OK, we’ll admit it – volcanoes aren’t necessarily the first thing you’d think of to visit in Scotland. Not live ones at any rate. Believe it or not, Scotland was once strewn with active volcanoes, spewing ash and lava in what is today serene and beautifully rugged landscapes. You may have already visited a volcano but you just didn’t know it at the time.
Travel magazine Wanderlust recently published its Top 10 must-see volcanoes in the UK – 6 of them are in Scotland, which we’ve showcased for you below. One or two of them may come as a surprise, but let us know which ones you’ve already explore and share your travels on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.
1. Arthur’s Seat, Edinburgh
Few people realise it but the large outcrop that dominates Edinburgh’s skyline is in fact a dormant volcano. First erupting 350 million years ago, Arthur’s Seat now offers the best panoramic views of the Scottish capital by far. The ascent to the top of it is a must for any visitor to the city, and can be done fairly easily with the many trails up its slopes. The easiest route up is from Dunsapie Loch, but due care and attention should be given at all times as it is rocky and can be steep in places. You can even still see layers of volcanic rock. The walk around Salisbury Crags, the lower fringes of Arthur’s Seat, is particularly scenic, and also a great spot to stop for a picnic in summer.
2. Castle Rock, Edinburgh
Scotland’s most iconic visitor attraction sits atop Edinburgh’s other unassuming former volcano, Castle Rock. First formed by eruptions 340 million years ago, it was many millennia before someone decided the 80 m cliffs of this extinct volcano would make a very good defensive position. And so the city as we know it today first came into being with the building of Edinburgh Castle and the Old Town. The castle itself is steeped in history, being the focus of many of the main events Scotland’s turbulent history. It has also been a residence of such ill-fated figures, including Mary Queen of Scots. If you visit today, you can view the former Queen’s apartments as well as the Scottish Crown jewels and the 12th century St Margaret’s Chapel, the oldest building in Edinburgh.
3. Glencoe, Highlands
Ubiquitous with Scotland, Glencoe is perhaps one of the most well-known and most visited glens in the country. It also used to be a volcano – a super volcano, no less. These days, the dramatic landscapes and beauty of Glencoe attract visitors hikers and hillwalkers, mountain climbers, skiiers, snowboarders and mountain bikers all year round from around the world, and once you’re here, you can see why! Sculpted by volcanic eruptions and the slow passage of glaciers, it’s a truly magnificent place to see up close.
4. The Black Cuillin, Isle of Skye
The Cuillin Ridge on the Isle of Skye is a stunning geological sight to see. The ascent to the 7-mile-long ridge is not for the inexperienced or faint-hearted. There are walking routes you can take to suit your ability which will lead you through one of the most stunning parts of Scotland – the Isle of Skye. Alternatively, you can enjoy views of the volcanic Cuillin by driving along the winding A87.
5. Ardnamurchan, Highlands
Set in one of Scotland’s three Geoparks – areas designated because of their geological importance – this wild and undisturbed peninsula is the mainland UK’s most westerly point. Formed by persistent eruptions 55 million years ago, it is an ideal spot for walking or cycling with a wide range of trails and routes on offer. One of the best paths takes you along the peninsula clifftops, formed by the first eruptions, to the haunting ruins of Mingary Castle.
6. Dundee Law
Standing at 572 ft, Dundee Law is a popular vantage point in the city, for visitors and locals alike, and at the summit boasts incredible panoramic views over Dundee and beyond. This prominent feature is technically a volcanic sill, rather than an active volcano, which is an underground sideways flow of lava forced through weaker rock. The volcano that actually produced this lava was near Stirling.
Head up the Law for immense views and along the way you’ll be able to spot remnants of ancient Iron Age hill forts that were once used to defend the city from enemy lines.