Hugh Miller Writing Competition

The Hugh Miller Writing Competition  2019-2020

Salisbury Crags with the summit of Arthur’s Seat behind. Image: Angus Miller.

“The natural features so overtop the artificial ones – its hollow valleys are so much more strongly marked than its streets, and its hills and precipices than its buildings – Arthur’s Seat and the Crags look so proudly down on its towers and spires.”
Hugh Miller on Edinburgh; Edinburgh and its Neighbourhood; Geological and Historical, with the Geology of the Bass Rock, 1875

The Hugh Miller Writing Competition carries the name of one of Scotland’s most remarkable geologists, Hugh Miller (1802-1856), and aims to honour his legacy by inspiring new, original prose and poetry on the theme of Scotland’s geoheritage. The competition is organised by the Scottish Geodiversity Forum and The Friends of Hugh Miller.

This year, poetry and prose entries are invited that are inspired by one or more of the “51 Best Places to See Scotland’s Geology.” The list, compiled by a panel of experts, aims to help you find out more about Scotland’s geological heritage, and guide you to the best places to see different elements of the story laid out in our country’s beautiful landscapes. You can find full details here:

While Miller himself visited many of the locations on our list, entries are most certainly not limited to his haunts alone. We hope that this writing competition, open to all ages, will encourage both a renewed interest in Miller’s work, and contribute to a catalogue of new writings inspired by one of Scotland’s greatest nature writers. We also aim to highlight the role that Scotland’s geology plays in our daily lives and foster greater awareness and appreciation of Scotland’s geodiversity.

“Hugh Miller is one of the writers who gave me ‘deep-time spectacles’; his remarkable prose helped me, as it has helped so many people, to see back into earth history, and read our planet’s ancient past from its present surface. He was, really, a visionary, and it is wonderful to see him still celebrated today.”
Robert Macfarlane, author of Mountains of the Mind, The Wild Places, Landmarks

Hugh Miller by Hill & Adamson

Competition Rules

1. There are two categories; young people aged under 18 (on the closing date) and adults aged 18 and over.
2. Competition entries can be in any written format – fiction, non-fiction or poetry – and should be directly inspired by one or more of the locations in the ’51 Best Places’ list (see We are looking for work celebrating Scotland’s landscapes and geoheritage. Links or references to Hugh Miller are welcome, although this is not compulsory.
3. Entries must be the entrant’s own work and not have been previously published. Apologies, but we do not accept simultaneous submissions. Entries must be no more than 1000 words in length for under 18s and no more than 2000 words for adults. Poetry in each age category should be no more than 40 lines long.
4. The competition closes at midnight on 15 March 2020. All entries must be submitted by email as outlined below.
5. Copyright of submitted entries will rest with the author. The Scottish Geodiversity Forum request a non-exclusive licence to publish a selection of entries, for example on
6. The competition is open to all and there is no charge to enter. The judges will be freelance science writer Larissa (Lara) Reid, naturalist and writer Kenny Taylor, 1st prize in prose winner of the first Hugh Miller Writing Competition Jane Verburg, together with geologist Simon Cuthbert, and palaeontologist Elsa Panciroli (University of Oxford). If your anonymised work is likely to be recognisable by any of these judges, please declare this when you submit your entry so that we can assess any conflict of interest.
7. Winners will be notified by 15 April 2020. The judges’ decision is final.

Awards Ceremony and Prizes

Winners will be notified by 15 April 2020, and invited to an Awards ceremony in Edinburgh in June 2020 (TBC).

Prizes include:

– A weekend for two in Cromarty, The Black Isle (Miller’s hometown), which will include a free tour of the Hugh Miller Birthplace Cottage and Museum, and a guided fossil hunting trip in the local area.
– A behind-the-scenes tour of the National Museums Scotland collections, including the geological and mineralogical collections at Granton, Edinburgh.
– Books related to Hugh Miller, geopoetics and Scotland’s landscapes and geology
– Geological maps and equipment
– Family passes for Dynamic Earth, Edinburgh
– Fossils from Mr Woods Fossils, Edinburgh

– We are delighted to announce that our winning poets in the Under-18s category will be invited to read at Geopoetry2020 in Edinburgh, October 2020 –

How to Enter

Submit your entry as an email attachment in word or pdf format to Please include your name and contact details only in your covering email, not in the entry itself, which should be anonymous. Please also declare in your covering email if you think your identity as the author of your (anonymised) entry could be recognised by any of the named judges. These are precautionary steps to avoid any possible conflict of interest in the judging process. Thank you for your co-operation.

We aim to acknowledge all entries within 72 hours. We are happy to accept batches of entries from schools, please get in touch to arrange this.


Our recent publication, Conversations in Stone: A Celebration of Hugh Miller’s Legacy, includes all previous winning competition entries, together with essays by established writers including Scottish author James Robertson, writer and naturalist Kenny Taylor, Miller experts Bob Davidson and Mike Taylor, and writer Robert Macfarlane. You can buy a copy here:

Donning Deep Time Spectacles: Robert Macfarlane on Hugh Miller
Inspiration from the latest Scottish fossil finds – by Elsa Panciroli
“Passion and boundless curiosity”: James Robertson on Hugh Miller
“A key figure in our ongoing national story”: Martin Gostwick on Hugh Miller
Walking in other worlds: Getting to know Hugh Miller, by Lara Reid

PrevIOUS Winners 2017-18

Prose Winner: Thomas Halliday, University of Birmingham School of Geography, Earth and Environmental Sciences
Prose Runner-up: Ross Barnett, University of Durham
Poetry Winner: Alex Woodcock, Published writer / poet – and a stonemason
Poetry  Runner-up: Gillian Dawson, Renfrewshire
Highly commended in Poetry: Alison Seller, Cromarty
Highly commended in Poetry: Fiona Ritchie Walker, Published poet, Montrose

PrevIOUS Winners 2015-16

1st place in prose: Jane Verburg
2nd place in prose: Antonia Thomas
3rd place in prose: Jim Gilchrist
Highly commended in prose: Paula Hunter
Highly commended in prose: Màiri Anna NicUalraig (Mary Ann Kennedy)

1st place in poetry: Justin Sales
2nd place in poetry: Kenneth Steven
Joint 3rd place in poetry: Jim Mackintosh
Joint 3rd place in poetry: Michael Davenport
Highly commended in poetry: Elizabeth Pickett

Under 16 Prose winner: Mackenzie Robbie
Under 16 Poetry winner: Annabelle Fuller


Many thanks to our competition partners for 2019-2020, both for their ongoing support and for donating prizes.

Scottish Geodiversity Forum –
The Friends of Hugh Miller –
Dynamic Earth –
Edinburgh Geological Society –
Scottish Centre for Geopoetics –
Lochaber Geopark –
Cromarty Arts Trust –
The Hunterian, Glasgow –
Mr Woods Fossils –
The National Museums Scotland –
The National Trust for


Helping SNH to promote the Scottish Fossil Code: If collecting fossils in Scotland, please do so responsibly and follow the advice on best practice in the collection and storage of fossil specimens outlined in the Scottish Fossil Code.  The Code may be viewed and downloaded from:


More about Hugh Miller and his writing

Hugh Miller (1802-1856) was a self-taught pioneering Scottish geologist, folklorist and social campaigner. He began working life as a jobbing stonemason, and went on to achieve great acclaim as a national newspaper editor, church reformer and best-selling author on geology. Find out more at the Discover Hugh Miller website –
His life and work are presented in the Hugh Miller Museum and Birthplace Cottage in the Black Isle town of Cromarty –

In 2014 and 2015, two sailing journeys with crews of geologists, writers, musicians, geographers and other talented people took place in the islands of Scotland’s west coast in homage to Hugh Miller. Find out more –

Hugh Miller was a prodigious writer, editing the Witness newspaper in Edinburgh from 1840 until his death, and publishing many books including his important contributions to Scotland’s geology in a series of books including The Old Red Sandstone (1841), Footprints of the Creator (1849), The Testimony of the Rocks (1857), Sketch-book of Popular Geology and The Cruise of the Betsey (1858). You can download these as free ebooks, for example from Project Gutenberg –

help us publicise the competitiON

General flier (pdf file)Kid’s flier (pdf file)