Coral Beach, Isle of Skye - is it actually coral?
For many years I have heard about the famous coral beach on the Isle of Skye & finally a few weeks ago I finally made my way over there to see this gorgeous strip of shore for myself!
So disappointingly it's not actually coral!
Although it looks just like coral, it's not strictly made of coral. Coral typically has temperature constraints, or at least the hermatypic or reef forming corals. They prefer water between about 20°C - 32°C. The water temperature around the Isle of Skye peaks at about 14°C during the warmer summer months.
The beach is actually made of coralline algae, which form skeletons of calcium carbonate.
These skeletons stay around for a long while after the plants die.
This algae is known as mearl and beds of this algae grow along the coast from Portugal to Norway. They live below the surface where light can penetrate, so they are restricted to the upper 100ft.
This whole little cove is covered with these skeletons of coralline algae. Speckles of black volcanic rock poke through occasionally, but it has a distinct tropical appearance.
Traditionally these skeletons are crushed up and used as agricultural fertiliser, but here on Skye they are left on the cove. On a sunny day you could be on a tropical beach in the Caribbean, but it is equally beautiful and a bit surreal on a stormy winter's day.