Walk: Knockan Crag - uncovering the mystery of Assynt

Highland | Assynt | Short walk | ★★★★

[Sculpture at Knockan Crag]

This short, steep circuit at Knockan Crag gives the perfect prologue to the geologically-confused area of Assynt - we reckon this is one of the best short walks you can do in the Northwest Highlands, and surely the most educational. The alien, individual hills in the west part of this region (such as Suilven) owe their appearance to their rock type: horizontal beds of red-brown Torridon sandstone sometimes topped with younger, whitish quartzite. This quartzite contains pipe rock: the burrows from ancient sea creatures left over from where this rock originated on a beach during the Cambrian period - these are visible at Knockan Crag. All of this overlies older, grey-coloured Lewisian gneiss which forms the flatter base to the landscape. Meanwhile, peat bogs characterise the moorland to the east, composed of Moine schists. Putting the cat amongst the proverbial pigeons is the Moine Thrust: a zone stretching from north to south where tectonic plate movements reversed the rock layers a long time ago. The zone runs right through Knockan Crag, and you can get right up to the boundaries between rock layers here (see the relevant photo further down this page). These are explained by information panels - which also go into the area's wider geology in more detail. It's all fascinating stuff for anyone with a little interest in how the landscape formed, but the views are stunning enough to make the walk worthwhile even if you don't think rocks rock.

[Looking out over Lochan an Ais from the interpretation centre]

📌 Walk: Knockan Crag - uncovering the mystery of Assynt ★★★★
▶ 2 km / 1 mile | ▲ 190 metres
Features: Knockan Crag NNR, interpretation centre, sculptures & displays; Moine Thrust
Start / finish: Car park on A835 2 miles south of Elphin, G.R.: NC 188091 ///timed.excavated.mystery

Route: Car park - interpretation centre - clockwise circuit over Knockan Crag. Route is generally signposted (Crag Top Trail - the longest one).
Terrain: Clear path, with steep sections mostly on steeps.
Wildlife today: Not much...
Weather today: Hot (25ºC) with sunny periods and a pleasant breeze.

[The second half of the trail has wonderful views southwest into Coigach]

Route map

Route credit: Scottish Natural Heritage

More photos

[Knockan Crag seen from the car park]

[View over Lochan an Ais from the start]

[Rock band sculpture]

[Interpretation centre]

[View from the interpretation centre]

[Rock sculptures]

[Around the world in 600 million years]

[Globe sculpture, Assynt behind]

[Exposed section of the Moine Thrust]

[Path ascending Loch Crag]

[Steps assist with the climb to the crag top]

[Looking northeast from the northern viewpoint]

[View northwest]

[Heading south along the top of the crag]

[View back]

[Arch sculpture]

[Descent to the car park]


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