Aigas Field Centre
Aigas Field Centre

Exploring the Bone Caves

23 April, 2018. Posted by Aigas Field Centre

Every year, a school group from the south coast of England travel north to learn all about the Highlands. Traditionally, we take this group to Assynt to climb Stac Pollaidh, a rocky Corbett of Torridonian sandstone just north of Ullapool. However, due to icy conditions, we had to provide an alternative walk. We landed on the Bone Cave Circuit near Ichnadamph, and it did not disappoint.

The walk took us through a limestone valley, past a spring where water seems to flow from nowhere, and into a dried up riverbed. The riverbed provided students (and rangers) with a lot of rock-stacking fun.

The path then climbs up to a cliff face, in which the cave system lies. Four large caves are easily accessible and were thoroughly explored. Deeper cave systems are there also. These caves were once part of a larger system, which was carved out before the last ice age. Since then, water has eroded away and left what remains today.

These caves have been thoroughly excavated and the finds are fascinating: bones of wolves, lynx, bears and arctic foxes. These are relics from a time when the landscape was extremely different to what we see today. There is also evidence of human presence in these caves; a walrus ivory pin dates human presence to the Iron Age. As tempting as it was to carry out our own excavation, we didn’t as the site is now a SSSI (Site of Special Scientific Interest).

The walk as a great success and really engaged the group. The scenery is beautiful and very unlike any other area of the UK, sometimes it feels like being on another planet. It is definitely worth a visit if anyone is the Assynt/Ullapool area!

Words and images by Alison Tait