Geology

Shetland’s geology spans almost 3 billion years and is more diverse than any similar sized area in Europe.

In 2009 Shetland was awarded membership of the European Geoparks Network in recognition of its incredible earth heritage. With rocks of every era from the Precambrian to the Carboniferous, Shetland’s geology spans almost 3 billion years and is more diverse than any similar sized area in Europe. Where else can you walk on ancient oceanic crust, explore an extinct volcano and stroll across shifting sands in the space of a day?

Over the past 700 million years Shetland has travelled from a location close to the South Pole across the Equator to its current latitude of 60° north. On the journey it experienced oceans opening and closing, mountains forming and eroding, tropical seas, volcanoes, deserts, ice ages and ancient rivers. Evidence of these earth-shaking events can be found throughout the isles, including a number of unique geological features.

Discover ocean floors, volcanoes and shifting sands in a day!

Geopark Shetland is bringing to life the fascinating stories behind Shetland’s geology and geographical location, as well as demonstrating how these features have influenced every aspect of life in the isles, from the landscape and biodiversity to the settlement patterns and economy.

Begin your geological journey at the Museum and Archives in Lerwick, where displays tell Shetland’s story from its geological beginnings to the present day. From here follow Geopark Shetland’s range of self guided trails and discover stunning geological sites for yourself. You will also find interpretive boards and geo-exhibits along the way to help you uncover this fascinating aspect of Shetland’s heritage.

If you are planning to undertake geological fieldwork in Shetland please do so responsibly.

What next?

  • Read more about Shetland's spectacular scenery, including some of the best viewpoints
  • Kayaking is one of the best ways to explore some of Shetland's hidden geological treasures
  • Download a Shetland Heritage leaflet about Shetland geology (.pdf)
  • Read more about Shetland's geology on the Shetland Landscapes website
  • Download a Shetland Heritage Trail leaflet about Shetland's geological landcapes (.pdf)
  • Find out more about Shetland's geology on a Shetland Geotours outing.
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