Category: Scotland – South

The south of Scotland has some of the best locations for collecting fossils in the UK. It has a mixture of Silurian, Ordovician and Carboniferous rocks, and there are several coastal locations and some inland sites too. Trilobites, brachiopods, bivalves, plants and fish can all be found. Fossil hunting in this part of Scotland involves beautiful surroundings and in a variety of different types of location, such as foreshores, cliffs, quarries, streams, cuttings and outcrops. Some of the most well-known areas include Girvan, the Pentland Hills and Fife.

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Craigielaw Point

To the north of the sandy Gosford Bay beach is an outcrop that is incredibly rich in Carboniferous marine fossils. Corals, bryozoans, crinoids and brachiopods are all very common. They are easy to collect and the location is ideal for children, especially for finding the tumbled coral pebbles. The sandy beach is full of pools of water, making a fun family day out, especially in the summer.
Carboniferous, Foreshore Outcrops, Rating: ♦♦♦♦

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Bellyford Burn

Following the Bellyford Burn is the disused Pencaitland Railway. This track is now used by cyclists, runners and walkers, and is a lovely walk. The old railway has boards along its way, detailing how coal was mined, and providing information about the old railway. In the middle of the walk are two very large spoil heaps that contain fossil plants from the Carboniferous shale.
Carboniferous, Spoil heaps, Rating: ♦♦♦

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Strawberry Wood

This is a disused Carboniferous limestone quarry, within a small wood. It is very rich in fossils. Studies indicate important changes in the palaeo-environments of the deposits and in the varied macrofossil assemblages from the surrounding Carboniferous sediments, which are of similar age. Due to the importance of the site, keep collecting to a minimum. Carboniferous, Disused Quarry, Rating: ♦♦♦♦♦

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Haddington

The River Tyne is a long and beautiful river. Its tributaries wind their way down from the glacially eroded Lammermoor and Pentland Hills. The river gains volume as it crosses the alluvial plain, cutting through the carboniferous country rock, transporting minerals and fossils along the way. Carboniferous, River Section, Rating: ♦♦♦

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Glenmard Wood

This is a very productive little quarry that is easy to access. It is an occasionally worked quarry, which is fully accessible from the trackway. This means fresh faces and scree are available to search through. Take plenty of paper for bags of finds, but, be warned, it involves quite a long walk. Ordovician, Part Working Quarry, Rating: ♦♦♦♦♦

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Pentland Hills

This is an area extremely rich in Silurian fossils, but which is also a challenging place to collect fossils from. The locations discussed in the guide are suitable for those who are used to exploring and walking. However, it is a beautiful landscape, with many different types of fossils to be collected. In fact, the area is famous for its rich diversity of fossil species, some of which are unique. Silurian, Cuttings, Outcrops, Disused Quarries, Streams, Rating: ♦♦♦♦♦

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Ardwell Bay

Ardwell Bay, south of Girvan, is the best coastal location in the area for finding fossils. Graptolites are the most common, with orthocone fragments and trilobites also being quite common. In addition, brachiopods can be found. The rocks you need to split are easy to identify, being black when weathered. Ordovician, Foreshore, Rating: ♦♦♦♦

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Dob’s Linn

Dob’s Linn is a famous location for graptolites and, indeed, is one of the best, and you can collect many different species form the shale. However, the location can be hard to find, but it is well worth the trip. Be sure you bring paper to wrap up your specimens. Ordovician, Silurian, Cuttings, Outcrops, Rating: ♦♦♦♦♦

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Woodland Bay

The rocks at Shalloch (to the south of Girvan) to Whitehouse, including Woodland Bay, contain fossil graptolites and trilobites. Girvan is a well-documented area for fossils and is one of the most popular areas to collect in Scotland. This foreshore location is easy to access, but you will need the correct tools. Ordovician, Silurian, Foreshore, Rating: ♦♦♦

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Craighead Quarry

Ordovician rocks at Craighead Quarry are very fossiliferous and this disused quarry is often visited by local schools and colleges to study the fossils and geology at this site. While it is now quite overgrown, there is still plenty to be found. The most common finds are graptolites, brachiopods, trilobites and goniatites. Ordovician, Disused Quarry, Rating: ♦♦♦

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Auchinleck Tip

This spoil heap is partly still being used and partly disused. Most of the waste material contains limestone and shale that is poor in fossil remains. However if you can find the right rocks, then plant remains can be found. However, these are often poorly preserved, but, as with all tips, you never know what you might find. Carboniferious, Spoil Heap, Rating: ♦♦♦

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Lady Burn

Lady Burn is a very famous site for fossils in Scotland. It has highly fossiliferous rocks, including three famous starfish beds and some superb, complete trilobites can be found. There are many different fossils to be found here and you are sure to find something Ordovician, Stream Cutting, Rating: ♦♦♦♦♦

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Dalmellington Burns

There are a few burns around the village of Dalmellington, which have cut into fossiliferous Carboniferous shale. The most common finds are mussels, but plant remains can also be found. This location is best visited after a dry spell, because, if the water is too high, the beds are not exposed. Carboniferious, Stream Cutting, Rating: ♦♦

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Saltcoats

A small area at Saltcoats yields plant remains. Although much of the rich Carboniferous beds have been washed away by the sea, and fresh beds have not been exposed due to the sea defence, you can still occasionally find plant remains in the shale on the foreshore. However, most of the shale today is unproductive. Carboniferous, Cliffs and Foreshore, Rating: ♦♦

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Kirkcudbright

The coastline to the south of Kirkcudbright has low cliffs of shale, which is also exposed along the foreshore. There are several areas where the shales contain fossils from certain zones, although these are very hard to find. Graptolites, cephalopods and crustaceans can all be found. Silurian, Cliffs and Foreshore, Rating: ♦♦

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Kennedy’s Pass

At Kennedy’s Pass, there is a formation that is full of conglomerate units, mudstones, siltstones and sandstones. Within this, you can find a wide range of fossils, including trilobites, graptolites, corals and brachiopods. However, they are not easy to find. The productive beds are lower down, which are mostly covered up by the less productive upper beds. Ordovician, Cliffs and Foreshore, Rating: ♦♦♦♦♦

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Aberlady

This is a peaceful location where fantastic bryozoans can be seen in Carboniferous rocks. You can also find many slabs of the tracks of trilobites, preserved in the mud over which they crawled. Fish and the trilobites themselves can also be found here. Carboniferous, Cliffs and Foreshore, Rating: ♦♦♦♦♦