© Gavin Shaw

corrie formation

Coire an t-Sneachda


truncated spurs

roches moutonnées

glacial erratics

depositional forms

Kebnekaise cirque, northern Sweden today





Streetmap extracts showing corrie forms

Head of Gleann Einich

Northern Corries

Beinn a'Bhuird



Corrie or cirque

Definition: “a hollow, open downstream but bounded upstream by the crest of a steep slope (headwall), which is arcuate in plan around a more gently sloping floor.”                                                                       Evans and Cox 1974

Corries or cirques are a integral part of the Cairngorm mountain scenery. Viewed from the glens, the corries appear as a deep, shaded hollows, often with late-lying snow banks. From above, however, the corrie headwalls appear as uniformly arcuate or even semi-circular embayments in the plateau edge.

Corries are a feature of local mountain glaciation. In the Quaternary, the hollows may have been wholly or partly filled by small glaciers or may have acted as the source area for larger valley glaciers.

Corries reflect many phases of glaciation. The volume of moraine contained within the corries today is miniscule compared to the corrie dimensions but each phase of occupancy by ice enlarges the hollow. Using rates of corrie back-wearing from Norway, Gordon (2001) has calculated that even the largest corries in the Cairngorms could have formed with only 0.5 Myr of glacial erosion.

Sugden (1969) recognised that the location, size and altitude of the Cairngorm corries is closely related to the form of the preglacial relief. The largest corries occupy formerly large river valley heads . Aspect is also important, with almost all corries oriented within 90º of NE. More speculatively, it is noteworthy that corries are absent from the sides of the main glacial breaches. This may imply that the corries had reached close to their present size prior to the onset of major ice sheet glaciation at around 1 Myr. Some support for this idea is provided by Sugden's observation that many corries show signs of over-riding by ice sheets. In the Northern Corries, this is most evident from the removal of blocks, tors and pinnacles from the Fiacaill a' Choire Chais and other ridges.

There are many fine examples of corries in the Cairngorms but perhaps the most visited example is Coire an t-Sneacdha.