If you’ve been following my blog, you’d know that I am a PhD student in Glasgow and I love writing about interesting Sciency places that I visit. I have been away from this blog for quiet a while now; partly because I have been lazy but mostly because I wasn’t feeling inspired. But I love writing. So after procrastinating for months, on this wonderfully sunny day here I am with a short write up on a couple of fun weekend destinations from Glasgow that involve an interesting geological feature: Highland Boundary Fault.
Highland Boundary Fault
In Geology, a fault is a feature (imagine a line on the terrain map) that suggests significant movement of a volume of rocks. Such faults usually occur over a long period of time due to tectonic shifts. The force that tectonic plate exert on each other leads to interesting geological formations e.g. mountains.
I was mildly surprised to know that I live near one such geological fault. The Highland Boundary Fault separates the Scottish Highlands from the Lowlands and you can see the difference on two sides of the fault clearly. One of the fantastic locations to see this difference is a cozy little town near Glasgow called Balmaha. In the map below, the red dashed line is the Highland Boundary Fault and it is very clear on Google Maps with the terrain layer on.
From Balmaha, a very popular route takes us to a summit called as Conic Hill. It’s a leisurely 40-50 minute walk so even older folks can go up there easily. The view from the top is incredible. On the east you can see the Loch Lomond (lake), to the north are the rugged mountains of Scottish Highlands and to the south is vast relatively plain Lowlands region. If you plan your visit just after it has snowed, the views will be even more beautiful.
The difference on the two sides is very clearly noticeable. The rocks on the north of this fault line (schist) are hard and impervious while to the south (sandstone) they are soft and permeable. This also means, the vegetation that grows on these rocks is different from each other. If you follow the fault line to east, you’ll reach a town called Stonehaven on the east coast. A little north of it, at Garron Point, a small band of yellowish rock juts out into cold waters of the North Sea. You can the million year old hot magma crystalised in the gap in the earth’s crust (Highland Boundary Fault).
From Conic Hill summit you can see a number of tiny islands in the Loch Lomond. One of them is on the Highland Boundary Fault line: Inchcailloch. The fault passes through this point eastward to Helensberg and Arran. Inchcailloch island is just off Balmaha and has some easy forest trails. If you are quiet enough, you can also spot some deer. Best part is you can camp here if you feel like in the solace of nature. Not many people know of this island and hence, you’ll hardly find anyone else.
The 15 minute boat ride takes you to the island and back in £5. You get an hour or two to hike around and return to the jetty. It’s a fun little outing and a perfect weekend day trip when combined with Conic Hill hike.