Scotland’s most northerly outposts – best known for their wildlife, hospitality and historic remains – have a fascinating geological history.
Shetland’s buckled and fractured rocks reveal continental collisions and a history dating back almost 3,000 million years. Orkney’s red sandstones, formed from sediment layers in an ancient lake, are much younger in contrast.
The Old Red Sandstone is widely used as a building stone and has shaped the character of the islands’ many settlements.
Glaciers held these islands in an icy thrall, and it was the actions of the ice sheets that helped to shape the landscape we see today. Even now, the landscape continues to change, as roaring waves pound the coastline. Wind, rain and more than 3,000 years of human activity have also had an impact.
View a geological map of Orkney and Shetland, and read about the formation of these islands and some of their incredible coastal features.