North West Highland Geopark
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The North West Highland Geopark is Scotland's answer to Alton Towers, this being a giant plot of land owned by the British Geological Survey which has been filled with several attractions for eager Scots who have become fed up with the four rides at M&Ds near Glasgow. Found deep in the North West Highlands of Scotland, this geological theme park begins at Durness on the north coast where the ticket entrance can be found and stretches down to the Summer Isles, an archipaeligo with the most sarcastic place name in Great Britain seeing as it does nothing but rain. Remnants of The Wicker Man are also thought be found on Summer Isle. Those wishing to visit Durness from Ullapool and not see the world's best collection of rock will either have to pay the admission fee or take the diverted route via Lairg.
The Geopark is popular with a wide variety of people, mainly German people with matching coloured anoraks and geologists both new and old. The older variety of geologist will commonly be found half way up a remote hill with a hand lens, face 5cm away from an outcrop and possibly a bushy beard. The younger variety are easier to spot, most often standing at the roadside and being forced to wear a bright coloured hard-hat and luminous yellow reflective jacket. If in doubt they are geologists, look for the white minibus, normally branded with the famous Arnold Clark or Enterprise Van Rental sticker.
The heart of the theme park is the picturesque Ard-wreck Castle by the shores of Loch Assynt which appears on most of the brochure covers for the park (see picture, left). This is the gate to Assynt, the heart of the Geopark and was modelled on Sleeping Beauty's Castle in Disneyland. Most attractions in this part of the park involve smashing up rocks with giant geological hammers, although children can find small (and by small we mean really small) fossils of trilobites in the Fucoid Beds of Deathtrap Quarry which can be found just north of Ledmore, this being the two-house town that appears on all the local and national maps.
The Inchnadamph Bone Caves which are not actually in Inchnadamph are also a small handfull of short caves which contain the bones of several tourists who entered but never managed to return, much to the confusion of the local rangers. Here visitors stand at the base of a hill riddled with kilometres of underground passages and chambers but seem to marvel at a 20m long cave and a couple of other rock shelters. For such a short cave however, it does have a fascinating history and according to the local tourist pamphlets, it used to the the home of Yogi Bear during the last Ice Age.
The jewel in the park's crown however is the mountain that looks like a left tit, known as Suilven which is the Gaelic word for breast. This hill is one of the world's finest examples of what geomorphologists refer to a a glaciated tit, due to it's appearance when viewed from Lochinver. It is also one of the more annoying hills in the area seeing as it takes longer to walk there than it does to walk up it, with the added satisfaction of reaching the summit and realising that you have in fact just climbed the smallest of the assynt hills. The steep western slope however does provide an exceptional adrenaline rush should it snow in the winter. This is then promoted as the Suilven Sledge Ride where daredevil tourists have been exposed to forces of up to 6 G's on the fastest descent.
Across the region, the narrow single track roads provide fantastic opportunites for drivers to experience their own rollercoaster. The Lochinver-Stoer-Drumbeg road is particularly popular with park visitors, so much that campervans and caravans are banned from the road as they are unable to make the Evel Knievel jumps in the road. However, rebel campervan drivers still find it interesting to drive along this route despite the various road signs. One jump at the far end of the road at Kylesku however was causing too many problems, even for the motorcyclists and so the Kylesku Bridge was built here after much demand and several fatalities.
|Admission Type||Price (£)|
|Student / Senior Cizitens Admission||£25.50|
|Adult Group rate||£6.50 (per adult)|
|Dogs (must be supervised by owner & over 40" (102cm))||£4.50 (per dog)|
|Italian / Spanish Coach Tours for Over 60s||barred ●|
● Drunk and disorderly behaviour within the Geopark will not be tolerated by the European Geoparks Commission.