North East rock sites are some of the best in the UK say geologists

North East locations such as Dunstanburgh, South Shields and Allenheads are voted some of the UK's top geology sites


The rock scene in the North East has found favour with voters who took part in a nationwide competition.

To mark Earth Science Week, which began on Monday, the Geological Society invited the public to nominate their top rock spots in the UK and Ireland.

More than 400 entries were whittled down to a short list of 10 in each of 10 separate categories, with voting selecting the winner in each.

In the Outcrops section, the national winner was the cliffs and rock formations around Craster, Cullernose Point and Dunstanburgh castle in Northumberland.

Other North East sited which made the shortlists were:

  • In the Human Habitation category, Hadrian’s Wall in Northumberland where it sits on top of the Whin Sill ridge in Northumberland
  • The magnesian limestone cliffs of South Shields and Marsden in the Historical and Scientific Importance category. These were chosen because they are key to the understanding of the catastrophic marine inundation that created the ancient Zechstein sea
  • Allenheads in Northumberland, for its lead mining heritage, made the short list in the Industrial and Economic section
  • Upper Teasdale and High Force also featured in the Landscape short list

Another national winner was Siccar Point, 20 miles north of Berwick, which won the Historic and Scientific class.

This coastal area is of global geological significance as it was the location in the 18th Century where James Hutton’s study of the exposed rocks informed his belief that the Earth was older than previously perceived – a theory vastly important in the evolution of modern geology.

“The results of the competition are marvellous for the region, which has some fabulous geology,” said Berwick-based geologist Ian Kille.

James Davidson Dunstanburgh Castle
Dunstanburgh Castle

He runs Northumbrian Earth, which seeks to introduce people to the geology of the North East through walks, talks, education work and events.

Ian organises geological walks for the Northumberland Coast Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty Partnership, which covers the winning Craster/Dunstanburgh area.

The castle rests on the hard quartz dolerite rock which is part of the Whin Sill, a feature that runs through the region and is also the setting for attractions like Lindisfarne Castle, Bamburgh Castle, Hadrian’s Wall and High Force waterfall.

“Around Craster and nearby Cullernose Point is a spectacular outcrop of the Whin Sill, which is part of our geological heritage,” said Ian.

“Ice sheets during the last Ice Age eroded the land but because the Whin Sill rock is so hard it could withstand this.”

Northumberland Coast AONB officer David Feige said: “ We are very pleased at the Craster result. Geology is a very striking aspect of the Northumberland coast’s nationally important landscape and it is great to see it being recognised.”

Upper Teesdale and Allenheads are part of the North Pennines, where in 2003 the AONB became the first area in Britain to be awarded the UNESCO-endorsed status of European Geopark.

Geoparks are places with outstanding geology where special effort is made to make the most of this heritage through interpretation, education, conservation and nature-based tourism.

In 2004 the North Pennines AONB became a founding member of the Global Geoparks Network, which now has more than 100 members.

The character of the North Pennine landscape has its foundations in the underlying rocks which reflect nearly 500 million years of Earth history.


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