From the President

It is with great pleasure that I put pen to paper as president of the Edinburgh Geological Society. At the same time it is a great shame that we cannot all meet together to discuss all things geological but as a geological society we are adapting to the times and that there is really a great deal that our members can get involved with.

I returned to work in the lab at the Grant Institute recently expecting it to be a big change in scene following more than four months away. What I soon realised was that it really wasn’t that different to what I have at home – specimens scattered here and there (in order and neatly labelled of course), books on the bookshelf on various palaeontological and geological subjects and cupboards full of ingredients for preserving and conserving fossils (I don’t keep these in my kitchen cupboards!). I appreciate that not everybody will have all this in their home but it made me realise that there is actually an awful lot that we can do at home in pursuit of our interests.

Though travelling restrictions are largely lifted, my time since back in the UK has given me a greater appreciation of the rich and varied geology in our local neighbourhood and just how interesting and lucky I am to live in a part of the world where I can stroll for 15 minutes and find a coal seam that hasn’t been mined out. Of course, the internet is available to nearly all of us and through hours of idle geology googling I discovered that not only do I have 1m thick coal seam 11m under my house but there are also Carbonifeorus vertebrates preserved down there too! I encourage all to explore the hidden corners of their local neighbourhood for geological gems, build a home lab in their kitchen, do some geology and share it with everyone.

The BGS Geology of Britain viewer gives you access to 1:50,000 scale superficial and bedrock maps for the UK, and borehole records.

All that said, we cannot deny that the way we interact as a society has seismically shifted since the spring newsletter and this has sadly meant the last few lectures in our winter series and all of our summer field trips were cancelled. Despite this we have been able to interact as a society through Zoom and I see this becoming an invaluable tool for our lectures in the future and even (at the discretion of trip leaders) our field trips. David Wesbter’s virtual fieldtrip of Islay following our delayed Annual General Meeting was a great success and a fine example of how well it can work. That said, I’m sure most of us would agree that it doesn’t beat seeing the real thing and so within the limits of restrictions in place and through the hard work of Angus Miller, Ian Kearsley and David Graham we have a revised excursion programme for the lighter days of autumn.

There is no indication for the foreseeable future that the University of Edinburgh will be able to open up the Hutton Lecture theatre for our winter lecture series and so this will have to be virtual. Graham Leslie has cast his net far and wide to gather together a worthy and willing team to present their research and interests to us virtually. There are advantages to this approach in terms of accessibility but obviously the social side of geology for which we still yearn will have to put on hold for a bit longer.

It is not all doom and gloom however! The forthcoming Scottish Geology Festival promises to provide a feast of geological-related events as does the events presented by the Scottish Geology Trust. I thoroughly recommend visiting the Scottish Geology Trust website for news of upcoming events but also our very own EGS website! For those of you who are socially-media savvy our EGS twitter is a veritable rabbit hole of geological titbits that are guaranteed to stimulate the idle mind.

To finish on a very positive note indeed, we currently have the highest membership in living memory with a total of 627 current active members! This is an increase of more than 100 members from 10 years ago and a tribute to the hard work of all our those during this time who have helped promote our society in myriad ways.

Tom Challands, EGS President –

Dalradian workers in County Tyrone. Photograph: Amanda MacDonald/Dalradian/PA

Gold prospects in Northern Ireland and Scotland

Latest news from the Guardian about plans for new gold mining in the Dalradian rocks of Northern Ireland and Scotland. The gold price is up, and there’s talk of new developments. Lots of potential for jobs and investment, but also concerns about the impact on local communities and the environment.

Read more at the Guardian –


Scottish Geology Trust

The new Scottish Geology Trust is now up and running, with support from the Edinburgh Geological Society. The key objective of the Trust is “to inspire people everywhere to understand, love and care for Scotland’s incredible geological heritage and its role in creating a sustainable future”.

The Trust aims to bring together all sectors of the geological community in Scotland into a strong national voice that can campaign for change, and support and encourage work at a local level. Everyone with an interest in geology now has the opportunity to contribute to a national charity which will build the resources to achieve more than regional or local organisations can do by working alone.

The Trust has begun work on four areas of activity:

I. Promoting Scotland’s geology: provide opportunities for people to understand Scotland’s geological story and have easy access to sites where this can be appreciated.
II. Scotland’s geoparks: SGT will provide a focus for the promotion of the geoparks and provision of advice and information sharing. In the medium term, core funding for geoparks will be a priority, together with working with partner organisations to widen opportunities for the public to come face-to-face with geology.
III. Education: The Trust will work with partners such as the Geobus to support teaching about geology within the Curriculum for Excellence, looking for opportunities to work with and support teachers, highlight contexts for outdoor learning and promote geology as a career pathway. The Trust aims to inspire more adult learning about Scotland’s geology and encourage collaboration between schools, universities, industry and NGOs, to share the excitement and relevance of new research and support taking science out into wider society.
IV. Campaigning for Scotland’s geology: SGT will campaign to promote the value of geology to society, policy makers and government, and raise awareness of the impact of geology and geological processes on the availability of resources, global and local sustainability, risk management, including climate change, flooding and coastal erosion, and changes in biodiversity.

The Trust is organising the Scottish Geology Festival from 12th September to 31st October 2020. The festival will offer a range of events and activities for anyone interested in geology; there will be fantastic opportunities for all to get involved, including families, communities and visitors to Scotland. Planned events include field trips and talks, and there will be a range of virtual and in-person events.

The Scottish Geology Trust is a membership organisation, and will depend on member subscriptions and donations to be successful. EGS encourages our members to get involved in the Trust, to support this new organisation and its activities.

Find out more at

Eildon Hills, Scottish Borders

The Scottish Borders – unexplored territory

The Eildon Hills

by Alison and Barry Tymon

The rolling hills of the Scottish Borders region stretch from the Berwickshire coast westwards to Dumfries and Galloway, in the north to the Pentland Hills and Edinburgh, with the southern boundary following the border with England. Most of the region is drained in an easterly direction by the 150 km River Tweed and its tributaries.

The solid geology is dominated by Lower Palaeozoic greywackes which form the upland areas to the north and west, such as the Lammermuir Hills, Moorfoot Hills and Ettrick Forest. Eastwards, in the lower Tweed valley, Devonian and Carboniferous sandstones and mudstones are interrupted by volcanic lavas, plugs and intrusions, such as the Eildon Hills, near Melrose. Upland landscapes are influenced by glacial erosion whereas the valleys contain thick sequences of glacial and alluvial deposits.

Though Scotland has been surveyed over several decades for Local Geodiversity Sites (LGS), the Scottish Borders has been a relatively neglected region until recently. There are 28 geological Sites of Special Scientific Interest in the region, which include internationally significant sites such as Siccar Point on the Berwickshire coast and important fossil sites along the Whiteadder Water and the River Tweed. However, the region has many other interesting rock types and landscapes, so further surveying has been undertaken by two enthusiasts over the last three years. Read more

EGS AGM (online) Wednesday 24 June 2020

The EGS Annual General Meeting, postponed from March due to Covid-19, will take place on Wednesday 24th June at 7pm.  Unlike in previous years, we will be holding this AGM virtually using a ”Zoom” meeting software. The AGM will elect a new Council, and hear of recent developments. It will consider a proposal from Council to change membership categories and increase subscriptions. The AGM will be followed by a presentation by David Webster (Geological Society of Glasgow) on a virtual field trip to Islay.

The agenda and meeting details have been sent out on the EGS-News email list. If you did not receive this, please contact – you can ask to join the email list at the same time.

Access to the Lyell Collection

EGS members are reminded that even if the latest edition of the Scottish Journal of Geology ends up locked in your office, you can access all editions online via the Lyell Collection. EGS members have Lyell Collection access to SJG and and the Transactions of the Edinburgh Geological Society: between them, these are absolute treasure troves of interesting information about Scottish geology.

See this page for further information –

And get in touch with our Membership Secretary if you don’t know your EGS membership number.


Online Ask-A-Geologist events during Geoweek 9-17 May

Geoweek normally involves a selection of  exciting and engaging field trips across the UK. Not this year! While you can’t go out for a guided geology walk, you can join a geologist online to ask about any rock, fossil or mineral specimen, and find out about their favourite rocks.

During Geoweek 2020, from Saturday 9 to Sunday 17th May. there are six online sessions planned with geologists from Scotland’s universities and Geoparks: find out more at

BGS GeoScenic archives and its hidden gems

Ben na Caillich, Broadford

If you get chance to take a look at the British Geological Survey’s GeoScenic archive its surprising what you can find.  A year or so ago, whilst on Clough Committee duties, Graham Leslie (Clough Committee Secretary) was kind enough to show members some images, which I thought you might like to be alerted too.  They were some water colour sketches and pencil drawings made by Dr. Charles T. Clough and sent in letters to his son Charles Durham Clough between 1895 – 1900.  At the time, Clough would have been on duties with the Geological Survey in Scotland and to whom he transferred from the England arm in 1884.  He would have done these sketches (probably as a form of relaxation whilst in isolation – imagine what that would be like?) but also to share with his son something of the geology of different parts of Scotland that he was visiting at the time.  A couple of of the images are presented here courtesy of the BGS archive.

The first is entitled “Ben na Caillich, Broadford”, which is one of Red Hills in the southern part of Skye.  The second sketch is of “The Highlands once more. Looking into the Trossachs.” and would seem to shows the forested area at the eastern end of Loch Katrine.

View of the Trossachs

If you would like to know more about Dr Charles T Clough – please turn to our Pioneers page for a quick biography of his life.

In preparing this article, I would wish to acknowledge the descendants of Charles Durham Clough, from whom the images have been copied.  Also the BGS’ GeoScenic archive which we are able to share because of the OpenGeoscience under Open Government Licence.

Finally, do have a good rootle around the archive for other hidden gems.  I am guessing that there are more out there and if you let me know, we can alert Fellows to other fascinating resources relating to Scotland’s geo-heritage.

Neil Mackenzie, Honorary Secretary of the Edinburgh Geological Society


The world of Scotland’s Geoparks – Easter Quiz

Students exploring the geology of the Moine Thrust Belt at Knockan Crag. Photo: Rob Butler

The recent news from the Highlands of Scotland about extra visitors during the Coronavirus pandemic got me thinking about how we can enjoy Scotland’s Geoparks from a distance.  Turning to the websites for the North West Highlands Geopark, Lochaber Geopark and Arran Geopark, I have been able to find lots of interesting information to keep you informed about these organisations, as well as filling a spare hour or two whilst we are all at home.

We set this quiz before Easter, and the answers are now given below; thanks to everyone who took part!

Q1 – What is the name of visitor centre in the North West Highlands Geopark?
The Rock Stop

Q2 – Approximately how many hut circles are recorded in the North West Highlands region?

Q3 – In what geological formation is the King’s Cave on the western side of Arran?
New Red Sandstone

Q4 – What is the approximate age of the granite intrusion that forms the northern part of Arran?
60 million years

Q5 – How many interpretation boards has the Lochaber Geopark installed in its area?

Q6 – What is the type of volcano found in Glen Coe and which is thought to be first ancient one recognised anywhere in the world?

Q7 – In what year did James Hutton visit Lochranza, in NW Arran to observe the geology?

Q8 – What is the name of famous dyke sequence found near Laxford Bridge, in the the North West Highlands Geopark?
Scourie Dykes

Q9 – What is the approximate distance in km by which the Great Glen Fault is thought to have slid horizontally?

Q10 – What is name of the giant millipede that roamed Arran 300 million years ago?

Q11 – What is the name of famous lighthouse in the far west of the Lochaber Geopark?

Q12 – What was the approximate age at which the last glaciation ended in the NW Highlands?
11,500 years ago

Q13 – What is the name of the mountain range in which Ben Nevis lies, within the Lochaber Geopark?

Q14 – Where is the interpretation centre for Arran’s geology to be found?

Q15 – What is the approximate age of the Lewisian Gneiss rock found in the NWH Geopark?
3000 million years

Hopefully you found all the answers!

Neil Mackenzie
Honorary Secretary of Edinburgh Geological Society

Resources for self-guided fieldtrips & home isolation

These are strange times that we are living through at the moment and which is meaning changes to the life rhythms of even the Edinburgh Geological Society. As you probably aware, we had to cancel our AGM which was due to be held on the 18th March 2020. The next casualty will be our field excursion programmes on both Wednesday and Saturdays over the spring/summer months.

In the meantime, the Society is keen to keep supporting its members and the general public in any way it can. Some ways which we can do this is as follows:

1. Here is a link to the many leaflets produced by our Lothian & Borders Geoconservation Group (LBGC), describing all of the manner of geological features in the local area, which can be self-guided using the information provided. We owe it to all our current and former members of these groups who have prepared these resources to use them at this time. But remember – if going out alone to always let someone know where you are going and when you are expected back. Happy exploring!

2. Our Publication Sales Officer, Don Cameron stands ready to supply you with one of our Excursion Guides (and EGS members get a 20% discount). You can browse the selection in the Publications section of the website, and Don will respond as quickly as possible to any orders he receives. So, lets and try and pick up one of those guides we never quite had time enough to read! If you do find a good geology book (which includes our own publications), let me know and we will endeavour to post reviews on the website. We also welcome Members’ photos (not too many) which we can upload to the website as well.

3. The entire run of The Edinburgh Geologist is available online. That is 67 issues since 1977! Plenty to keep you entertained in that lot. And if you want to go further back in the past, EGS members have access to the entire Transactions of the Edinburgh Geological Society via the Lyell Collection. The Transactions cover almost 100 years (1868 to 1963) with over 800 articles.

Here’s hoping you can at least have a good read and maybe the odd trip out in the coming weeks,

Take care all,

Neil Mackenzie, Honorary Secretary