The Ardnish Peninsula is a place of immense beauty and has amazing wildlife. Several narrow little peninsulas stretch out like fingers, dividing the sandy shoreline into little inlets at low-tide. Very richly fossiliferous horizons are separated by relatively baron ones.
♦ There are two ways to approach Ardnish Point, but one of them has little or no parking. However, this can be a good (if lengthy) escape route, should the incoming tide sneak up on you, making your original path inaccessible. (However, tides come in slowly, so you can easily keep an eye out for this.)
♦ Approach Broadford from the Skye Bridge on the A850. Turn right at the signpost for Ashaig immediately after a narrow, small stone road bridge.
♦ Cross the cattle grid and head down the single track road for approx 200m. As the track rounds a bend, take the small dirt track on the right and head for the graveyard. You can park at the style. However, unless using high wheelbase vehicle, we advise parking at the graveyard and walking towards the style.
♦ Make your way straight across and to the left of the tiny island ahead, heading for the S-bend in the river. Cross here or slightly further upstream.
♦ Back at the S-bend there is a gap in the rocks. Before the gap, continue over to the next two peninsulas. Don’t head south to the end, but rather follow them back inshore and the sections where most of the fossils can be seen facing the mainland or to the east side of the peninsulas.
♦ When returning, if the tide is too far in, head back towards the gap and follow the river upstream, until you can safely cross.
♦ Ref: 57.25419°N, 5.84622°W
FIND FREQUENCY: ♦♦♦♦ – If you find the right horizon, fossils are very abundant. However, note that mid to low tide is the only practical time to look.
CHILDREN: ♦♦♦♦ – This is an excellent place for kids, young and old, with sandy bays; and otters and seals are frequently seen. Wellies are best here, but you may have to carry them over the river, as it is slightly deep and the current can be strong.
ACCESS: ♦♦♦♦♦ – Avoid this site if there has been heavy rain, as the river can swell making it too dangerous to cross. However, on any other day, it has good access. The walking is easy and it is just only just less than 1km to the furthest exposure. There is free parking on the verge at the side of a dirt track, which is often used by locals and dog walkers.
TYPE: – Fossils can be found on the bedrock, but avoid damaging this by hammering it. There are plenty of loose rocks to keep you busy, without resorting to smashing the bedrock.
This is a SSSI, so keep disturbance and collecting to a minimum. However, no permission is required to visit Ardnish. This is a fantastic area for collecting fossils. Ardnish Point has only weathered cup-corals, but the nature of the collapsed sheets of bedrock makes it an interesting place to visit. It is at the inlets that large ammonites, like Arnioceras semicostatum and Echioceras raricostatum, have been found. There are countless loose Gryphaea arcuata (or ‘Devil’s Toenails)’ to collect, and there is a wide range of bivalves, including scallop-like bivalves (pectens). Otters, sea eagles, seals and even dolphins are commonly seen, and the shoreline has an array of birdlife. There are also many interesting archaeological features and ruined crofts to explore. Ardnish really is a ‘must see’ location.
The sections here represent the Jurassic/Triassic boundary and are approximately 205 to 210myrs old. There is a succession of the Pabay Shale Formation, which is almost continuous along the entire main peninsula at the high tide mark. The first inlet has a succession of harder rock from the Breakish Formation, which has been part baked by the many Tertiary dykes that cut through the bay. This has a good Semicostatum zone, with the weathered negative impressions of huge ammonites visible. These can be found, but they must be handled with care, as they tend to shatter if hit hard with a hammer. They are also heavy, so take care if you intend preparing them at home. The Breakish Formation is from the Hettangian stage, and the Pabay Shale boundary falls into the early Sinemurian stage of the Early Jurassic.
This is a tidal zone, although tidal movement is relatively slow. However, only visit on a mid to low tide. The rocks are only slippery at the furthest point and only on the side facing the Inner Sound. A personal guide by a local geologist, who is very familiar with the site, can be arranged. Contact Anthony Rybak on 01471822640 or on his mobile (07931 512972), or by e-mail at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Wellies are a must here if you want to stay dry; and mobile phones usually work. Take a good heavy mallet, a cold chisel and protective glasses if you are using the mallet. Gloves are advisable, as some rock shatters producing sharp edges. However, there are plenty of loose fossils for kids to collect without using tools, and there are soft clays and marls too. Midge spray for the summer months is essential to avoid being eaten alive.
This site is an SSSI. This Special Site of Scientific Interest, means you can visit the site, but hammering the bedrock is not permitted.