What makes Edinburgh special? Many different factors make a city, but one key feature that most visitors to Edinburgh notice is the dramatic scenery of the city centre. This is a landscape of rocky crags, cliffs and steep slopes surrounded by lower, flatter ground. It is derived from a mix of different kinds of rock – sedimentary and igneous.

Find out more: Edinburgh’s Rocks

Find out more: Evidence from the past

Edinburgh’s rocks have been greatly eroded over time, particularly during the Ice Age in the last two million years, to create today’s landscape. People have used the landscape of Edinburgh and its underlying geology in different ways over the last 10,000 years, finding suitable sites for settlement, defence and agriculture, and quarrying sandstone for building, and coal for fuel. The character of today’s city, with the Old and New Towns designated as a World Heritage Site, derives greatly from the bedrock, and the way in which this has been eroded.

Find out more: Making Edinburgh’s Landscape

Our Edinburgh’s Rocks and People poster for schools is available for free in printed and online formats. It is designed for classroom use, to give an introduction to geology of Edinburgh and demonstrate the connections between rocks and people. Download the Poster (pdf file) | Teachers’ Notes (pdf file).

EGS school poster - Edinburgh Rocks and People

James Hutton by Sir Henry Raeburn, on display in the Scottish National Portrait GalleryJames Hutton and the Rock Cycle

The Edinburgh geologist James Hutton (1726-1797), a key figure in the Scottish Enlightenment, used key sites in Scotland to support his ‘Theory of the Earth’. He suggested that the Earth operated as a machine, where natural processes acted over immense time scales to erode the land and create new rocks. This was the beginning of our understanding of the rock cycle and the inter-relationships between sedimentary, metamorphic and igneous rocks.

Find out more: James Hutton (1726-1797) | The Rock Cycle – Geological Society Education Resources

More information about Edinburgh’s geology

Edinburgh’s Geology A brief introduction to the geology of the area, including a Regional Geology Map www.edinburghgeolsoc.org/edinburghs-geology/

Places to explore geology around Edinburgh Description of key sites, including the city centre and Holyrood Park www.edinburghgeolsoc.org/edinburghs-geology/edinburghs-geology-sites/

Edinburgh’s Local Geodiversity Sites Places where the variety of geology of the local area can be enjoyed and appreciated. Across Edinburgh, 30 sites have been designated as Local Nature Conservation Sites by the City of Edinburgh Council and included in the City Local Development Plan www.edinburghgeolsoc.org/home/geoconservation/local-geodiversity-sites-edinburgh/

Leaflets Lothian and Borders GeoConservation have published more than 30 leaflets about local places of interest. You can download these for free at www.edinburghgeolsoc.org/publications/geoconservation-leaflets/

Edinburgh Geological SocietyThe Edinburgh Geological Society is one of the UK’s foremost geological societies and aims to promote public interest in geology and advance geological knowledge. We organise varied programmes of excursions and lectures that bring together everyone from complete beginners to professional geologists interested in exploring the geology of Scotland and beyond. We publish the Edinburgh Geologist and excursion guides. Our geoconservation groups promote sites of local interest, publish leaflets and make sure that local geodiversity is understood and protected.


This web page is published by the Edinburgh Geological Society 2019 under a Creative Commons ‘Attribution Non-commercial’ (CC BY-NC) licence, which permits non-commercial reuse provided the original work is properly cited.