Picture of Tantallon Castle - Edinburgh Geological Society

The impressive cliffs, islands and rocky headlands around North Berwick and Tantallon Castle are composed of lower Carboniferous volcanic rocks; but there are also subordinate sedimentary rocks that are fascinating in their own right. The jawbone of a tetrapod was found in the Ballagan Formation rocks at Gin Head north of Tantallon and nearby in Oxroad Bay similar rocks have yielded a diverse plant assemblage.

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Excursion title: Tantallon
Date & time: Saturday 1 September 2018 09:00 Finish time: 17:00
Leader: Tom Challands (University of Edinburgh), Dave Millward (BGS)
Excursion aims and description: To examine Tournaisian – Visean (Lower Carboniferous) volcaniclastics and sediments between Sea Cliffs beach and Gin Head
Transport: A coach will leave Waterloo Place at 9.00am to arrive at about 9:45am
Meeting point: Tantallon Castle car park (NT 591 848)
Coach route: A1 to Haddington, turn off at junction onto A199, continue past East Linton to turn off onto A198 towards Tyninghame and following the road round to the right through Whitekirk. Tantallon castle car park is on your right between Auldhame and Castleton.
Extra pick-up points: Milton Road
First locality: Canty Bay (NT 592 853) – base of the Garleton Hill volcanics. Wet weather option: Oxroad Bay (NT 598 848) – Contact between the Ballagan Formation and the Garleton Hill Volcanics. Oxroad Bay plant beds.
Excursion route: Walk from parking north along A198 to entrance to gate (NT 586 851) for road descending to Canty Bay. Walk east along coast for 0.7 km examining the base of the Garleton Hill Volcanics (mapped as ‘vent’) to Gin Head examine sediments and vertebrate-bearing conglomerates.

Continue east along coast to examine structures in volcaniclastics in Castleton Bay and sandstones and silts of the upper Ballagan Formation.

Move further east quickly passing over more volcaniclastics in Oxroad Bay where we will examine the Oxroad Bay plant Beds in the Garleton Hill Volcanics as well as laminated algal? deposits.

We will finally trace the base of the Garleton Hill Volcanics eastwards to The Gegan whilst investigating plant bearing sediments, dolomitised algal? Beds and massive slumping/deformation structures indicative of a dynamic and unstable volcaniclastic depositional environments.

Return to the car park will be made by following the road out from Seacliffs beach towards Auldhame.

Other exits back to parking can be made by ascending slope to field in Oxroad Bay (NT 598 848), Castleton Bay (NT 594 851), immediately west of Gin Head (NT 592 853) or in Canty Bay (NT 546 851).

Terrain, walking distance, height gain: 4 km, 50m height gain. Some VERY SLIPPY and VERY ROUGH terrain involving scrambling over wet tidal exposures. Alternative exits via grassy banks and paths may be muddy and slippy.
Specific or Medium- / High-Risk Hazards: Risk of tripping/slipping – Medium to High. Steep grass banks may need to be negotiated. Coastal exposures will be slippy and uneven.

Risk from falling Rocks – Low to Medium. Coastal cliff exposures always pose the possibility of falling rocks.

Control measures required to mitigate against any Hazards referred to above: Risk of tripping/slipping – Appropriate foot wear to be worn (walking boots, NOT welly boots) and walking poles if necessary.

Risk from falling Rocks – Unstable areas avoided and hard hats to be worn. We will employ a ‘buddy system’ where individuals look out for each other if straying too close to unstable rock faces.

Hard hats or Hi-viz clothing needed: Hard hats required. High visibility vests required.
May dogs be brought on the excursion? No
Toilet information: Toilet at Tantallon Castle. Next closest toilets are in North Berwick.
Geological map sheet: 33E and 41 OS map sheet: Explorer 351 Dunbar and North Berwick; Landranger 66 Edinburgh, Landranger 67 Duns, Dunbar and Eyemouth.
References: Bateman, R.M. and Rothwell, G.W., 1990. A reappraisal of the Dinantian floras at Oxroad Bay, East Lothian, Scotland. 1. Floristics and the development of whole-plant concepts. Earth and Environmental Science Transactions of The Royal Society of Edinburgh, 81(2), pp.127-159.

Bateman, R.M., 1991. Palaeobiological and phylogenetic implications of anatomically-preserved Archaeocalamites from the Dinantian of Oxroad Bay and Loch Humphrey Burn, southern Scotland. Palaeontographica Abteilung B, pp.1-59.

Bateman, R.M. and Scott, A.C., 1990. A reappraisal of the Dinantian floras at Oxroad Bay, East Lothian, Scotland. 2. Volcanicity, palaeoenvironments and palaeoecology. Earth and Environmental Science Transactions of The Royal Society of Edinburgh, 81(3), pp.161-194.

Smithson, T.R., Richards, K.R. and Clack, J.A., 2016. Lungfish diversity in Romer’s Gap: reaction to the end‐Devonian extinction. Palaeontology, 59(1), pp.29-44.

McAdam, A.D. and Tulloch, W., 1985. Geology of the Haddington district: memoir for 1: 50000 sheet 33W and part of (Vol. 41). HMSO.

Davies, A., Cameron, I.B., Elliot, R.W. and MacAdam, A.D., 1986. Geology of the Dunbar district: memoir for 1: 50 000 Sheet 33E and part of. HM Stationery Office.