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Fossil Hunting in North Scotland

The North of Scotland was the birthplace of the famous geologist, Hugh Miller, who collected in the North East of Scotland. Apart from Skye, this is only the second area in Scotland where you can collect Jurassic fossils such as ammonites and reptile remains along the coast. This is due to a fault known as the Helmsdale Fault. Helmsdale is a classic location where you can see the impact of a major ancient tsunami. This area of Scotland is also famous for the Scottish Fish, which are so highly praised over and in superb condition. Achanarras Quarry is a classic site, in which only recently a new species of fish has been discovered, and at Thurso, the rocks are full fish remains.

At Helmsdale The Jurassic Kimmeridgian boulder beds yield superb giant corals, whilst occasional reptile remains turn up too. The foreshore can be very rocky and is not recommended for children.

Thurso is famous for its rich fish beds, fish remains and scales can be found everywhere along the foreshore, the rocks are full. Fish teeth and complete fish are also found. The foreshore can be slippery and the rocks are extremely hard.

Achanarras, once the quarry that was constantly yielding complete fish has been disused for many years, now over collected but still highly rich in remains. Complete fish can still be found but are now rare. Permission is required to enter.

Within the Jurassic rocks on the foreshore, specially by the Brora river, ammonites and shells can be found. You will need to split the rocks, but many of them contain fossils. Suitable for families and children.

The Official ‘Hugh Miller Trail’. Hugh Miller was one of the most important Scottish Geologists of the 19th Century. Ammonites and fish can be found here. The footpath down to the shore was opened up by Hugh Miller himself.

The tall Jurassic cliffs along the Brora River yield ammonites and belemnites. You will need wellington boots as the river runs next to the cliff faces. Ammonites can be seen exposed on the ledges and platforms beside the river.

Difficult to access, but if the boulder beds are exposed they can be highly fossiliferious. Kintradwell's rocky foreshore can bring up some surprises. Be prepared for a long walk.

Baile an Or is ideal for families and children, set in beautiful scenery, you can pan for gold. There is actually quite a lot of gold though they are tiny grains. However some people have collected enough gold to make a wedding ring and other jewelry.

Just below the famous Castle of Dunrobbin, Golspie, not many would imagine ammonites and complete fish to be found on the foreshore. This location is suitable for all the family but will need the right conditions to find anything.

What looks like an ordinary rocky beach, covered in seaweed is actually rich in ammonites and shells, though you need to work to find them. At Portgower the rocks exposed are from the Jurassic and if split can yield flat ammonites and shells.

More famously known for the furthest route in the UK mainland. (Lands End to John o'Groats'), this location is actually highly rich in fish remains (especially large fish scales).

A Jurassic Fault along the Balintore foreshore is well exposed, Oysters are quite common here, but belemnites can also be found. During the right conditions, ammonites can also be found. The cliffs here are Devonian.

This large working quarry works the famous 'Caithness Flagstone'. You will need permission to enter Spittal Quarry. Fish can be found within the flagstone slabs on the spoil heaps, there is a vast amount of material to look through.

Kimmeridge clay is exposed on the foreshore at Lothbeg, ammonites can be found along with occasional shells. Plants can also be found from the soft yellow beds near Lothbeg point. Reptile remains have also been found in the past.

The rocky shoreline of Crakaig contains occasional Jurassic rocks which sometimes yields ammonites. Most of the rocks here are Triassic in which there is also a possibility of finding fish.

At Tarbat Ness, the Devonian Rocks can contain small fish remains. Scales can be seen on ledges at the headland within a pebble bed. Larger fish fragments can also be found but are less common.

Cromarty is home to Hugh Miller's Cottage. He collected several superb fish in nodules from this location, but they are now very rare due to their high value and slow pace of erosion.


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

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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.
Samples taken back for processing microfossils.


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