There is plenty to see at St Monans, including raised beaches, an excellent example of a syncline, bedding planes packed with trace fossils and whole layers of rock full of fossil corals and crinoids.
♦ There is a lot of free parking to the east of the harbour, along East Shore and Rose Street.
♦ From here, walk east to access the beach.
♦ Ref: 56.20380°N, 2.76388°W
FIND FREQUENCY: ♦♦♦ – Although much of the beach at St Monans is largely unfossiliferous, when the right spot is found, in situ fossils are abundant. However, these should be photographed, rather than collected.
CHILDREN: ♦♦♦ – The beach at St Monans is easily accessible and, with supervision, should not prove too demanding for children. There is also a coastal path just above the beach, which can be used to circumnavigate any difficult areas.
ACCESS: ♦♦♦♦ – There is plenty of free parking at St Monans beside the beach and a coastal path just above it for those who do not want to clamber over rocks. Areas of geological and palaeontological interest are easy to reach, but must be accessed on a retreating tide.
TYPE: – Although a few fossils can be collected loose here, the majority at St Monans can be seen within layers of sandstone and limestone protruding from the beach.
You can find corals and bivalves at Kinghorn. The corals are very small and are best seen on the surface of the beds. However, once you are used to the rocks, you can use a pick to break them apart to attract the corals.
However, the most common fossils found here are pieces of crinoid in the rock layers at the top of the beach, beyond the windmill. Within these layers, a few brachiopods and corals can also be found. Above them, in places, bedding planes on freshly exposed sandstone layers are packed with trace fossils.
Further on from the area where the rocks containing the crinoid fossils outcrop is a layer of white limestone that is absolutely packed with Lithostrotion junceum corals.
Before accessing the beach to the east, take time to look at the strata exposed just to the east of the harbour wall. You should be able to see the layers contorted into an acute ‘V’ arrangement. This is a fantastic example of a geological feature caused by folding, called a syncline.
From here, walk to east and onto the beach. Beyond the bathing pool, you will be able to see a windmill just behind the beach. Below the windmill are numerous structures, which are the remains of an old salt production industry, dating back to the 1800s. These sit on top of a raised beach, with the windmill above sitting on another.
Carrying on from here, walk further eastwards, checking the outcropping rocks for fossils as you go. After a hundred meters or so, you will begin to find pieces of crinoid in some of the rock layers at the top of the beach. The fossils are abundant and the rock layers are exposed along a reasonable stretch of the beach. If you look up here, you may be fortunate enough to see freshly revealed bedding planes in the sandstone above, which are absolutely covered with trace fossil burrows.
Following on from the rock layers containing the crinoid fossils are a suite of layers that outcrop for a few meters and which are full of fossil corals. These are easy to spot, as the layer containing the corals is white, unlike the rock layers previously seen.
South of St Monans, the rocks are from the Pathhead Formation of the Strathclyde Group, formed 326 to 331 Mya.
Upper Ardross Limestone from 326 to 331 Mya crops out at Long Shank, with Scottish Late Carboniferous to Early Permian Plugs and Vents visible to the north of this, towards Parton Crag.
At Parton Crag, the Lower Limestone Formation, formed 322 to 331 Mya is exposed. There then follows a sequence of Blackhall Limestone, until Pan Goat, where thr Lower Limestone Formation resumes.
The rocks here are from the Lower Carboniferous (Dinantian).
At high tide, most of the beach is covered, so ensure that you visit this location on a retreating tide. Rocks here can also be slippery.
Most fossils can be found by searching the foreshore, and by splitting rocks and boulders using a 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.