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Scotland's Volcanoes

Course Times & Enrolment

This course is currently unavailable.

Course Summary

Volcanoes are a fascination for people, and past volcanic eruptions have had a significant role in shaping Scotland’s landscape, creating for example the rocks of Glencoe and Skye. By exploring modern eruptions around the world we can develop an understanding of the volcanic activity in Scotland’s geological past.

Course Details

Pre-requisites for enrolment

No previous knowledge required.

Content of Course

1. Why do volcanoes erupt? An introduction to different types of volcanoes, volcanic rocks, the distribution of volcanoes around the world, and the theory of plate tectonics which explains the pattern of past and present volcano distributions.

2. Volcanic activity associated with ocean closure and plate collision: the Caledonian orogeny in Scotland and related volcanic activity, including case studies of Glencoe and comparison with large-scale volcanic eruptions in western USA, Japan and New Zealand.

3. Volcanoes of the Caledonian orogeny continued, further case studies including the Ochil and Pentland Hills, illustrated with reference to comparable eruptions in the Caribbean, New Zealand and Japan.

4. Volcanic activity associated with crustal rifting. Overview of rift-related and basaltic volcanism in the world today, with examples from Iceland and New Zealand.

5. The Midland Valley of Scotland – rift related volcanic activity during the Carboniferous Period, including case studies of diatremes in Fife and the Lothians.

6. The Atlantic rift: crustal rifting and volcanic activity on the west coast of Scotland, creating the volcanic rocks of the Inner Hebrides.

Teaching method(s)

Six lecture sessions, with opportunities to look at rocks and maps, ask questions and take part in discussions.

Learning outcomes

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

  • Appreciate the role that volcanic eruptions have in shaping the landscape;

  • Understand how volcanoes work, and be able to relate modern eruptions from around the world with past activity in Scotland;

  • Identify the ways in which volcanic activity has contributed to Scotland's scenery and resources.


Core Readings


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

  • Upton, B (2004), Volcanoes and the Making of Scotland, Dunedin (2nd edition), 9781-780460-56-7.

Web Sources

“Landscape fashioned by geology” booklets

British Geological Survey “Geology of Britain” maps

Class Handouts

Class handouts will be provided - key diagrams and summary notes.


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.