Sea stacks are blocks of erosion-resistant rock isolated from the land by sea. Sea stacks begin as part of a headland or sea cliff, and are formed when that part of a headland is eroded by the pounding waves or due to a collapse of a natural arch. Famous examples in Scotland are ‘The Old Man of Hoy’ on the Orkney islands and ‘Am Buachaille’ near Sandwood Bay in Sutherland, the far north of Scotland.
Islay also has a very impressive sea stack, not well known with a lot of visitors, and not within easy reach either. The stack isn’t visible from any part of Islay’s coast unless you actually make the walk and see it just in front of you. The stack is called Soldier’s Rock and can be found on the Oa peninsula about 2 miles from Kintra Farm.
The best way to reach the Soldier’s rock is to park the car near Kintra Farm and take a ‘Walk on the Wildside’, which is spelled out on the sign at the beginning of the walk. The walk to Soldier’s rock is a pleasant one, when using appropriate footwear, going uphill over a good track and farmland from the start, first to the abandoned township of Frachdale. Here the track makes a sharp right and takes you further up the Cnoc Mor Ghrasdail, which is a good orientation point during the whole route. While walking on over grass and moorlands leaving the glen on your left, you reach the ruined townships of Tockmal and Grasdale. If you keep walking towards a little conical hill in the distance, crossing a burn on the left, you reach the Soldier’s rock.
The area is stunningly beautiful, not only because of Soldier’s rock but also because of the high cliffs, waterfall (here is where the burn drops in the sea) and a natural arch, which can be crossed by foot. Take good care though with strong winds when approaching the edge of the cliffs. Along the whole route watch out for Buzzards and if you’re lucky you can even spot a Golden Eagle. The walk back is harder to find, first walk back to Grasdale, turn left there, and stay on the same altitude following the sheep tracks along the contours of the hill.