Geowalks Blog 2008

Welcome to the Geowalks blog, the place to find reports and pictures of Geowalks activities. Submissions are greatly appreciated, if you've been on a Geowalk or trip, please send a photo or a few words!

Blog from other years - 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010

Report from holiday on Eigg, May 2007, by Sarah-Louise Davies

Sunday 9 March 2008 - a new Geowalks year

An exciting year ahead, with Geowalks holidays planned to Shetland, Fife, Torridon and the Antrim Coast of Northern Ireland, and a few personal holidays too! Despite the wind, the first few walks of the season have been good fun, exploring different parts of the East Lothian and Borders coast, it's great to be out on the rocks again.

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Tuesday 1 April 2008 - Geowalks is 10!

On 1st April 1998, Geowalks began with my first guided tour of Arthur's Seat. Ten years later (to the hour) it was a great privilege to be joined by family, friends and a few special customers for a windy walk around Arthur's Seat and a wee party afterwards. It's hard to believe it's been 10 years, but I do feel established now, with a core focus on exploring and explaining Scotland's geology for a range of audiences. It is a delight to work indoors and out with such a range of people; just in the last month I've led several walks in the new day walks programme and for the Edinburgh International Science Festival, run several workshops, taught a couple of evening classes at Edinburgh University and taken quite a few groups round Arthur's Seat. If you've been involved in the last 10 years - thank you for your support and I look forward to much more in the decades ahead!

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Saturday 17 May 2008 - new Geowalks holidays for 2008

May and June are the prime time to get out and about and see Scotland's rocks, and I've got a packed few weeks planned ... getting out before the midgies and the crowds, and enjoying Scotland's best weather (most of the time).

The first holiday of the year took us along the Fife Coastal Path, and we were rewarded with fine rocks and great company for six days walking from Aberdour to St Andrews. New friends were made as we strolled, ambled and occasionally marched along fifty miles of coastal path and beach. It was fantastic to see all of the coast in one go, and to be able to appreciate the contrasts going from urban areas to the deserted coastline south of St Andrews, through volcanic vents, varied sedimentary layers and folded strata.

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Friday 30 May 2008 - Torridon Mountains

Returning to one of my favourite areas of Scotland, where I spent several weeks as an undergraduate student, and in my opinion the most scenic and interesting part of the Moine Thrust Zone. We had five days based at the Torridon Youth Hostel, exploring the slopes of Beinn Eighe and the land between Torridon and Lochcarron. This is rough ground, but we proved to be up to the challenge and were able to appreciate the mountain-scale movements along minor thrusts beneath the main Moine Thrust, which have repeated and buckled many of the underlying layers. Superb geology!

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Wednesday 18 June 2008 - Shetland

Link to some excellent pictures from Barbara Clarke of the U3A trip to Shetland

It's been a while since I last visited Shetland and I was delighted to have the opportunity to link up with Allen Fraser of Shetland Geotours to organise a couple of holidays. What fantastic rocks, and we were well looked-after and entertained by Allen, who really gives a flavour for Shetland that goes beyond the rocks and landscapes.

Shetland is often described as having the rocks of the Highlands of Scotland crammed into a small area. But it is actually more than that, with a stunning diversity of rock types, which give a different feel to each of the Shetland islands. If you love rocks and minerals, you must visit Shetland! I'm surprised that more geo-tourists don't, and Allen and the Shetland Geopark team are at the centre of efforts to promote Shetland's geology and explain it to visitors and locals.

Highlights for me of these two holidays were walks across the bleak landscape of the Keen of Hamar on Unst, where the serpentine-rich rocks and exposed location have produced very little soil and a unique flora, introduced to us by Rory the local ranger. This is part of Shetland's ophiolite, a section of ocean floor crust pushed up onto the continental crust.

I also enjoyed the cliffs of Northmavine, in the northwest of Shetland mainland - the storm we experienced there are nothing compared to the normal winter storms that are pulling apart the ancient volcanic rock at the Grind o' da Navir.

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Monday 23 June 2008 - New job

I've taken on a new position with the Scottish Earth Science Education Forum (SESEF), developing resources to encourage schools and community groups to get outdoors and explore the geology of Scotland and discover the links between the bed rock, landscapes, economic resources, land use and the natural and human heritage of their local areas. We'll be concentrating first in two areas - Grampian and Fife/Lothians, but there is potential to expand to other areas. The project is based at the Grant Institute of Edinburgh University. But don't worry, it's only for one day a week so there's still plenty of time for Geowalks!

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August 2008 - Iceland and the Faroe Islands

A fantastic family summer in Iceland. We travelled the exciting way by ferry from the north of Scotland and spent three glorious weeks driving round the coast of Iceland. Fantastic weather almost all the way and I highly recommend Iceland as a geo-tourist destination, so much to see! There's a great contrast between the older lava flows at the edges of Iceland and the area of recent volcanic activity in the centre. The older lavas give a scenery similar to Mull and Eigg, although Iceland is in fact quite a bit younger.

The most interesting part geologically is the on land expression of the mid-Atlantic ridge, running in two main areas across the centre of the island, gives continual geothermal activity and plenty of recent lava flows. The high parts are capped by ice, so there are plenty of fresh moraines and raging glacial rivers; all in all a great place to get a feel for what Scotland would have looked like at various times in the geological past. All this combined with wildflowers and lots of birds, lovely weather and interesting sagas and museums ... perfect!




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Saturday 13 September 2008 - Geowalks Holiday, Northern Ireland

Well, given the weather this summer I suppose it was too much to hope that we could go to Northern Ireland and not get wet ... but the sun did shine now and then, and the party greatly enjoyed exploring the north Antrim coast.

We visited Rathlin Island and walked most of the coastline from Fair Head to the Giant's Causeway, appreciating the contrast between the beaches, formed by erosion of the underlying soft mudstones and chalk, and the basalt and dolerite headlands.

I highly recommend Ballycastle Backpackers, well-cared for, small rooms and Anne Marie is an exceptional host. Look forward to visiting again in the future.

Sunday 7 December 2008 - end of the year

This is normally a quiet time of year at Geowalks, however I've been kept busy this autumn with a range of activities. I'm working one day a week with the Scottish Earth Science Education Forum, developing education packs to encourage school groups to get out and learn more about Scotland's landscapes; the project will come to a head next September with a range of public events. I'm also teaching a course for Blue Badge Tour Guides through the Office of Lifelong Learning at Edinburgh University, we were out yesterday in sparkling sunshine exploring Arthur's Seat. The picture on the right shows Hutton's Section at the base of Salisbury Crags.

Looking to next year, I've plans for another full programme of day walks and holidays, including trips to Eigg, Mull, the Northwest Highlands and the Fife Coast. And I'm working with Dynamic Earth to encourage school groups to visit Holyrood Park, to get the local context to the big themes that they encounter during tours and workshops at Dynamic Earth. Looks like it will be another busy year!

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