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The Highland Boundary Fault

I had meant to mention that Richie’s and my canoe trip on Sunday started off in the lowlands of Scotland, then progressed to the highlands before we returned to the lowlands once again.

The Highland Boundary Fault is a geological fault that traverses Scotland from Arran and Helensburgh on the west coast to Stonehaven in the east. It separates two distinctly different physiographic regions: the Highlands from the Lowlands, but in most places it is only recognisable as a change in topography. Aligned southwest to northeast, from Lochranza on Arran it bisects the Isle of Bute, and crosses the south eastern parts of the Cowal and Rosneath Peninsulas as it passes up the Firth of Clyde. It comes ashore near Helensburgh then continues through Loch Lomond. The loch islands of Inchmurrin, Creinch, Torrinch, and Inchcailloch all form part of the Highland Boundary Fault.

Conic Hill, Inchcailoch,Torinch,Creinch and Inchmurrin. Part of the Highland Boundary Fault

Geological map of central Scotland. The fault divides the Old Red Sandstone and Devonian deposits (brownish, no. 23, at centre) from the Metamorphic and Archaean deposits (pinkish, no. 27, above the brownish).

Topological map of central Scotland. Lower elevations (greenish) are separated from higher elevations (brownish) by the fault line.

From Loch Lomond it continues to Aberfoyle, then Callander, Comrie and Crieff. It then forms the northern boundary of Strathmore and reaches the North Sea immediately north of Stonehaven near the ruined Chapel of St. Mary and St. Nathalan.To the north and west lie hard Precambrian and Cambrian metamorphic rocks: marine deposits metamorphosed to schists, phyllites and slates. To the south and east are Old Red Sandstone conglomerates and sandstones: softer, sedimentary rocks of the Devonian and Carboniferous periods.

The Highland Boundary Fault was active during the Caledonian Orogeny,a plate tectonic collision which took place from Mid Ordovician to Mid Devonian periods (520 to 400 million years ago), during the closure of the Iapetus Ocean. The fault allowed the Midland Valley to descend as a major rift by up to 4000 metres and there was subsequently vertical movement. This earlier vertical movement was later replaced by a horizontal shear. A complementary fault, the Southern Uplands Fault, forms the southern boundary for the Central Lowlands.

5 Responses

  1. I was in Lochranza exactly 3 weeks ago. Absolutely pissing down at first but developed into a beautiful day.

    They do call Arran a geologists paradise and I would recommend it to anyone (also recommended if you like deer and seals).

  2. ‘Fag’ Anderson would have been proud of you, Rab. Very good article.

  3. […] Typical instruments for protesting include but are not limited to – loud-hailers, daubed banners, a vocal and preferably alliteratively-scripted crowd. Pleasingly idiosyncratically, a group of enthusiasts have drawn attention to the petition on the Wigtown Bay windfarm by using … er … kayaks. Bigrab has also been donning his Admiral costume and taking to his canoe this week, with a diverting, waterlogged and geological reflection on the Highland boundary fault. […]

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