Dunans has a delightful little secluded beach that has an exposure of soft grey Oxford Clay at the high tide mark. A variety of fossils can be picked from the clay shale lying at the foot of the exposure and patches of fresh clay bedrock are often revealed on the lowest of tides.
♦ Take the A855 to Uig, Flodigarry, Duntulm and so on.
♦ The car park is on the right-hand side, a couple of miles up this road. (Look for the large sign for the Healing Well.)
♦ There is a cafe and public toilet at the Uig junction, a few miles back from Dunans.
♦ Ref: 57.65335°N, 6.24479°W
FIND FREQUENCY: ♦♦♦♦ – Fossils are found regularly here, as the soft clay is subject to constant erosion. Although there is a vertical exposure at the high tide mark to the left of the beach access point, low to mid tide is the best time to reach the patches soft clay bedrock exposed between the boulders. Find frequency is usually very good, although this erosion lifts and removes fossils just as easy as it exposes them.
CHILDREN: ♦♦♦♦ – There is a cafe and public toilet at the Uig junction, a few miles back from Dunans. This is a child-friendly location, with a path to the shore, and there is no need for heavy tools. A blunt knife, screwdriver or something similar is all that is required to dig out fossils. Just watch out for your ankles when crossing boulders.
ACCESS: ♦♦♦♦ – Access is very good at Dunans. A path leads to the Healing Well and the shoreline is only metres from there. It is a relatively short walk, but it is downhill with the climb back up proving a little more difficult. There is a small, free car park at the gate and entrance to the pathway.
TYPE: – This is a soft clay location, with a vertical exposure and a few patches of soft clay bedrock. The foreshore boulders often move around in the current and waves at high tide, eroding the bedrock further and exposing new areas, while covering up others.
This is an SSSI, so do not hammer the cliff face or bedrock. It is already eroding at a quick rate and there is plenty of material to be found at the base of the cliff and on the foreshore. There are no restrictions on visiting this area.
Dunans is quite close to Flodigarry, another excellent location for Oxford Clay sediment. However, due to the tidal nature of this area, only one location can be covered at a time, as low tide is the best time for the exposure of clay bedrock fossil-bearing locations. The Dunans shoreline can be covered quickly. Look along the high tide line at the vertical face. Flattened ammonite impressions are found here. Look also for belemnites protruding from eroded clay shale and search over the clay bedrock patches nearby. Fossils are easily removed with a penknife or something similar.
The other factors can be weeds and pebble locations. The groups of large pebbles and rocks are constantly being moved around at high tide. This allows fresh areas to be exposed or other previously rich areas to be covered up. Cardioceras species of ammonites are the norm and they are usually pyrite. Belemnites are often fractured when removed, but are easily repaired with glue when home. Dunans also has a very rich microfossil assemblage.
The rocks here are Jurassic in age, being 155myrs old. The Staffin Shale Formation (Callovian – Kimmeridgian) comprises a succession of fissile and massive mudstone, siltstone, sandy siltstone and sandstone, with minor calcareous, phosphatic and sideritic nodules.
The base of the formation is sharply defined, represented by the base of bituminous fissile mudstones with thin glauconitic siltstones with chondrites, making up the Dunans Clay Member)
Dunans Clay Member consists of Oxfordian and Callovian strata. The sedimentary features of the Oxfordian mudrocks are asymmetrical decimetre-scale cycles, and contain bands of septarian siderite and calcite nodules. Each cycle is represented by strata that vary between 10cm and 1m in thickness. Silty mudstone and calcareous mudstone prevail throughout the cycles. Crushed ammonites are found at various zones. However, bivalves and belemnites are more robust and are therefore more common throughout.
Some of the foreshore can be slippery, and the eroded boulders are rounded and can be slippery if wet. Otherwise, this is a pretty safe location.
Mobile phone signals vary on Skye, with some networks working better than others. There is no need for any heavy duty tools – a penknife, screwdriver or similar is sufficient. Bring little mini-grip bags for belemnites. Even if they break during removal, they are easily glued back together at home.
This site is an SSSI. This Special Site of Scientific Interest, means you can visit the site, but hammering the bedrock is not permitted.