Siccar Point, Borders Coast
In this section: Intro |
Visiting Siccar Point
Point is located about 35 miles east of Edinburgh near the village of Cockburnspath.
is tucked away, not on the tourist trail and not easily accessible. It is world-famous,
though, as the most important site described by James Hutton (1726-1797) in support
of his world-changing ideas on the origin and age of the Earth.
taken boat at Dunglass burn, we set out to explore the coast; … at Siccar Point,
we found a beautiful picture of this junction washed bare by the sea. The sand-stone
strata are partly washed away, and partly remaining upon the ends of the vertical
schistus; and, in many places, points of the schistus strata are seen standing
up through among the sand-stone, the greatest part of which is worn away. Behind
this again we have a natural section of those sand-stone strata, containing fragments
of the schistus." James Hutton
Point remains now much the same as when Hutton visited in 1788. The junction between
the older, tilted layers of greywacke sandstone and the younger Old Red Sandstone
is clearly visible, allowing us to work out the story of the formation of these
rocks; and appreciate, as James Hutton did, the evidence for an ancient Earth
where natural processes operate over unimaginable lengths of time to create, alter
and eventually destroy rocks. Hutton's friend, John Playfair (1748-1819) accompanied
Hutton and Sir James Hall on the boat trip to Siccar Point and summed up the importance
of this visit by saying "the mind seemed to grow giddy by looking so far into
the abyss of time". |
without the historical link with James Hutton, Siccar Point is a place worth visiting.
A stunning natural seascape, framed by steep cliffs, and with a wild feel and
a sense of calm. Standing on the cliff top overlooking Siccar Point you get a
feeling of being on a boundary: to the north and west is a gently rolling landscape,
with rich agricultural land and many signs of people in the farming, industry
and settlements. Away to the south, the landscape is very different, where steep
grey cliffs plunging into the wild North Sea, and there is not much sign of human
habitation. The landscape reflects the underlying rocks, the same rocks which
are exposed at the point below. The tough greywacke sandstone layers make up much
of the Southern Uplands, while the land to the north is underlain by softer and
younger sedimentary rocks such as the Old Red Sandstone.
is a fundamental boundary in another sense, for these rocks are from very different
parts of Scotland's geological story. The greywacke sandstone formed on the floor
of the Iapetus Ocean around 430 million years ago, and was later crushed and upended
during the closure of the ocean basin and the creation of the great Caledonian
mountain chain. The red sandstone came much later, around 380 million years ago,
when the mountain chain was eroding and sediment was being transported south into
the broad, subsiding Midland Valley.
More information about Siccar Point
& James Hutton
Reading page for some good books on Scottish geology.
Lothian & Borders GeoConservation group have a
leaflet about James Hutton, and there is a James
Hutton trail website.