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Geology of the Lothians

Course Times & Enrolment

Thursdays from 28th September 2023 (Code SN059-105) Thursdays from
28th September 2023 6:30pm - 8:20pm • (10 classes)
G33 Paterson's Land, Holyrood Campus • Tutor: Angus D Miller BSc PhD
This course is now closed for enrolments

Course Summary

The rocks around Edinburgh tell a story of changing conditions over the last 500 million years. We will explore the volcanic activity that has created igneous rock and discover how different environments in the past have created a range of sedimentary rocks, many of which have been used by people.

Course Details

Pre-requisites for enrolment

No prior knowledge of geology needed. Some familiarity with topographic maps would be useful but is not essential.

Content of Course

1. Introduction to geology, important geological processes, geological time.

2. Scotland in a global setting: plate tectonics and the geology of Scotland.

3. Sedimentary rocks in the Lothians.

4. Igneous rocks and volcanic activity in the Lothians.

5. Faulting and folding of rocks. Introduction to geological maps and how to visualise the three dimensional structure from a map.

6. Basins and uplands. An examination of the topography of this area in the past, and how faulting and basin formation controlled formation of the rocks.

7. Arthur's Seat and Castle Rock. What can the rocks tell us about the eruption of this volcano?

8. Geological resources of the Lothians – how humans have used the local rocks.

9. Sculpting the landscape: 300 million years of erosion and the recent glaciations have created today's landscape.

10. Course synthesis: what was it really like in the past?

Teaching method(s)

Mainly lectures, with some class-based practical work.

Learning outcomes

In particular, by the end of the course students will:

  • Understand the impact of volcanic activity, formation of sedimentary rocks, faulting and folding in forming the rocks of the area.

  • Appreciate how erosion and glaciation have combined with lithological variations to create the landscape.

  • Gain insight into geological time, the slow pace of geological processes, and the principle of uniformitarianism.

  • Have the ability to read geological maps to extract key information without having to understand the detail.


Core Readings


  • Gillen, C (2003). Geology and landscapes of Scotland. Harpenden, Terra Publishing.

  • Land, D (2001). Discovering Edinburgh's Volcano. Edinburgh, EGS/SNH/Historic Scotland.

  • McAdam, D (2003). Edinburgh & West Lothian, a landscape fashioned by geology. Edinburgh, SNH.

  • McAdam, D and Clarkson, E (1986). Lothian Geology, an excursion guide. Edinburgh, Scottish Academic Press.

  • D. A. Rothery (2003). Geology (Teach Yourself), London: Hodder Arnold Teach Yourself.

Web Sources

Introduction to the Siccar Point area, designed for University of Edinburgh Geology undergraduates

Class Handouts

All handouts will be distributed at the start of the course, and will include key maps and diagrams and text exploring the course content.


If you have questions regarding the course or enrolment, please contact COL Reception at Paterson's Land by email or by phone 0131 650 4400.

Student support

If you have a disability, learning difficulty or health condition which may affect your studies, please let us know by ticking the 'specific support needs' box on your course application form. This will allow us to make appropriate adjustments in advance and in accordance with your rights under the Equality Act 2010. For more information please visit the Student Support section of our website.