The tall Jurassic cliffs along the River Brora yield ammonites and belemnites. You will need wellington boots as the river runs next to the cliff face. Ammonites can be seen exposed on the ledges and platforms beside the river.
♦ This location can be hard to find. Head towards Brora and take the road past the Brora Industrial Estate, which runs along the north side of the River Brora.
♦ Pass the ‘Heritage Centre’ and the road you want is a farm track with a farm gate. Providing you park along the side of the farm track and do not block farm traffic, the farmer allows cars to be parked here. The road starts at a farm gate, which you will need to close behind you. Follow the track to the bottom of the hill and the cliffs are on the left.
♦ If you reach a ford and footbridge across the river, you have gone too far. There is a long walk to the actual location and it is not recommended for the very young and the unfit. The actual location has a fishing hut on the opposite side of the river.
♦ Ref: 58.01116°N, 3.87982°W
FIND FREQUENCY: ♦♦♦♦ – There are plenty of fossils to be found and seen in the rocks, if you can get to them.
CHILDREN: ♦♦♦♦ – The river can be dangerous, so this location is not recommended for families or children.
ACCESS: ♦ – This location can be fairly hard to access and the fast flowing river makes it difficult to collect.
TYPE: – The cliffs at this location have been cut by the River Brora, which has platforms along the banks.
Along the river, the most common fossils are belemnites. These can be seen lying in the foreshore platforms, and can be very long and mostly complete. Ammonites can also be found, although most are flat and very fragile. Whole, uncrushed ammonites can be found in nodules, which fall from the upper beds, which are sadly not accessible.
The less common fossils along this river are plant. Various remains have been recorded over the years but they do not turn up very often. Bivalves (Neomiodon and Isognomon) and brachiopods (Euestheria), along with ammonites (Kepplerites gowerianus and Proplanulites) can also all be found.
One of the problems at this location is that the water reaches the base of the cliff face and makes collecting very hard. Therefore, wellington boots are essential. You need to look at the bottom of the cliff face, within the platforms, and in any fallen rocks that have come from the upper beds.
The tall mid-Jurassic (Callovian stage) cliffs along the River Brora are mostly shales from the Brora Coal Formation, a medium grained sandstone, from Fladen Group, overlain by over 30 m of grey shaly mudstone with thin interbedded sideritic mudstone beds.
However, beds from the Strathsteven Mudstone Formation (previously Brora Argillaceous Formation) from the Sutherland group are also present, although not often seen, unless you happen to be around when a cliff fall occurs.
Due to its SSSI status fossil collecting is not permitted from the exposures themselves. The best place to collect fossils is down stream of the exposures, from the boulders on the river bank and within the shallows.
Common sense when collecting at all locations should always be used. The river section can be quite deep, especially after heavy rain and during winter months. Care should be taken when collecting here and this location is not recommended for children. The rocks can be slippery. There are also tall cliffs, which often crumble. Since it is hard to avoid walking along the base of the cliff, due to the fact the river flows close by, it is advisable to wear a hard hat.
Most fossils have been washed out from the clay and are exposed along the river. Therefore, you will need wellington boots and a pick is very handy. A blunt knife is useful for extracting loose fossils from the clay. A hard hat is essential, as you will probably have to walk next to the cliff face, which tends to crumble.
This site is an SSSI. This Special Site of Scientific Interest, means you can visit the site, but hammering the bedrock is not permitted.
Scotland’s fossil resource is at risk of abuse and damage, and so we must all safeguard and managed fossil collecting to ensure its survival for future generations. For this reason it is VITAL you read and adhere to the Scottish Fossil Code for ALL sites in Scotland.