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Fossil Hunting in South Scotland

The South of Scotland has some of the best locations for collecting fossils in the UK. It is a mixture of Silurian, Ordovician and Carboniferous rocks. There are several coastal locations and some inland sites too. Trilobites, brachiopods, bivalves, fossil plants and fossil fish can all be found. Fossil hunting in this part of Scotland is set in beautiful surroundings and gives a variety of different type of locations, such as foreshore, cliffs, quarries, screams, cuttings and outcrops. Some of the most well known areas are Girvan, the Pentland Hills and Fife.

Lady Burn is a very famous site in Scotland, and has highly fossiliferous rocks including three famous 'starfish beds', and some superb, complete trilobites to be found. There are so many different fossils to be discovered here. It is well documented and you are sure to find something!

This is a very productive little quarry that is easy to access. It is a occasionally worked quarry which is fully open from the trackway. This means fresh faces and scree and available to search through and there are no restrictions. Take plenty of paper for bags of finds, but, be warned this is quite a long walk.

This is a disused carboniferous limestone quarry within a small wood. It is very rich in fossils and studies have shown it to have important differences in paeleo-environment and with varied macrofossil assemblage from the surrounding carboniferous sediments of similar age. Due to the importance of the site, keep collecting to a minimum.

A area highly rich in Silurian fossils but of which is also a challenging location to collect fossils. This location is suitable for those used to exploring and walking. A beautiful landscape with many different types of fossils to be collected. This location is famous for is rich-diversity of fossil species, some unique.

When visiting the village of Dalmellington, you cannot help but see the huge piled up spoil heap. This is now disused, but contains plenty of material to search through, including black shale that is rich in fish remains. Plant remains can also be found.

A quiet peaceful location where fantastic bryozoans can be seen in carboniferous rocks. You can also find many slabs of 'Trilobite tracks' preserved as they moved across the mud. Fish and trilobites can also be found here.

Ardwell Bay, South of Girvan is the best coastal location around Girvan for finding fossils. Graptolites are the most common find, with Orthocone fragments and trilobites also quite common. brachiopods can also be found. The rocks to split are easy to identify being black when weathered.

This working quarry is highly productive, especially for Bivalves and Brachiopods from the Carboniferous Marine shale deposits. Corals are also very common here, be sure to come home with plenty of specimens.

Dob's Linn is a famous location for Graptolites, and indeed, one of the best. You can collect many different species form the shale. It can be hard to find, but well worth the trip. Be sure you bring paper to wrap your specimens.

The river Tyne is a long beautiful spate river. It's tributaries wind their way down from the glacially eroded Lammermoor and Pentland hills. The river gathers in volume as it crosses the alluvial plain cutting through the carboniferous country rock, transporting minerals and fossils along the way.

The volcanic rocks at Aldons Quarry, contain a variety of Ordovician fossils, including trilobites, brachiopods, bivalves, cephalopods, gastropods, graptolites and goniatites. The fossils are found in mudstone which can be searched in the scree slopes.

The rocks from Shallock (South of Girvan) to Whitehouse, including Woodland Bay contain fossil graptolites and trilobites. Girvan is a well-documented area for fossils, and is one of the most popular areas to collect in Scotland. This foreshore location is easy to access, but you will need the correct tools.

Spectacular bedding packed with corals can be seen at Barns Ness. This is a fantastic location for corals although they are not as well preserved as those from Aberlady. There is plenty to be found here.

Ordovician rocks at Craighead Quarry are very fossilferous. This disused quarry is often visited by local schools and colleges to study fossils from this site. It is now quite overgrown, but still with plenty to be found. The most common finds are Graptolites, brachiopods, trilobites and gonatites.

Below the Forth Road and Forth Rail Bridges, Carboniferous fish fragments and plant remains can be found in the scale. It can take some time to find fossiliferious zones, but once you do, there is plenty to be collected.

Along the seafront at Edinburgh, Carboniferous rocks yield fossil plant remains, crinoid stems and shells. Most of the best beds have been over-collected during the years, but there is still lots to be found.

This spoil heap is part still working and part disused. Most of the waste material contains limestone and shale that is poor in fossil remains, however if you can find the right beds then plant remains can be found. The plant remains do seem poorly preserved, but as with all tips, you never know what you might find!

There are a few burns around the village of Dalmellington which have been cut into fossiliferous carboniferous shale. The most common finds are mussels but plant remains can also be found. This location is best visited after a dry spell as if the water is too high, the beds are not exposed.

The rocks at North Berwick are volcanic tuffs, but small cementstones within a small zone of tuff contains fish remains and 23 species of pteridosperms and lycopods.

A famous but now over-collected location, once yielding a rich variety of plant remains in the coal measures. It can be hard to find and often, the beds are so over collected that fossils are now hard to find.

A small area at Saltcoats yields plant remains. Although much of the rich carboniferous beds have since been washed away by the sea, and fresh beds unable to be exposed due to the sea defense, you can still occasionally find plant remains in the foreshore shale. Most of the shale today is unproductive.

The coastline to the south of Kirkcudbright has low cliffs of shale which is also exposed along the foreshore. There are several areas whereby the shales contain fossils in certain zones. Although these zones are very hard to find! Graptolites, Cephalopods and Crustaceans can all be found.

At Kennedy’s Pass, you will find a formation that is full of conglomerate units, mudstone, siltstone and sandstones. Within this formation, you can find a wide range of fossils including trilobites, graptolites, corals and brachiopods. But, they are not easy to find. The productive beds are lower down which are mostly covered up by the upper beds.

There are many areas to explore near Girvan including Woodland Bay, Ardwell Bay and Kennedys Pass. This guide, which covers the rocks on the beach at Girvan (Shalloch) itself is not as productive as others in the area and relies on scouring tides.

Fossils are common
Fossils often found
Fossils are not common
Fossils rarely found
Site protected, no collecting permitted, or no access to beach


Cambrian / Pre Cambrian

A-Z Listing

Fossil Resources

Beginners Guides to Fossil Hunting

Fossils collected direct from cliff face
Fossils collected from the foreshore
Fossils collected from the cliff and foreshore
Location is a quarry or pit
Fossils collected from a stream or river bed,
Fossils collected from a farm field
Fossils collected from road or railway cutting.
Fossils collected from hill or mountain scree slope.
Fossils collected from rock outcrops.
Fossils collected from lake or reservoir banks.
Fossils collected from coal spoil heap.
Samples taken back for processing microfossils.

Plant Fossils of the British Coal Measures

Richly illustrated and with identification keys, this guide will enable determination of most of the commonly encountered plant and fossils from the Coal Measures. Written by C.J. Cleal and B.A. Thomas, 29 plates, 94 text-figs, 1994.


Edinburgh Rock - The Geology of Lothian

More than 200 years of geological researches have left us with a remarkably detailed picture of the distribution of land and sea, of the climate and of the evolving plants and animals that lived here. 'Edinburgh Rock' is an account of these fascinating Palaeozoic times




Rock and Fossil Magazine, Deposits

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