The Moine Thrust Zone in the North West Highlands and Siccar Point on the South East Coast have been included in a list of the top 100 geological heritage sites compiled by the International Union of Geological Sciences.
The pair join many of the most famous sites on the planet, including Mount Everest, the Grand Canyon and Sugar Loaf Mountain. The sites all possess significant worldwide scientific importance and have made a substantial contribution to the development of geological knowledge.
Siccar Point is an eye-catching rocky headland on the Scottish Borders coast. It was first described in 1788 by James Hutton, the “father of geology”, as an example of an angular unconformity – a junction between two sets of rocks of different ages.
Hutton’s studies of these formations have revolutionized science, providing unique insight into “deep time” and major cycles in Earth’s history. Although relatively unknown locally, Siccar Point has inspired researchers for centuries and is widely recognized as the most important geological site in the world.
The Moine Thrust Zone is a major stretch of ancient tectonic faulting where rocks have been laterally displaced over 62 miles. It can be traced from Cape Wrath, on the north coast of mainland Scotland, south to the Isle of Skye.
Fault line analysis, recognized in the 19th century, revolutionized the understanding of tectonic motion in mountain ranges around the world. Today, its landscapes form the heart of the North West Highlands UNESCO Geopark and the popular North Coast 500 tourist trail.
Professor Robert Holdsworth, chairman of the Scottish Geology Trust, welcomed the recognition of the sites.
He said: “There is a very strong argument that the science of geology grew out of observations first made in Scotland. These are places where humanity has made tremendous conceptual advances in our understanding of Earth processes and the passage of geological time. These extraordinary and visually captivating localities are a source of inspiration for current and future geoscientists around the world and are the centerpiece of what makes Scottish rocks so special.