The 5 Most Spectacular Rock Formations in Scotland

Geology is in most part responsible for the landscapes we now see in Scotland: ice-shaped valleys, the oldest mountains in Europe and the Great Glen fault splitting the Scottish Highlands in the middle. It made sense, then, to include some of the impressive geological wonders mother nature gave to Scotland.

My Favorite Five Rock Formations In Scotland

1. The Quiraing

Jurassic landscape, Quiraing

This area of Skye is as spectacular as it is weird. The Quiraing is a strange formation of rocks created by a landslip on the Trotternish peninsula, in the north of the island. Once you get up to the Quiraing car park and look down onto the slopes leading into Staffin Bay, it feels as though the whole area was once roamed by dinosaurs. Today, however, they've been replaced by sheep, and it's not uncommon to see them grazing dangerously near the cliff edge.

More photos of the Quiraing, Skye
The plateau at the base of the Quiraing
Sunrise at the Quiraing
'The Prison', Quiraing
Hills resembling dinosaur backs
Quiraing landscape, Skye

2. Staffa

Basalt patterns, Staffa

Without a doubt, the most spectacular uninhabited island in Scotland is Staffa. Staffa is what you may call a pillar island. Located 10 km west of the Isle of Mull, Staffa is entirely of volcanic origin and has an extraordinary pattern of predominantly hexagonal columns which form the faces and walls of the main caves. It's like a natural work of art.

These striking features drew a stream of famous visitors including Sir Walter Scott, Jules Vernes, David Livingston, Robert Louis Stevenson and even Queen Victoria herself. Fingal's Cave is Staffa's most famous feature, a huge sea cave near the southern tip of the island that inspired Felix Mendelssohn's Hebrides Overture.

More photos of Staffa
Fingal's Cave, Staffa
Hexagonal pillars, Staffa
Basalt island adjacent to the landing jetty
Fingal's Cave (interior), Staffa
Tourist boat, Staffa

3. St Kilda

Boreray and Stac an Armin, St Kilda

St Kilda is an isolated archipelago in the Outer Hebrides featuring the highest sea cliffs in Britain. Now an important breeding ground for many seabird species, St Kilda was not always uninhabited. In fact, despite its isolation, up to 180 people used to live here, in truly difficult conditions.

This group of islands was inhabited for 2,000 years before the local population was finally evacuated, at their own request, in 1930. The natural, marine and cultural qualities of St Kilda earned it the World Heritage Site status in 1986.

More photos of St Kilda
St Kilda islands, Outer Hebrides
Home of the biggest Northern gannet colony in UK
Birds on the cliffs of Boreray
Abandoned village, St Kilda
Storm clouds gathering in St Kilda village bay

4. The Storr

Storr landscapes

This is the second geologically-impressive area of Skye which I am very fond of. Storr is not far from the Quiraing and is in many ways similar: steep rock faces, impressive geology, amazing views of northern Skye and beyond. The most famous feature of the Storr is, without a doubt, the Old Man of Storr, a strangely shaped rock pillar which you can see from as far as Portree and beyond.

More photos of Storr, Skye
Closeup view of Old Man of Storr
Storr rock pillars
View towards Storr and Loch Leathan
Storr in winter with Loch Leathan at dawn
The Needle at the Old Man of Storr

5. Old Man of Hoy

Old Man of Hoy from the south

The Old Man of Hoy is a 449 ft high sea stack of red sandstone in the Orkney Islands. It's the youngest rock formation on this list, being probably less than 400 years old. Unfortunately, it may not get much older as there are indications that it will soon collapse under the force of the elements. In the mean time, though, it remains a challenging climb and a spectacular landmark.

More photos of Old Man of Hoy
'Old Man of Hoy' seen from the ferry
Hoy pillar seen from afar
Sea cliff in Hoy, Orkney
An impression of scale
Ready to climb The Old Man of Hoy