Crakaig is a tiny hamlet in northern Scotland, where fossils can be found in the Jurassic rocks on the foreshore. However, some of them – the Kimmeridge Clay – are only exposed during scours
♦ The A9 passes through Crakaig, south of Hemsdale. It is a very small hamlet, so can be easily missed, particularly as it is badly signposted. It is in between Lothbeg and Lothmore. Crakaig can also be confusing because it is split into two small parts: to the north, there is ‘Crakaig Crofts’, and just south of this, there is ‘Crakaig’. This guide covers the later.
♦ At Crakaig, there is a very small road that leads to the coast. This is very difficult to see, but goes down a hill. You can just about make out in the distance a small railway bridge under which the road passes. Take this road and follow it all the way down and round until you pass under the railway bridge. This is a very narrow, single track road and can be busy at certain times, with caravans passing through.
♦ The road veers to the left. Follow this and it will take a sharp turn right down a steep hill. At this point, the road is nothing more than a grassy dirt track. It will eventually take you near several caravans. Park here and access the shore, where you should head north.
♦ Ref: 58.06725°N, 3.74830°W
FIND FREQUENCY: ♦♦ – To find any fossils, you need a good scour, which does not happen very often. Note that the Jurassic shales are below beach level.
CHILDREN: ♦ – Crakaig is not suitable for children, because of its very rocky foreshore and the low find frequency.
ACCESS: ♦♦ – The hamlet is quite hard to find and there is no official car parking. The walk is also quite difficult, over a rocky foreshore.
TYPE: – There are no cliffs at Crakaig. All of the fossils come from shales, which are exposed during scouring conditions.
Within the Kimmeridge Clay, you can find ammonites and shells. These are quite rare, because, most of the year, the foreshore is covered by sand and seaweed. The winter and spring months are the best times to collect. Reptile remains have been found in the past, washed up in the shingle and among the small rocks.
Most of the fossiliferous Jurassic beds require some scouring for you to have any success in finding fossils. Look for areas of blue (Kimmeridge) clay. You need to look in the areas of shingle. Many of the beds on the north side of Crakaig are volcanic rocks and you will not find any fossils there. These beds are also extremely hard and usually covered by seaweed.
There are various outcrops of Jurassic ‘Boulder Beds’ that can be seen here, similar to those of Helmsdale. The Kimmeridgian-aged Portgower Boulder Beds Member crops out on the coast immediately to the south of Crakaig, with the Kintradwell Boulder Beds Member at Lothbeg Point
These exposures are now believed to have been deposited at the foot of the Jurassic submarine fault scarp of the Helmsdale Fault. However, these are much less fossiliferous and do not yield the corals found at Helmsdale.
Small outcrops of shale can be seen between the Boulder Beds. This is the Lothbeg Shale Member; mudstones, siltstone and sandstone formed around 151 to 156 million years ago.
Common sense when collecting at all locations should always be used and prior knowledge of tide times is essential. The tide can reach quite high up the beach at Crakaig. Therefore, ensure you return well before high tide. The foreshore can also be very slippery and rocky. Wear suitable footwear.
The rocks at Crakaig often contain Jurassic fossils and you will need to split them open to extract the fossils. Therefore, you will need the right tools (hammers, chisels and safety goggles). Sometimes, Kimmeridge Clay can be exposed on the foreshore. When this happens, you should take a pick and a blunt knife to extract the loose fossils.
This site is an SSSI. This Special Site of Scientific Interest, means you can visit the site, but hammering the bedrock is not permitted.