Knockan Crag National Nature Reserve
At Knockan Crag NNR, you can unlock the mysteries of one of the oldest landscapes in Europe. The story of ancient oceans, vast deserts and ice sheets, crashing continents and an epic journey from pole to pole is told through poetry, sculpture and interactive exhibitions. Here you can see the internationally famous geological feature known as the Moine Thrust, where much older and darker schists have been pushed over the younger, lighter, Durness limestone, so the older rocks have ended up on top of the younger ones. The theory of this dramatic rock reversal was confirmed in 1882 by two brilliant geologists, Benjamin Peach and John Horne of the Scottish Geological Survey, who are commemorated in sculptures by Alan Herriot in the visitor centre. The alternating crags and glittering pools known as ‘cnoc and lochan’ expose some of the world’s oldest rocks, and peat bog and heather overlie seabed muds, an unimaginable billion years old.
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About the area
Apart from the Orkneys and the Shetlands, Highland is Scotland’s northernmost county. Probably its most famous feature is the mysterious and evocative Loch Ness, allegedly home to an ancient monster that has embedded itself in the world’s modern mythology, and the region’s tourist industry. Monster or no, Loch Ness is beautiful and it contains more water than all the lakes and reservoirs in England and Wales put together. The loch is 24 miles long, one mile wide and 750 feet deep, making it one of the largest bodies of fresh water in Europe.
At the very tip of the Highlands is John o’ Groats, said to be named after a Dutchman, Jan de Groot, who lived here in the early 16th century and operated a ferry service across the stormy Pentland Firth to Orkney. In fact, the real northernmost point of the British mainland is Dunnet Head, whose great cliffs rise imposingly above the Pentland Firth some two miles further north than John o’ Groats.
The Isle of Skye is the largest and best known of the Inner Hebrides. Its name is Norse, meaning ‘isle of clouds’, and the southwestern part of the island has some of the heaviest rainfall on the whole of the British coast. Despite this, it’s the most visited of all the islands of the Inner Hebrides. It’s dominated from every view by the high peaks of the Cuillins, which were only conquered towards the end of the 19th century.
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