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Earth Science Field Trips

Course Times & Enrolment

This course is currently unavailable.

Course Summary

After a short preparatory session, this course ventures out to five superb field sites to explore geology in the field. We will investigate extinct volcanoes, tropical coral reefs, and the mangled strata of mountain building.  A fifth field trip looks at the rich urban geology of Edinburgh.

The field trips will involve walking for approximately 6km at each field site over uneven terrain which will include some steep inclines and potentially slippery rocks on the coast. Transport will not be provided for the field trips; you will make your own way to the meeting point for each trip. 

Each trip will have a different geological emphasis.  Each will comprise a moderate walk, three in coastal settings, and suitable clothing and footwear will be essential. The field trips will investigate general geology and field relationships of rocks and will teach you how to read rocks in the field. The different sites visited will reveal a range of aspects of Scotland’s past looking at rocks from the Silurian to the Carboniferous period covering deep marine, shallow marine and terrestrial sedimentary deposits, a range of volcanic and intrusive igneous rocks, as well as a fossil rich sequence. 

Course Details

Pre-requisites for enrolment

Students should have previous study of geology / Earth science such as Earth Science: An Introduction or other geology courses.

Special Information

Students should have appropriate field gear for field trips: stout walking shoes, wet-weather clothing, rucksack, walking poles if required.

Content of Course

The order of the field trips is dependent on the tides and will be confirmed at the first session and on the course Learn pages. 

1. Introductory session: field technique and safety, revision of rock identification and geological maps (11:10-13:00)

2. Field trip – Arthur’s Seat – Edinburgh’s volcano (10:30-15:00)

3. Field trip – Tyninghame,  East Lothian: sedimentary and igneous rocks; faults, dipping strata, joints (10:30-15:00)

4. Field trip – Barn’s Ness (near Dunbar): cyclic sedimentary sequences, fossils, palaeoenvironments, astronomical influences on Earth’s surface environment (10:30-15:00)

5. Field trip – St. Abb’s Head (Berwickshire): deep marine sedimentary rocks, volcanic rocks, folding and deformation of rocks, mountain building and regional perspective, geological control of landscape (10:30-15:00)

6. Field trip – Fairy Glen at Aikengall and Pease Bay, East Lothian. Terrestrial sedimentary rocks from the start and end of the Devonian Period, contrasting powerful forces of erosion at work after mountain building with a more tranquil period of sandstone deposition in an arid environment (10:30-15:00)

Teaching method(s)

The introductory session will be held on campus, field trips are outdoor tuition at the outcrop.

Learning outcomes

On completion of this course, students will be able to:

  • Distinguish different rock types in the field and appreciate the significance of their occurrence;

  • Record relevant geological field data in note, sketch and photographic form; 

  • Interpret the palaeo-environmental setting of sedimentary rocks;

  • Interpret cross-cutting relationships displayed in outcrops;

  • Decipher geological history from field evidence.


Core Readings


  • Gillen, C., 2013. Geology and landscapes of Scotland.  Edinburgh: Dunedin (or earlier edition by Terra).

  • McKirdy, A., Gordon, J., Crofts, R., 2007. Land of Mountain and Flood: the Geology and Landforms of Scotland, Edinburgh: Birlinn.

Web Sources

Webgeology - online, interactive geology from the University of Tromso ~

Scottish geology portal ~

 Scottish Natural Heritage booklets (pdfs):


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.