Spittal Quarry is home to the famous Caithness Flagstone, There are a few disused pits around, but this quarry is still working. There is a fossil museum close by at Spittal.
♦ Head towards the town of Spittal. There is a small petrol station and a few houses, and the village is signposted.
♦ The quarry is on the right hand side (coming from the south). You will notice an old town hall, with a community information board in the car park. Directly after this to the north is a track with a height barrier. This is the road to the quarry. Follow it to the reception to report in.
♦ Ref: 58.46694°N, 3.41998°W
FIND FREQUENCY: ♦♦ – The Caithness Flagstones at Spittal Quarry do yield fossil fish, but these are much rarer than at other Caithness Flagstone sites.
CHILDREN: ♦ – All working quarry locations are not appropriate for children or families, and are only really suitable for enthusiasts and professionals.
ACCESS: ♦♦♦♦ – Spittal Quarry is easy to find and has its own car park. However, you must contact the quarry owners and seek permission before any visit.
TYPE: – This is a working quarry location. Hard hats, high visibility vests/jackets and safety boots are essential, along with prior permission to enter.
Fossil fish at Spittal Quarry are much rarer than at the neighbouring Achanarras Quarry, even though that quarry is a disused and over-collected site. The beds here are different from Achanarras Quarry and are much harder. Therefore, you will need heavy-duty tools. The fish are blue tinted and can be found in the fine layered slabs, which are yellow and black in colour and about 2mm thick. If you can directly find the layer from the quarry floor, you will have a much better chance of finding fish, but this particular layer has not been worked recently, because it is not of sufficient quality. This is why most of the fish will be found from the spoil heaps and not from the quarry floor.
Spittal Quarry is extremely large and so you should not try to cover most of the quarry in one go, as this will inevitably result in you missing something. The best area to look is on the spoil heaps, but do not climb them, as this can be very dangerous. Instead, look around the base of the spoil heaps. At the far end of the quarry, the layers are stepped and, because fish can only be found in a certain layer, this gives a good opportunity to see both the geology as it was originally deposited and to look for fossils.
Spittal Quarry contains a rare fish fauna, including the only Mid-Devonian cephalaspid ever to have been found. The rocks are from the lower Givetian stage of the Devonian.
The fishes are younger than those from Achanarras and the site produced the first specimens of the placoderm Dickosteus threiplandi, as well as rare specimens of the large osteostracan Cephalaspis magnifica, a group that is otherwise poorly known from rocks of this age.
Spittal Quarry exposes lacustrine dolomitic laminites of Givetian age but fossils are very rare. The few fossils that have come from this site are extremely well preserved. They include plants and fishes, with plant material being rather more common than fish.
The strata consist of alternations of dolomitic laminites and fine-grained grey sandstones, of the Latheron Subgroup of the Upper Caithness Flagstone Group.
Common sense when collecting at all locations should always be used. Normal health and safety rules apply when visiting any working quarry, so hard hats and high visibility jackets are essential. The owners also prefer steel toe-capped boots to be worn and wearing goggles is highly recommended.
Some areas of the quarry also contain deep channels of water, so keep well away from these and stay clear of any moving vehicles. The slate is extremely heavy and can easily fall or slip. Therefore, do not climb any slate mounts and keep alert at all times.
Many normal health and safety regulations apply at Spittle Quarry. You will need a hard hat, steel toe-capped boots and high visibility vests. The Flagstones are extremely hard, but can be split, providing you have the correct tools (mallets, chisels and safety goggles).
This site is an SSSI. This Special Site of Scientific Interest, means you can visit the site, but hammering the bedrock is not permitted.