Walk on the edge of time around a 1.2billion-year-old crater

A HIGHLAND mountain guide is providing a walk with a difference - tracing the edges of a meteorite impact crater that hit earth over a billion years ago.

Part of the crater walk covering Eagle Rock. Picture: Timespan/John King

The village of Lairg has been found, after years of research, to be at its centre.

More than 100km in diameter, it ranks as one of the largest known impacts on earth, and it is the first to be discovered in the UK.

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Now almost hidden from view by millenia of geological change and transformation, its discovery in 2015 was the result of a decade of observation and research that began with a thin section of rock under a microscope.

Mountain guide John King. Picture: Supplied

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Inspired by this deep time event where the astronomical and the geological intersect, guide John King mapped a route that traces the circumference of the meteorite crater.

He then walked the route carrying a Google Trekker, capturing 360-degree imagery along its length.

John said: “Extending from the vast peatland expanse of the Flow Country in the North, to the Dornoch Firth in the south, and from the rolling hills of East Sutherland to the rocky edge of Assynt in the west, the crater becomes a feature by which to explore the varied landscapes, land-uses, geology and wildlife that exist in northern Scotland today.”

Mountain guide John King. Picture: Supplied

The local mountain guide, who runs King Mountaineering, offers guided hillwalking, scrambling, and outdoor skills training across the Northern Highlands.

Taking every opportunity to get out into the hills, he completed his first round of the Munros in 2013 and has explored many of the wilder and more remote corners of the Highlands in all seasons, building up an intimate knowledge of the Scottish hills and glens as well as a keen interest in the ecology, geology and history of the natural environment.

John is passionate about passing on his knowledge and skills, and sharing his enthusiasm for the hills with others.

Having recently moved to Scotland’s far north to set up King Mountaineering, John is excited to enable others to enjoy the spectacular mountains and vast open spaces that northernmost Scotland has in abundance.

Timespan Museum and Arts Centre in Helmsdale is now offering two public walks led by John following sections of the Crater Route.

He said: “Each walk offers an opportunity to discover the rich natural and cultural histories of the region whilst following the crater rim.”

The first walk takes in the Glen Calvie circuit on 13 August and costs £15 per person.

John added: “This circular walk through scenic surroundings, take in forests, glaciated landscapes, and high moorland, all on well-constructed tracks.

“The route starts at Glencalvie Lodge, a Victorian-era sporting lodge located in pine woods 10 miles to the west of Ardgay.

“From the Lodge, the route heads up through the native woodlands of Glen Calvie, following the glen to its head below the imposing slopes of Carn Chuinneag.

“Heading east from here the glen is soon left behind and the route heads out onto wild moorland with great views west to the peaks and U-shaped valleys of the Alladale Estate and beyond.

“A gradual descent winds back down along the ridge of hills above Glen Calvie and returns to the Lodge, completing the circuit.”

This walk covers 12km and takes five to six hours to complete, including stopes.

The second walk covers Eagle Rock and takes place on 3 September, costing £20 per person.

John added: “This walk takes in the most wild and mountainous section of the Crater Route.

“The day starts in the shelter of the forestry around Loch Ailsh passing close to Benmore Lodge, before climbing up to the edge of the Ben More Assynt massif.

“Once clear of the glens, a broad ridge is followed west to the summit of Eagle Rock (715m).

“On a clear day this top has panoramic views out over the whole crater area and is a great spot to get an overview of the full Crater Route.

“From Eagle Rock, a grassy descent leads down past the remote Dubh Loch Beag to pick up a path back to Benmore Lodge.”

This walks covers 23km and takes eight hours to complete, including stops.

To book call Timespan on 01431 821 327, or email [email protected]

Accompanied children aged 10 and over are welcome on both walks and a £5 reduction is available for under 16s.