Our Landscape

Stunning mountain landscapes, clean sandy beaches, ancient settlements, thriving communities – North West Highlands Geopark offers one of the best opportunities to explore wild places in Europe. Find out about the building blocks of our Geopark here.

The North West Highlands Geopark contains geology and a landscape of world-class quality, significance and importance. There are 5 aspects, which make the Geopark unique.

The oldest rocks to be found anywhere in Europe

(Lewisian Gneiss) 3 billion years old. These are the “building blocks” of the Geopark and also the “building blocks” of Scotland.

The Cradle of Geography

The  “Cradle of Geology” where the thrust structures were first discovered and proved by pioneering Victorian geologists, Benjamin Peach and John Horne. They demonstrated that older rocks could be pushed (thrust) towards, up and over younger rocks and discovered the Moine Thrust, now recognised as the most significant crustal dislocation of its type in North West Europe.

The Earliest Evidence of Life in Europe

The Geopark contains the earliest evidence of life to be found anywhere in Europe. These simple-celled algal life forms (stromatolites) occur in Torridian Sandstone rock strata dated at 1.2 billion years old.

The landscape is the Geology and the Geology is the landscape

It exhibits a unique relationship between its landscape and the underlying Geology, not seen to such a spectacular degree anywhere else, i.e. “ The landscape is the Geology and the Geology is the landscape”

A giant meteorite impact

A site interpretive to represent the ejecta deposits of a giant meteorite impact around 1.3 billion years ago.

Geoheritage Timeline

10,000 years ago up to present time

Key Events

  • The land recovers from the Ice Age
  • Peat develops during wet periods
  • Trees, animals and people inhabit the area

2 million years up to 10,000 years ago

Key Events

  • The Ice Age affects the whole planet
  • Periods of glacial conditions alternate with short warmer periods

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65 to 2 million years ago

Key Events

  • Volcanoes erupt off the west coast as the North Atlantic Ocean continues to widen
  • Most of chalk limestone removed by erosion as sea level falls
  • Climate cools

140 to 65 million years ago

Key Events

  • Climate warm and humid
  • Sea level much higher than today
  • Thick layers of chalk limestone laid down on seabed over much of what is now Scotland

200 to 140 million years ago

Key Events

  • Climate warm and humid
  • Opening of North Atlantic Ocean begins
  • Sea levels much higher than today

400 to 200 million years ago

Key Events

  • No rocks of this age in NW Highlands
  • Evidence elsewhere in Scotland of inland deserts with tropical swamps on the coast and reefs
  • Offshore widespread volcanic activity in rest of Scotland

500 to 400 million years ago

Key Events

  • Durness Limestone (carbonates) deposition ends about 490 million years ago as land is pushed up and sea retreats
  • Major mountain chain created where Highlands are now
  • Rapid erosion of uplifted land
  • Moine Thrust formed as rocks from the east (Moine Schists) were pushed westwards, sliding over the top of NW Highlands rocks

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550 to 500 million years ago

Key Events

  • Beach sands laid down on coastal fringes of large continent (to create Basal Quartzite, Pipe Rock and Salterella Grit formations)
  • Mudstones (Fucoid Beds), and carbonates (Durness Limestone) laid down when sea level rose and water was deeper
  • Worms burrowing in beach sands leave first evidence of life in this area

3500 to 550 million years ago

Key Events

  • Lewisian Gneisses represent ancient rocks formed up to 3000 million years ago
  • Much later, around 800 to 1000 million years ago, the rocks that are now the Moine Schists were laid down away to the east as layer upon layer of sand and silt; they were then pushed down into the Earth’s crust and changed into their present form
  • At about the same time, Torridonian Sandstones were laid down to the west as river sands and gravels in a desert environment; unlike the Moine Schists, they escaped being altered

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Ceann an Iar Thuath na Gàidhealtachd tro na Linntean

O chionn 10,000 bliadhna chun an latha an-diugh

Prìomh thachartasan

  • an talamh a’ faighinn thairis air Linn na Deighe
  • mòine a’ fàs rè amannan fliucha
  • craobhan, beathaichean is daoine san sgìre

O chionn 2 mhillean bliadhna gu chionn 10,000 bliadhna

Prìomh thachartasan

  • Linn na Deighe a’ toirt buaidh air a’ phlanaid gu lèir
  • greis dheigheadail agus greis ghoirid de bhlàths a’ tighinn fear mu seach

Faigh a-mach tuilleadh

O chionn 65 gu chionn 2 mhillean bliadhna

Prìomh thachartasan

  • bholcànothan a’ spreadhadh air an taobh an iar
  • agus Ceann a Tuath a’ Chuain Shiar a’ cumail a’ fàs nas motha
  • chuir bleith às dhan mhòrchuid de chloich-aoil chailce nuair a chaidh àirde na mara sìos
    a’ ghnàth-shìde a’ fàs fionnar

O chionn 140 gu chionn 65 millean bliadhna

Prìomh thachartasan

  • a’ ghnàth-shìde blàth is tais
  • am muir gu math nas àirde na tha e an-diugh
  • fillidhean tiugha de chloich-aoil chailce gan cur air grunnd na marasa mhòrchuid dhen àite ris an canar Alba an-diugh

O chionn 200 gu chionn 140 millean bliadhna

Prìomh thachartasan

  • a’ ghnàth-shìde blàth is tais
  • ceann a tuath a’ Chuain Shiar a’ tòiseachadh a’ fosgladh
  • am muir gu math nas àirde na tha e an-diugh

O chionn 400 gu chionn 200 millean bliadhna

Prìomh thachartasan

  • chan eil creagan dhen aois seo air taobh an Iar Thuath na Gàidhealtachd
  • fianais ann an àitichean eile ann an Alba mu fhàsaichean a-staigh air an dùthaich le boglaichean tropaigeach air a’ chladach agus sgeirean far a’ chladaich
  • tòrr bholcànothan sa chòrr de dh’Alba

O chionn 500 gu chionn 400 millean bliadhna

Prìomh thachartasan

  • sguir Clach-aoil Dhiùranais ga cur sìos o chionn 490 millean bliadhna no mar sin nuair a chaidh talamh a phutadh suas agus a chaidh am muir air ais
  • chaidh sreath mòr bheanntan a chruthachadh far a bheil a’ Ghàidhealtachd an-diugh
  • an talamh a chuireadh suas ga bhleith gu luath
  • Sàthadh na Mòine air a chruthachadh nuair a chaidh creagan on ear (Schistean na Mòine) a phutadh dhan iar, a’ sleamhnachadh thairis air creagan cheann an Iar Thuath na Gàidhealtachd

Faigh a-mach tuilleadh

O chionn 550 gu chionn 500 millean bliadhna

Prìomh thachartasan

  • gainmheach na tràghad ga cur sìos air cladaichean na mòr-roinn (a chruthaich cumaidhean de Bhun Chlach-èiteig, Creag Phìobachch agus Grinneal Salterella)
  • clachan-eabair (Imirean Fucoid), agus clachan-aoil (Clach-aoil Dhiùranais) air an cur sìos nuair a dh’èirich àirde na mara agus a bha an t-uisge na bu dhoimhne
  • ’s e boiteagan a’cladhach san tràigh a’chiadh fhianais air beatha san sgìre seo

O chionn 3500 gu chionn 550 millean bliadhna

Prìomh thachartasan

  • Gneisses Leodhasach a’ riochdachadh sheann chreagan a chaidh a chruthachadh suas gu chionn 3000 millean bliadhna
  • Ùine mhòr an dèidh sin, o chionn 800 is 1000 millean bliadhna, chuireadh sìos na creagan a tha a-nis ann an Schistean na Mòine ris an ear mar fhilleadh air muin fillidh de ghainmhich is de dh’eabar; chaidh an uair sin am putadh sìos do rùsg na Talmhaainn agus dh’atharraich an cruth gu bhith mar a tha iad an-diugh
  • Mun aon àm, chuireadh sìos clachan-gainmhche Thoirbheartain ris an ear mar ghainmhich aibhne is grinneal ann an talamh fàsaich; ach cha do dh’atharraich iad sin mar a dh’atharraich Schistean na Mòine

Faigh a-mach tuilleadh