SHETLAND GEOPARK (United Kingdom)
From the highest sheer cliffs in Britain to the best ‘hands on’ exposure of the Great Glen Fault, Shetland is more geologically 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 all in a day?
Conservation, Education & Tourism
Shetland’s rocks and landscape are impressive to look at, but a little interpretation reveals the fascinating stories behind them. Over hundreds of millions of years from the Precambrian to the Devonian the climate and landscape have changed dramatically many times and echoes of these past environments have been literally set in stone. This tiny windswept archipelago has played host to tropical seas, volcanoes, deserts, ice ages and ancient rivers.
The islands can boast the best section through the flank of a volcano in the UK, the best exposure of one of Europe’s major tectonic faults, and are one of the best places in the world to see a compact vertical section through ancient oceanic crust.
Start your Geological Journey at the Shetland Museum and Archives in Lerwick, where displays tell the story of Shetland’s formation. Then get out and enjoy it for yourself with a range of trails, exhibits, events and information panels which highlight the fundamental links between geology and the natural and cultural heritage of the islands.
The earliest settlers arrived in Shetland almost 6000 years ago but the islands are perhaps best known for their Viking and Norse inhabitants between the 8th and 15th centuries. Geology has been fundamental to the development of many aspects of human life in Shetland from early settlement patterns that exploited the most fertile soils, to a range of drystone building techniques made necessary by the lack of native trees. Most recently Shetland became part of a global industry following the discovery of the North Sea Oilfields to the west of the islands.
The Shetland landscape of today is home to an amazing biodiversity. Over one million seabirds inhabit the cliffs and moorland, with 70 different bird species breeding in the isles and over 430 migratory species recorded. As well as large colonies of puffins and gannets the islands are home to fifty percent of the world population of the globally rare Great Skua.
Today, the Geopark is working to enhance the image of Shetland and promote sustainable development linked to geological heritage, education and Geotourism.
The Global Geoparks Network is supported by UNESCO at the request of Member States