The Isle of Skye
The Isle of Skye (An t-Eilean Sgitheanach) is one of the larger islands lying off the northwest coast of
Scotland. being part of the group of islands known as the Inner Hebrides Until 1995 travel from the
mainland was by a short ferry crossing but a bridge now allows direct road access, and in 2004 after
many protests from users the crossing was made toll free. Although not far north of the main cities
of Scotland it takes a long time to drive there on slow, winding roads. Even after a considerable drive
from the south to Glasgow, the island is still some 3-4 hours drive further away!
The Isle of Skye, has many zeolite localities with much of the central and northern parts of the island
composed of basalt. The variety and quality of the crystal groups found are exceptional for Great
Britain and of great interest to Scottish mineral collectors and mineralogists. Minerals species from a number of collection sites on the island include apophyllite,chabazite, thomsonite, heulandite, gyrolite, levyne, phillipsite, analcime, stilbite, calcite, cowlesite, scolecite, stellerite, erionite, prehnite, epidote, quartz, connellite and epistilbite. Native copper mineralisation with copper secondary minerals such as malachite and connellite may also be found.
The Scottish mineral collector Matthew Forster Heddle brought the Isle of Skye to the attention of
mineralogists with the publication (posthumously) in 1901 of the two volume Mineralogy of Scotland.
Of particular interest were the many zeolite localities he listed in the Tertiary volcanic lavas which
form the predominant part of the island. The lavas, originally up to 6,000 metres thick, are in places
highly vesicular and whilst in general “Poona” size crystals can’t be found, the variety and quality of
the crystal groups are exceptional for Great Britain. His collection, amassed from his many explorations to mineral sites throughout Scotland, can be seen at the Royal Scottish Museum, Edinburgh.
The last two decades has seen a resurgence of interest in the island`s mineralogy with many localities having been ‘rediscovered’, initiated by the Sussex Mineral & Lapidary Society`s visit in 1990,
well documented in the UK Journal of Mines & Minerals; Issue 10. Recent collecting seasons has not
been as productive at the classic localities as those in the 1990`s with Sgurr nam Boc and Moonen
Bay yielding little to match the best of earlier finds. Nevertheless some interesting finds have been
made particularly at some of the lesser known sites and with the possibility of winter storms displacing mineralised boulders the possibility of future exceptional finds cannot be ruled out.
With access to beach locations limited to certain states of the tide and the possibility of cliff rockfalls,
great care and planning are needed at all times. Permission to visit inland sites should always be obtained and checks made as to whether a particular site is designated as an SSSI.
Extensive lateral collecting area along the beach with concentrations of specific mineral species in certain areas. Pale green and clear apophyllite to about 20mm, (among the best from the Isle of Skye),
chabazite, thomsonite, heulandite, gyrolite, levyne, native copper, phillipsite, analcime, stilbite, calcite
(light cream to dark brown), cowlesite, scolecite, stellerite, erionite
Sgurr Nam Boc
Sgurr Nam Boc is one of the most difficult collecting sites to get to, with a near vertical climb down to
the beach from the 200 metre high cliffs. However in recent years it has produced probably the best
Skye Stilbite and heulandite specimens. Other species occuring here are quartz, epistilbite and
Camas na h-Uamha
A little known locality, although in the 1990’s some of the finest calcite specimens were found here
along with unusual specimens consisting of small stilbite crystals fomed over slender elongated scalenohedral calcite crystals
Road cuttings near here have produced good specimens of the rare zeolite stellerite plus stilbite and
Probably best known for levyne, cowlesite and fine sprays of natrolite. Also good analcime and chabazite specimens, with somewhat rarer examples of stilbite usually white rather than cream, heulandite & phillipsite.
A recent field trip by the SMLS found excellent green and brown apophyllite specimens at this remote
location. Previously fine distorted beds of calcite crystals were found here.
Sgurr Nan Cearcall
Some of the best prehnite from the Isle of Skye occurs here of a pale turquoise colour and the proximity of this location to the Cuillin Metamorphic Aureole has given rise to epidote, quartz, calcite and native copper mineralisation with copper secondary minerals including malachite and connellite.
Sgurr Nam Fiadh
Another difficult to get to beach location. Has produced stilbite to rival those from Sgurr nam Boc.
Mesolite and chabazite have also been found here.
< 12 x 12cm Stilbite group from a large pocket found
Talisker Bay is a pleasing seascape and full of interest. One of the first documented visits to the bay
in 1773, was by James Boswell and Dr Samuel Johnson the author of the first English dictionary. In
his book A Journey to the Western Isles he described Talisker Bay thus “Talisker is the place beyond
all that I have seen, from which the gay and the jovial seem utterly excluded; and where the hermit
might expect to grow old in meditation, without possibility of disturbance or interruption. It is situated
very near the sea, but upon a coast where no vessel lands but when it is driven by a tempest on
the rocks.” Obviously in those days landscapes were seen through different eyes! Mineralogically,
excellent specimens of honey coloured calcite have been found usually accompanied by analcime or
chabazite. The chabazite can be pale pink, cream or white. Epistilbite too has been found near the
The Storr and Quiraing
Inland on the north of the island the famous landscapes of the Storr and Quirang zeolites occur the
most aparent being stilbite, chabazite and apophyllite.