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Scottish Geology Festival: Bringing Scotland’s Landscape to Life

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The stunning Scottish landscape has been shaped by the elements over many millennia and has attracted visitors for centuries. But why is the scenery so special? Why is Lewis gneiss (pardon the geologists’ joke!)? And why were Lochaber’s ‘Parallel Roads’ so intriguing to Charles Darwin?

We’d need to travel many millions, even billions of years back in time to answer these questions. Or you could just come along to the Scottish Geology Festival from 1 September – 17 October!

Organised by the Scottish Geology Trust, the festival offers a varied programme of Covid-safe in-person and online events that explain why Scotland’s landscape is so unique and fascinating.

And don’t miss the brilliant and family-friendly Beach Pebble outdoor events, which are especially relevant in Scotland’s Year of Coasts and Waters 2020/21. There are 20 to choose from around the country.

Read on to learn more about the festival programme.

Beach Pebble event, Auchmithie, Angus

10 – 11 September, 12 – 4pm

Fascinating rock formations at Auchmithie near Arbroath, Angus

Fascinating rock formations at Auchmithie near Arbroath, Angus

Have you ever wondered where the pebbles on the beach come from? How they formed, how they got there and how long ago this happened?

At Auchmithie, near Arbroath on the Angus coast, you can see incredible examples of sandstone cliffs formed by a giant river that once flowed over vast parts of the land over 370 million years ago. The beach is peppered with cobbles and pebbles from the river’s deposits, which all have an incredible story to tell; from erupting volcanos to colliding continents.

Join this Beach Pebble event and learn how to identify the rocks on the beach and become a geologist for the day! You’ll discover an amazing variety of pebbles, find out where they come from and what they tell us about Scotland’s geology. There will also be a chance to reflect on how the beach might change in the next few decades as a result of climate change.

Family-fun with fish and fossils, Sumburgh, Shetland

12 September, 1 – 4pm

Sumburgh Head Lighthouse, Visitor Centre and Nature Reserve, Shetland

Sumburgh Head Lighthouse, Visitor Centre and Nature Reserve, Shetland

Drop in to Sumburgh Head Lighthouse, Visitor Centre and Nature Reserve and get hands on with activities and crafts as you discover why there are ancient fish in the cliffs here! You’ll also learn how the rocks of Shetland’s South Mainland shaped the lives of its ancient inhabitants.

This free event is suitable for all ages and booking is not required. Children under 16 must be accompanied by a responsible adult. Please contact the organiser if you have any questions:

The visitor centre is mostly wheelchair accessible and disabled parking and a drop-off area are available.

Beach Pebble event, Tobermory, Isle of Mull

16 September, 10am – 2.30pm

n aerial view of Tobermory on the Isle of Mull, Argyll and The Isles

An aerial view of Tobermory on the Isle of Mull, Argyll & The Isles © VisitScotland/John Duncan

Enjoy a walk with Mull Geology along the path which runs from the edge of the colourful town of Tobermory on the Isle of Mull, to the lighthouse at Rubha nan Gall.

There’s loads of amazing geology to be found on this Beach Pebble event, very conveniently located right beside the path. The walking is easy and offers fantastic views over to Morvern and Ardnamurchan on the mainland.

The walk culminates at the pebble beach just beyond the lighthouse, where a variety of interesting rock types can be found.

Mr. Miller’s Fascinating Fossils Exhibition, Cromarty, Highlands

18 September

Hugh Miller's Birthplace Cottage and Museum, Cromarty, Highlands

Hugh Miller’s Birthplace Cottage and Museum, Cromarty, Highlands

Join the National Trust for Scotland team at Hugh Miller’s Birthplace Cottage and Museum in the pretty village of Cromarty for a drop-in session, and follow in the footsteps of this great 19th century fossil explorer.

There will be hands-on fun for everyone, with opportunities to handle fossils, hear fascinating stories and enjoy a spot of creative craft.

This is a free, family-friendly event for the young (5+ years) and the young at heart (no upper limit!) and no booking is required. No unaccompanied children please. Please contact the organiser if you have any questions.

The Changing Outer Hebrides with Professor Frank Rennie

23 September 

The Butt of Lewis lighthouse, Outer Hebrides

The Butt of Lewis lighthouse, Outer Hebrides

Geology is fundamental to our sense of place. The underlying rocks determine a wide range of aspects of the landscape, from physical shape, to drainage and agriculture, and even elements of human heritage. The geological landscape is constantly changing and shaping both the natural environment and how we interact with it.

In this free online event, Professor Rennie will present an enchanting study through the millenia, of the small crofting township of Galson on the Isle of Lewis, based on his award-winning book, The Changing Outer Hebrides: Galson and the Meaning of Place.

Professor Rennie and Dr Elsa Panciroli will discuss the influence of geology on our landscape, explore what makes a place ‘special’ and why sense of place matters.

The Great Scottish Fossil Showdown

5 October

Join three teams of palaeontologists in this online event, as they battle it out in the first ever Scottish Fossil Showdown!

Team Palaeozoic, Team Mesozoic and Team Cenozoic will each argue for the best fossils from their time period. Can they convince you their favourite fossil is the best of all time?

It will be up to you to decide the winner in our live interactive vote at the end. Join them for this fast-paced event and see which time period and which team will triumph!

Beach Pebble event, Kirkcudbright, Dumfries & Galloway

9 October, 10am – 2pm

Kirkcudbright Harbour and Marina, Dumfries and Galloway

Kirkcudbright Harbour & Marina, Dumfries & Galloway © VisitScotland/Damian Shields

Head for The Dhoon, located to the south of the pretty ‘artists’ town’ of Kirkcudbright, and meet the experts who will help you understand the stories behind the pebbles you’ll find on this beach.

Learn how sandstone from nearby cliffs was laid down here 430 million years ago. Find out how granite was transported by ice and water to the beach and how rocks were formed in a volcanic vent on a nearby beach, many millenia ago.

This is a free, family-friendly drop-in event and no booking is required. You can turn up at a time that suits and spend as long as you like talking to the experts. No unaccompanied children please. Please contact the organiser if you have any questions.

The above is just a small selection of the events that are scheduled to take place during the festival. Visit the Scottish Geology Festival website for further information and to book your places.