Scotland’s Geology

In this section: Getting started | Geological timescale | Geology of Scotland Map | Regional geology | Famous Scottish geologists.

Simplified geological map of Scotland

Scotland has a long and fascinating geological history. Our story begins 3 billion years ago at the South Pole, with a journey of many thousands of miles bringing us to where we are today. Scotland has moved from one side of the Earth to the other, through many different climatic extremes, whilst travelling on the moving jigsaw of tectonic plates which covers the surface of our planet.

The diversity of Scotland’s rocks holds the key to unlocking the geological history of our country –clues lie around us and beneath our feet that show Scotland’s past life as a desert, a tropical swamp, a landscape of volcanoes, and even as part of an ocean floor. The rocks are Scotland’s building blocks, affecting everything we see around us: forming and determining the lay of the land, the rivers, lochs, soil and vegetation, as well as the locations of every city and town.

Each rock type has its own story to tell. How, when and even where a rock was formed is all ‘imprinted’ into the rock and can be ‘read’ by geologists. By reading the stories behind the rocks and finding clues to the past, geologists have been able to piece together the details behind Scotland’s formation.

Over the past 3 billion years, our land has seen many geographical, topographical and climatic changes, as well as seeing life evolve from simple algae and bacteria to the complexities of the human race. Within the last 100 million years alone, dinosaurs have roamed here, volcanoes heralded the opening up of the Atlantic Ocean, and the landscape has been dramatically altered and marked by many ice ages.

Click on the geological time scale to find out more about the stages of Scotland’s evolution, and how our landscape has transformed since we left the South Pole 3 billion years ago.