Monday, 8 May 2017

This was a short, 3.75 loop walk west along the coast from Lochranza, and returning via the Fairy Dell and along the track back to the car park.
We all set off from the car park at NR93195050 on a dry but windy day. Our leader, Jason, recalled last being here on a second-year geology field trip in 1987 - needless to say, a quick internet search was required to jog his memory regarding the geological sites along this trail. The first kilometer was along a tarmacked road and this gave us a nice start to get used to the driving wind that characterized the weather for the half-day's walk. Even on what might be thought of as an uninspiring start, there was lots to see in terms of wildlife - red deer near the car park, a rabbit in one of the gardens, a red squirrel in another, chaffinches and swallows, and in the sea - cormorants on the rocks and a group of grey seals, some of which were porpoising and giving us a good show. We paused near Newton Point ( no relation!) to look at the rocks - Dalradian schists - and talked about the compressive forces that heated and folded these rocks into interesting formations. The geological highlight of the trip though is at the coast opposite. The Knowe - the site of Hutton's Unconformity. James Hutton discovered this in 1787 - here red sandstones lie directly on top of the folded schists, and Hutton recognized that this meant that the schists were subjected to erosion over a prolonged period of time before the sandstones were deposited. This was a major find at the time, as it suggested that we could use geological processes at the present day as a key to explain rocks from the past, and challenged biblical theories that the planet is only a few thousand years old.
By this time we were starting to get a little drizzle, and the rocks were quite slippery so we viewed the Uncomformity from a distance. It was also near here that we were able to view a pair of red-breasted mergansers down the telescope - several efforts to focus on a Great Northern Diver were foiled by doing what divers generally do - diving!
By the time we reached the Fairy Dell, our half-way point, the drizzle had stopped and we were sheltered from the wind until we came out onto the grassy slopes 200 ft above. We heard a cuckoo - whether or not this was the same we'd heard near the shore was never confirmed, as attempts to locate it with the scope during lunch in a sheltered hollow were unsuccessful. We did however see a couple of gannets from our vantage point, and then the sun came out , which prolonged our stop. Once we were on the track which services the houses, the wind dropped as well, so we felt compelled to call at the Whins for an ice cream each. We were back at the car park in the early afternoon after a short but highly satisfactory trip.