”

The last Scottish entry, at ninth, is the Cuillins on the Isle of Skye, where stunt cyclist Danny MacAskill recently filmed an acclaimed new repertoire of tricks and gravity-defying jumps.

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