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North West Highlands Geopark

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North West Highlands Geopark is a UNESCO Geopark situated in the north west of the Scottish Highlands. The c. 2000 square-kilometre Geopark has coastal cliffs, beaches, mountains caves and waterfalls and a variety of unique geological features.


The North West Highlands Geopark [1]is a European and UNESCO Geopark. A geopark is a region with a great geological heritage and various ways by which the geology is explained to the visitor, for instance by visitor centres or geological trails. There are at present 32 European Geoparks all endorsed by UNESCO. See the website of the European Geopark Network [2] for other European Geoparks.

The North West Highlands Geopark is a geological wonderland: the rocks range from the 3 billion year old Lewisian Gneiss to the Torridonian Sandstone which makes up the spectacular mountains such as Ben More Coigach, Suilven and Quinag. White quartzite caps many mountains and the largest area of limestone in Scotland occurs in the Geopark. For geologists, however, the most famous feature is the Moine Thrust, a large geological fault that attests to the vast forces that built the Caledonian Mountain Range, some 400 million years ago. Much more recently, during the Ice Age, vast glaciers sculpted the mountains and valleys as we see them today.

The geological history and the way that geological processes shaped the landscape is explained in various visitor centres and road side panels. The visitor can also learn more on guided walks during the summer months.



Flora and fauna[edit]


Get in[edit]

The North West Highlands Geopark is between 20 and 50 km north of Ullapool. Ullapool can be reached by car or bus from Inverness. Inverness can be easily reached by train, car or plane. There are buses from Ullapool into the Geopark, but these are infrequent


Get around[edit]

See[edit][add listing]

- Knockan Crag Visitor Centre is situated in the Knockan Crag National Nature Reserve, all managed by Scottish Natural Heritage [3]. The Visitor Centre focuses on the Moine Thrust, a large geological fault responsible for the build up of the Caledonian Mountains. In the Rock Room the Moine Thrust and other geological features are well explained, and there are trails with various explanatory boards that takes the visitor along the Moine Thrust itself. The Visitor Centre is always open. There is no shop or catering, but there are toilets. In summertime, there is sometimes a Ranger who can explain more about the geology. See [4]for more details.

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Do[edit][add listing]

Hiking Many hikes can be made in the Geopark. Challenging walks are the ascent of Conival and Ben More Assynt, Foinaven and Suilven.

Bird Watching The Geopark as a great variety of birds. One of the best places is the Handa Island Bird Reserve which in the right time of year can host up to 100.000 breeding seabirds, such as puffins, shags, guillemots and kittiwakes. Handa Island can only be reached by open ferry from the hamlet of Tarbet. This ferry is operated by the Scottish Wildlife Trust and operates from April to September [5].

Rock climbing Generally the best rock climbing is on the Torridonian Sandstone. Excellent rock climbing can be found on the sea cliffs near Reiff, on the Coigach Peninsula. Climbs on Stac Pollaidh are also well-known, but probably the best known climbs are on the sea-stacks of Am Buachaille and The Old Man of Stoer. Good climbs on Lewisian Gneiss can be found around Kinlochbervie and Sheigra. In Strath Dionard there are some good climbs on quartzite. None of the climbing routes have bolts or pegs, so all protection must be placed by the climber. The best source of information is the climbers guide "The Northern Hihglands" publihsed by the Scottish Mountaineering Club, available in outdoor shops throughout Scotland

Caving Smoo Cave near Durness is a huge cave entrance, widened by coastal erosion. In summertime, a small boat tour can be made deeper in the cave. Challenging caves - for experienced cavers only - are near Inchandamph and Elphin.

Fishing Fishing for trout is possible in many lochs, but permits are needed! Try the Inchnadamph Hotel.

Golf A 9-hole golf course overlooking the Atlantic is at Durness; visitors are welcome. For info see website of the Durness Golf Club [6]

Organised activities

Guided walks are organised by the Countryside Rangers during the summer months. See [7] for details or check out the Visitor centres / Tourist Information centres at Lochinver or Durness.

Walking holidays There are two local trekkking companies that organise walking holidays in and around the Geopark: Point North West [8] and North West Frontiers[9]. The "Nor' West Trek" organised by North West frontiers crosses the enitre Geopark in a six-day trek. Both companies use local tour guides with a wealth of knowledge of the local flora, fauna, history and geology.

Outdoor activitites Outdoor activity holidays for adults, families and youngstres are organised by Cape Adventure [10]. Activities include sea kayaking, climbing, abseiling and orienteering.

Buy[edit][add listing]

Eat[edit][add listing]

Check the website for links to local websites promoting plates to eat and drink in the area.

Drink[edit][add listing]

Check the website for links to local websites promoting places to eat and drink in the area.

Sleep[edit][add listing]

Check the website for links to local websites promoting accommodation providers in the area.


Check the website for links to local websites promoting accommodation providers in the area.


There is a campsite at Scourie and at Durness, both situated on the coast. There used to be a campsite at Achnahaird, but this may be closed now.


Stay safe[edit]

The main risk is being caught out in the open in bad weather and not being suitably equipped. The weather can change rapidly.

For walks of any lenght take the following: - good footwear: paths are often wet and boggy - waterproof jacket and trousers - warm clothing: a spare fleece or jumper, gloves and a hat

and always tell someone responsible where you're going. Note that in large areas there is no mobile phone reception.

Get out[edit]

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