Six million years ago, Scotland was close to the South Pole and separated from the rest of Britian by an ocean that was once as wide as the North Atlantic is now.
Facts like these can be found in two new booklets in the Scottish Natural Heritage series A Landscape Fashioned by Geology. These small softbacks are beautifully illustrated with colour photographs complementing text exploring the regional geology.
The larger and more expensive of the publications focuses on the north-west Highlands, leading readers chronologically through the geological history of the area from the formation of Lewisian Gneiss via the Ice Age to the landscape as it is today. Excellent photographs of the magnificent Suilven, the raised beaches of Applecross and many others make this booklet visually stunning. However, quite whom it was written for is a bit of a mystery as it does lapse into travel guide territory.
The undulating landscape of Fife and Tayside is well provided for in the second booklet, which contains photographs of Orrock Quarry, the Lomond Hills and (rock climbers' favourite) Carlin Maggie, among others, together with the story of the processes that formed these features. However, this booklet only has 28 pages, so feels light compared to the other.
These gorgeously designed publications add to a series that includes the Cairngorms, Skye, Edinburgh, Arran, East Lothian and OrkneyShetland.
When so much of the language of geology and concepts involved are difficult even for Higher students to understand, this series' claim of being accessible to all seems rather optimistic. Nevertheless, it is ideal for anyone with a genuine interest and the patience to concentrate on the text rather than just skim through.
Murdo Macdonald teaches geography on North Uist