Beach Pebble Guide

Information and activities to help you explore Scotland’s pebble beaches, geology and climate change

  • Explore the variety of pebbles on Scotland’s beaches
  • Find out what these pebbles tell us about Scotland’s geological story
  • Learn about beach processes and the impact of climate change on the coast
  • Try out some hands-on beach pebble activities next time you visit the beach

This guide was prepared for the Scottish Geology Festival 2021, organised by the Scottish Geology Trust

This webpage is a temporary home for the Beach Pebble Guide, until is restored!

Ask-a-geologist events during Geoweek 9-17 May 2020

Stuck indoors with your rock collection? Always wanted to know more about a favourite? During Geoweek from 9-17 May, join a geologist online to ask about any rock, fossil or mineral specimen, and find out about their favourite rocks.

Saturday 9th May, 10am with Paige dePolo & Isla Simmons, University of Edinburgh
Sunday 10th May, 3pm with Gillian McCay, University of Edinburgh
Wednesday 13th May, 3pm with Laura Hamlet and Pete Harrison, North West Highlands UNESCO Global Geopark
Friday 15th May, 4pm with Simon Cuthbert, Geological Society of Glasgow
Saturday 16th May, 7pm ** Sorry, this event is cancelled due to family illness** with Stuart Blake, Lochranza Outdoor Education & Activity Centre and the Arran Geopark
Rescheduled to Sunday 24 May, 4pm with Mark Wilkinson, University of Edinburgh

To join in, email Angus Miller for further details and an invite. If you like, you can email pictures in advance (best taken in bright, natural light).

Additional event from the Geological Society of Glasgow: Ask the Rock Docs Sunday, 17 May 2020 from 12:00-15:00
Email your image of a rock, mineral, fossil or geological structure and the Rock Docs will try and identify and explain it. Email an image before hand and we may contact you on the day to discuss your pet rock.

And for your convenience, here are three other Ask-A-Geologist events in the UK:

Ask a Geologist Online – with Derek Rust, Tuesday 12/5/2020, 2pm
An online meeting, using Webex, to remotely explore our fascinating planet.
Very pleased to offer answers online to your geological questions and, using your webcam, try and identify your geological hand specimens. More or less any geological questions or hand specimens but, please note, I am NOT a specialist palaeontologist so your fossil specimens/questions would be better directed elsewhere. Email

Ask a (Buckingham) Geologist! Wednesday 13/5/2020, 7pm
Have you found a rock, mineral or fossil and want to know its hidden history? Looking for a geologist to unlock its secrets? This is the (virtual) place and GeoWeek is the time…
During GeoWeek I will be available online to tell the stories in your stones. Just drop me an email at, ideally with a photo or two of your own little piece of geology, to book a place in a group session or a one-to-one chat – via Zoom or just on email. I’ll send the secret code for the option you choose.

Ask a Geologist with Aisling O’Kane, University of Cambridge, Friday 15/5/2020, 10.30am
Hi, I’m Aisling and I am a second-year Earth Sciences PhD student at the University of Cambridge. I look at how the ground shakes from earthquakes and the associated hazard posed to communities around the world. I am hosting a virtual meeting over Zoom on Friday 15th May 2020 at 10:30 BST as part of GeoWeek’s ‘Ask-A-Geologist’ event to answer all your burning questions regarding Earth Science, University, PhD life and what it is like to be a ‘Women in Science’.

If you are a prospective student considering Earth Sciences at university or possibly looking into pursuing a PhD, I’m happy to answer your questions!

Common questions that I often get asked (but feel free to ask anything!):

  • What is it like to study/research Earth Science? (What does a typical undergraduate/postgraduate course in Earth Sciences entail?)
  • What is it like to be a ‘Women in Science?'(Let’s break down those stereotypes!)
  • What is a typical day in the life of a geologist?

To join in, email Aisling at

Find out more about Geoweek – this a new initiative, launched in 2018, that aims to promote ‘active geoscience’ via a ‘week’ of field trip activities taking place across the UK and Northern Ireland during a week in May. This year, activities are restricted because of the Covid-19 pandemic, but we hope to be back with a full outdoor programme in 2021.

At the Water’s Edge – tetrapod exhibition at Elgin Museum

A new exhibition at Elgin Museum giving an opportunity to view fossils from one of the world’s oldest tetrapods, Elginerpeton pancheni. The bones provide crucial evidence of the evolution from fins to feet but their importance was only recognised in the 1990s. This is the first time that the fossils have been brought together in 375 million years and are on display for this season only.

Dates: 28th March – 31st October 2020

Venue: Elgin Museum, 1, High Street, Elgin IV30 1EQ

Further information:
01343 543675

New “Highlands Controversy” Geotour for 2020 from the North West Highlands UNESCO Global Geopark

The North West Highlands UNESCO Global Geopark is pleased to announce a new Geotour for 2020 – The Highlands Controversy. The tour follows the pioneering geologists of the 19th century in their attempts to unravel the geological history of the northwest highlands. You will discover the role played by such figures as Roderick Murchison, Archibald Geikie, Matthew Heddle, James Nicol, Charles Lapworth, Ben Peach and John Horne at a time when the amateur geologists challenged the established views of the official Geological Survey.

This tour complements existing, very popular, tours that the Geopark have been running for a number of years with expert tuition by Geopark staff. As home of the oldest rocks in Europe, the first identified thrust fault, the oldest and biggest meteorite impact ejecta and with evidence of the earliest life; the North West Highlands Geopark really is the “Cradle of Geology”.

Recognising Scotland’s Geological Heritage: Introducing the “Scottish Geology Trust”

Hutton’s unconformity at Siccar Point

The purpose of this brief note is to get your feedback on an exciting development in the support for Scottish Geology, the creation of “The Scottish Geology Trust”.

Scotland past, present and future are intimately linked to geology. The beauty of the country stems from its long geological history with continental collisions raising mountains chains of Himalayan proportions, meteor impacts, rifting, volcanism and glaciation. It is truly a land of ice and fire. The prosperity past and present is largely or partly derived from its geology, for instance today, most of Scotland’s main industries rely on an understanding of the physical processes of our planet. This understanding is very important for the renewables industry, agriculture, life sciences, oil and gas, mining, forestry, tourism and even whisky. The geography and history have also shaped to an extraordinary extent by the geology of Scotland.

Against this background it is surprising that so little is generally known about its importance. Few of the many visitors to the Highlands who marvel at the landscape know much of the reasons why it exists or how it came about. Within the pre-university education system, mention of geology is disappearing, the future impacts of this on our workforce are concerning.

Rather than being celebrated for its value to landscape, industry and culture, geology has become tainted in many people’s minds by its connection to extractive industries while overlooking the importance to resources needed for renewables such as geothermal power or the need for lithium and other rare metals. Crucially, knowledge of the physical processes that make our planet work are fundamental to understanding issues of climate change.

Geology is very much a forgotten science in Scotland below degree level, this despite the major role Scotland played in the emergence of geology as a science e.g. James Hutton, Lyell, Murchison, Holmes, etc. Key conservation sites are substandard, for example, Fossil Grove in Glasgow is an outstanding geological site of national and international importance that has been seriously neglected. Siccar Point is a geological site which is regarded nationally and internationally as iconic. Glen Roy with its superb parallel roads, although designated as a National Nature Reserve, languishes with little development.

Scottish Geoparks do not receive any government funding and have been asked to make themselves “self sufficient”. With over 50,000 visitors to their visitor centres per year and at least 400,000 visits to their landscapes, they are very much where geology meets the general public. There have been education initiatives, such as the “Geobus” by St Andrews University. This was a project involving taking a travelling lab to schools and taking school pupils to geological sites where they were taught about what they saw. This project was very successful but had to be abandoned for lack of funding.

Despite industry being short of young geologists and engineers, financial support from industry in the form of grants and donations which once could have been relied on has now disappeared.

The situation continues to deteriorate with Geoparks increasingly struggling to survive. This sorry state demands action given the proud role Scottish geologists have played in the development of the science and the given that with some justification one can claim Scotland is its geology. In the absence of any central initiatives or interest, a group of concerned individuals supported by the Scottish Geological Societies and others such as the PESGB have begun work to create a new national charity “The Scottish Geology Trust”.  This exciting development followed three workshops where it became clear that there was a strong ground swell of opinion that the charity was needed. The charity aims to help provide funding and support for geological education, geoparks and geoconservation. In detail it will:

1.     To promote the role and value of Scotland’s geology by increasing recognition of the importance of geology in Scotland and its contribution to sustainable economic development, including tourism, the responsible utilisation of natural resources, water supply and safe disposal of waste, and its role in underpinning our landscape, heritage and supporting biodiversity; to encourage promotion of geological sites of local, national and international importance.

2. To encourage geoconservation and the best stewardship possible of Scotland’s geological sites of local, national and international importance; to support local communities and organisations to achieve this including by coordinating activities and sharing information on best practice.

3. To encourage exploration, understanding and enjoyment of geology as a science; to support learning about geology and landscape in schools and colleges and a better understanding amongst the general public; to encourage industry and university sectors to support geological education and providing resources to help inspire enlightenment in the next generation of geoscientists and engineers;

4. To promote the cultural value of Scotland’s geology, by creating a sense of place, and its importance in public health and well-being and to collaborate with others on geology related projects engaging the arts.

We are currently making a proposal to the Office of the Scottish Charities Regulator (OSCR) to register the charity.

We are really interested in getting your feedback on these aims. If you, like us, are passionate about this new development then we are also looking for volunteers and supporters to carry it forward. Please feel free to contact us via

Search for Scotland’s 1.2-billion-year-old meteorite impact crater

The Stac Fada Member is an intriguing layer of rock in the North West Highlands UNESCO Global Geopark in northern Scotland. This unusual rock layer lies within a sequence of ancient sandstone and mudstone, part of the Torridonian Sandstone that formed more than 1000 million years ago. The layer has been interpreted as a meteorite impact blanket, but the site of the crater is as yet uncertain. Two recent papers argue for two different locations – one sited to the east, near the town of Lairg and the other to the south-west, under what is now the Minch seaway. The controversy is outlined in this recent EOS article ….

The Search for the Impact That Cratered Ancient Scotland

Save Charles Lyell’s notebooks

Charles Lyell (1797-1875) is well known as a key figure in history of science, particularly for his part in the Darwinian evolutionary debates and in convincing readers of the significance of ‘deep time’. During the past decade, Lyell’s geographical theory of climate and his subdivision of recent geological strata have gained renewed attention in connection with discussions of climate change and the Anthropocene. The Lyell archive is almost certainly the most important manuscript collection relating to nineteenth century science still in private hands. At its core are 294 notebooks, which provide a daily record of Lyell’s private thoughts, travels, field observations and conversations.

The notebooks, have been put up for sale, but the UK government has imposed a temporary export ban to enable fundraising to purchase these remarkable documents, conserve them, and make them available on-line for free to the public. The University of Edinburgh Library, which already has the largest collection of Lyell material, is organising the campaign.

The sum required is £1,444,000; major donors have already pledged more than a third of the total needed. If significant public interest can be demonstrated by 15 July, the sale can be delayed until October.

History of Geology Group in Edinburgh 11-12 July 2019

The History of Geology Group (HOGG) of the Geological Society of London and the Edinburgh Geological Society are organising an open meeting, Aspects of the History of Geology in Scotland and the North of England, at Surgeons’ Hall, Nicolson Street, Edinburgh. This meeting will include a programme of talks on Thursday 11 July, followed by optional field visits on Friday 12 July.

Friday’s field visits will feature a morning stroll in the Old Town, and an afternoon stroll in the New Town, each two hours long and visiting sites of interest to historians of geology, with the spotlight on James Hutton.

Visit the HOGG website at for further details. Booking in advance is essential, payment can be made by PayPal. The conference fee of £40 includes lunch, morning and afternoon refreshments, and an abstracts booklet. The meeting is open to all, you don’t need to be a member of HOGG or EGS to attend.

Lochaber Geopark – Geotours 2019

Lochaber Geopark is proud to present its programme of field excursions for 2019. Geotours are led by local geologists and take you to locations of outstanding scenery and impressive geological history. We offer a large range of Geotours from half-day up to 5 days in length. The rocks of Lochaber cover nearly 3 billion years of earth’s history, including two periods of mountain building and volcanic activity that marked the opening of the North Atlantic. The tours will link our wonderful scenery to this majestic history.

There are tours planned throughout the summer and it is also possible to arrange a custom geotour for small groups.

To see the programme, and to book a Geotour, visit the Lochaber Geopark website here: