Book review: Classic Geology in Europe 9: The Western Highlands of Scotland, by Colin Gillen

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Jon Trevelyan (UK)

I have reviewed some excellent previous guides in this series (Classic Geology in Europe 3: Iceland in Issue 39 and Classic Geology in Europe 12: Almeria in Issue 48), but this one is closer to home and covers an area that I have fond memories of from my Munro-bagging days. It also complements the other book I review today (Scotland’s Mountain Landscapes: A Geomorphological Perspective). This is more a companion guide for those walking in the Highlands as geological visitors, especially those on field trips. The other is more of a coffee table book of geology with beautiful pictures, backed up by excellent science.

That is, this guide is intended to be put in the walker’s cagoule pocket (it is the correct size for this), to be brought out at the appropriate moment. To this end, Ordnance Survey references are included to assist readers to find the sites referred to. It is also for those who wish to understand the relationship between rocks and scenery in one the classic regions of geology in Europe. This is because, nowhere else in the UK (and perhaps Europe) is this link more clearly seen. And key geological localities make the Scottish Highlands a unique region to study the geology of some of the oldest rocks in Europe, in a landscape formed more than a billion years ago, that has re-emerged from the geological depths.

The guide is set out in a series of journeys and localities, the geology of which are set out in separate chapters of the guide.

Con Gillen is also the author of Geology and landscapes of Scotland, which I very favourably reviewed in Issue 40. He is also a graduate of Glasgow, Aberdeen and the Open universities. His research has centred on the area around Scourie and Loch Laxford, in northwest Sutherland, Scotland. For 24 years, he was head of lifelong learning at Edinburgh University.

My suggestion is that you take this guide on your walks in the Scottish Highlands. Then, relax with your favourite tipple (surely Whiskey in these circumstances), while looking at the gorgeous picture in Scotland’s Mountain Landscapes to remind you of where you have been.

Classic Geology in Europe 9: The Western Highlands of Scotland, by Colin Gillen, Dunedin, Edinburgh and London (2019), 276 pages (paperback and also available as an eBook), ISBN: 978-1780460406

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