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Geology of Scotland's Coast

Course Times & Enrolment

Mondays from 16th January 2017 (Code SN003-205) Mondays from
16th January 2017 6:30pm - 8:20pm • (6 classes)
4.04 Charteris Land, Holyrood Campus • Tutor: Angus D Miller BSc PhD
This course is now closed for enrolments

Course Summary

Scotland has an amazing coastline of cliffs and beaches, firths and sea lochs, headlands and islands. This coastline reflects Scotland’s geological history, which has resulted in a varied range of rock types formed at different times. We’ll explore the coast from Shetland to southwest Scotland, including several case studies from all parts of the country.

There will be no class on Monday 13 February

Course Details

Pre-requisites for enrolment

No previous knowledge required.

Content of Course

  1. Overview of the different rock types of Scotland, where they are found and how their varied properties contribute to the beaches, estuaries, headlands and islands of Scotland's coast. Examination of the physical processes at the coast - erosion and deposition.
  2. Coasts of the northern isles. Exploration of the contrasting coastal landscapes of Shetland and Orkney, including important features such as geos, tombolos and sea stacks.
  3. East Coast: what coastlines do typical Highland and Lowland rocks make? Case studies of Stonehaven and the Firth of Forth.
  4. West Coast: Examination of the rocks found on the western coast of mainland Scotland and the resulting varied coastline, heavily influenced in places by the grain of the land. Case studies from the northwest Highlands and Argyll.
  5. Islands of the west: explore how an intersection of events from different geological ages has produced a remarkably varied landscape of headlands and islands. Including case studies from Mull and the Small Isles.
  6. What next for Scotland's coast? An examination of recent changes brought by the ice ages and how the map of Scotland is in continual flux. What can we see happening now, and how might Scotland's coast look in the future.

Teaching method(s)

Lecture based with class discussion.

Learning outcomes

By the end of this course, students should be able to:

  • Demonstrate a broad understanding of the geology of Scotland, including the rock types, geological processes and timescale of the formation of Scotland’s rocks;
  • Identify some of the rocks they come across;
  • Understand how these rocks fit into the patterns of Scotland’s geology;
  • Appreciate how the variety of rock types found in Scotland is expressed in Scotland’s varied coastline.


Core Readings


Gillen, C., 2013. Geology and landscapes of Scotland (2nd edition). Dunedin, 9781-780460-09-3


Fortey, R., 1993. The Hidden Landscape. Pimlico.
McKirdy, A. and Crofts, R., 1999. Scotland the creation of its natural landscape. Scottish Natural Heritage.

Class Handouts

Handouts will be provided.

Student support

If you feel you have specific requirements to enable you to study with us, please contact our Student Support Team by email or by phone 0131 650 4400 to arrange a confidential discussion. Giving us this information will enable us to make arrangements to meet your requirements for studying in accordance with your rights under the Equality Act 2010.