(Isle of Skye)

The Black Cuillins
©2022 Gazetteer for Scotland

The Black Cuillins

The largest island of the Inner Hebrides, off the west coast of Scotland, Skye is formed from a series of lobate peninsulas, divided by sea lochs, the most prominent being Snizort, Dunvegan, Bracadale, Eynort, Brittle, Scavaig, Eishort, Slapin, Scavaig, Ainort, Sligachan and Portree. It contains some of the most spectacular scenery and varied geology in the British Isles ranging from rolling plateaux to the serrated heights of the Black Cuillin. With an area of 1667 sq. km (643 sq. miles), the island rises steeply to 992m (3255 feet) at Sgurr Alasdair in the Cuillin Hills. From Rubha Hunish in the north to Point of Sleat in the south is a distance of nearly 45 miles (72 km).

Crofting, fishing, fish farming and tourism are the most significant economic activities. The picturesque rugged landscape and relative accessibility make Skye one of the most popular of Scotland's islands for tourists. Electronics and information technology also contribute to the economy, together with journalism through the West Highland Free Press, founded by Brian Wilson in 1972 and based in Broadford. The main town is Portree, which provides the island's only secondary school. The noted Gaelic-language college Sabhal Mor Ostaig is located by Kilbeg on the Sleat peninsula. Skye is at the centre of Gaelic culture, with a majority of islanders using Gaelic in everyday conversation. The great tradition of the pibroch is associated with Boreraig and Dunvegan in the northwest.

The population of Skye declined sharply through the 19th Century, having been subject to successive clearances and an increasingly hostile climate. More recently, the population has risen from 7478 (1961) through 7183 (1971), 7269 (1981), 8843 (1991), 9232 (2001) to 10008 (2011). Access to the island is now from Kyle of Lochalsh via the controversial Skye Bridge, which opened in 1995 or via vehicle ferries sailing from Glenelg to Kylerhea and Oban to Armadale. Ferries also leave Uig for the Outer Hebrides.

The dark, coarse, crystalline gabbro of the Black Cuillin contrasts with the pink granite which dominates the Red Cuillin to the east. Including twelve of Scotland's thirteen island Munros, the Cuillin represent the exposed heart of Tertiary volcanoes associated with the formation of the Atlantic Ocean over 60 million years ago. This is one of several features to interest the geologist; the remains of ancient lava flows outcrop in the north and sedimentary rocks of an age which is unusually young for Scotland (Jurassic through to Cretaceous) appear in the south of the island. Several formations are rich in fossils, discovered on Skye and the neighbouring island of Raasay by noted geologist Hugh Miller (1802-56). There are notable landslip features at The Storr, the highest point on the Trotternish Escarpment, and at Quiraing at the north end of the Trotternish Peninsula. Along the Trotternish Escarpment are some of the lowest ice-carved corries in Scotland.

The dramatic scenery of Skye has served as a location for many films, including The Land that Time Forgot (1975), Dragonslayer (1981), Year of the Comet (1992), Breaking the Waves (1996) and Stardust (2007).

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