The Geopark Story

A Geopark is a place where you will experience the incredible legacy left by an extraordinary geological past.  Our mountains and coasts, our flora and fauna, our communities and culture - all owe a great deal to the difference which this geology makes.

Our Geopark is one of 23 partners in the European Geopark Network. Globally there are 35 Geoparks - all endorsed by UNESCO.  Like ours they are all driven by local communities seeking to celebrate their geological heritage and achieve sustainable development.

The North West Highlands Geopark has beautiful scenery, strong communities and world-class geology.  We hope that you enjoy all that our Geopark has to offer. North West Highlands Geopark is Scotland’s first.

A Moving Story

Landscapes like these mark the memory - and that is due to the difference that geology makes. Over billions of years the continents have drifted around the earth.  500 million years ago Scotland was separated from England and Wales by the ancient Iapetus Ocean.  For most of the last billion years, Scotland was joined to America and Greenland.  They only became separate a mere 60 million years ago when the North Atlantic began to form.  Over billions of year the rocks that now make up the North West Highlands have seen many climates - hot deserts, tropical humidity and several Ice Ages.  About 430 million years ago two ancient continents collided creating the British Isles as we know it today - give or take the impact of a few million years of Ice Age.

This was the great crunch which created many of the distinctive Scottish mountains.  During this time, huge sheets of rock were pushed almost 100km to the west, creating the Moine Thrust.  This feature confused Victorian geologists who expected to find younger rocks on top of older ones.  Instead they found the opposite.

This story can be read in the landscape around you.  In the Geopark there is information and interpretation to help you recognise this geological legacy which can be seen in the mountains, from the roadsides, down at the beach, out fishing, in the townships and - at all times - under your feet.

Burnet MothBalnakeil Church
© North West Highlands Geopark 2007. Web design by Pelican Design Consultants.
Photography courtesy of Inver Lodge Hotel, Scottish Natural Heritage, Highland Council, British Geological Survey, Sutherland Partnership, Mackay Country Archive and Iain Sarjeant.