Rhinns of Islay

(Rinns of Islay)

A large hammerhead-shaped peninsula which forms the western section of the island of Islay in the Inner Hebrides, the Rhinns of Islay (also Rinns of Islay) occupies an area of around 56 sq. miles (144 sq. km), extending from Rhinns Point in the south for 16 miles (26 km) to Ardnave Point in the north. It is separated from the eastern half of the island by Loch Indaal and Loch Gruinart. Formerly, the Rhinns referred only to the southern section of this peninsula, to the west of Loch Indaal, but modern usage extends to the entire peninsula.

Much of the Rhinns are designated as a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) owing to exceptional geological, geomorphological, biological and ornithological importance. Its metamorphic rocks include the Colonsay Group which originated as sea-floor muds and sands, and the Rinns Complex, which were once igneous rocks but have been much altered by heat and pressure. These rocks are somewhat unique in Scotland and important to interpreting the formation of the Caledonian mountain belt. In terms of geomorphology, there are good examples of sandy beaches, dunes and machair. Raised beaches suggest post-glacial uplift and give a clue that the low-lying isthmus between Loch Gruinart and Loch Indaal was once flooded resulting in the Rhinns being a separate island in the past.

Important areas of blanket bog provide habitat for wintering Greenland white-fronted geese, while the diversity of breeding birds are of national importance, in part due to the lack of ground predators. Species include nationally-important numbers of chough and an internationally-important population of breeding corncrake and hen harrier. Other important migrant birds include whooper swan, white-fronted and barnacle geese. There is also a nationally-important beetle population, extending to 37 different species.

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