Some excellent Carboniferous plant fossils can be found at Anstruther. This is the case if you can find the right type of rock, and if you have the strength and determination to break them open and carry them off the beach.
♦ Plenty of free parking can be found along Crichton Street and Shore Road to the west of the harbour.
♦ Access to the beach is next to clubhouse at Anstruther Golf Course and there is also access at the end of Crichton Street.
♦ Ref: 56.21856°N, 2.70612°W
FIND FREQUENCY: ♦♦♦ – Pebbles containing many fossil bivalves can also be picked up, but the real prizes are the excellently preserved plant fossils that can be collected by locating the right type of rocks and splitting them. These can be found in various places, weathering out of the sandstone layers that are exposed at low tide.
CHILDREN: ♦♦♦♦ – The fossil hunting area at Anstruther is near to the town and does not require a long walk to get there. There is also a sandy beach that children will like and the areas where fossils are found are fairly easy to locate. In places, large outcrops of rock and boulders must be crossed, but there is a path above the beach that can be taken if these prove too difficult.
ACCESS: ♦♦♦♦ – At Anstruther, the areas where fossils are found are all located within a few minutes’ walk from where cars are parked. The beach is easily accessed at various points, but is mostly covered at high tide.
TYPE: – The sandstone layers exposed here on the foreshore at low tide contain various woody fossils, while some of the cobbles on the beach contain fossil bivalves. One particular type of rock found on the beach, when split open, can reveal very good quality plant fossils.
By far the most appealing fossils that Anstruther has to offer are the very detailed plant remains found within calcareous blocks on the beach. When split with a heavy hammer some (but by no means all) reveal perfect plant fossils, such as the roots of Stigmaria ficoides. Other blocks contain less impressive pieces of non-descript wood.
If you walk east, you will encounter sloping sandstone layers on the foreshore. These can be examined for tree trunk and branch fossils, bark impressions and less obvious smaller plant fossils. Thin layers of coal and carbon-rich layers packed with unidentifiable plant remains are also present.
To the west, there is a sandy beach next to the clubhouse at the golf course. West of here, the beach becomes rocky, with large sandstone boulders, as well as smaller cobbles of sandstone and other types of rock. It is here that you can hunt for one specific type of rock that yields the best fossils.
The rocks here are from the Asbian Substage of the early Carboniferous (Dinantian). They are largely non-marine mudstones, siltstones and sandstones from the eponymous Anstruther Formation, consisting of thin beds of limestone, dolomite and coal formed 331 to 335 Mya and part of the Strathclyde Group.
This is a fairly safe location, with the main hazards present being the risk of slipping on seaweed covered rocks and flying splinters of rock produced by cracking open cobbles. Safety glasses are a must.
Most fossils can be found by cracking open large boulders, but, for this reason you will need a good hammer and safety glasses.
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.