October 17, 2018

Country diary: where the youngest rock is in the hardest place

Fionn Choire, Isle of Skye Hulking rock shapes tilt blackly like primed guillotine blades. Mountaineering here is dangerous

Gabbro is youthful rock. Barely born, on a timeline started by British geology’s eldest foundations. But it is impressive, expressive rock. The coarser the grain, the slower the cooling of the magmatic paste that birthed it explosively, then insipidly, from the sea floor, at a time when dinosaurs still walked. When your nose is against it you smell the tang of rust and feel its surface worry your skin. Some of Britain’s most recent geology was layered by water and compressed over time, and crumbles with fragility; but gabbro was spat from the earth and cooled hard and dark.

High on Skye’s Cuillin Ridge, it interrupts the horizon with a fearful signature, frilled and switch-blade sharp.

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