Jon Trevelyan (UK)
I had the good fortune recently and rather delightfully to spend a week on the beautiful Isle of Skye, the largest of the Inner Hebrides. The weather was surprisingly good for September and a good time was had by all.
In terms of geology, there are some exceptionally old rocks on Skye. We were staying on the east coast of the Sleat Peninsula, which consists of Lewisian gneiss, which is some 2.8 billion years old, and nearby is Torridonian sandstone, which is a mere 550 million years old. There are also Triassic rocks, from a time when Skye was part of a vast desert and there are the much younger, Palaeocene rocks of the Skye volcano, whose gabbros makes up the glorious Cuillin ridge (Fig. 1).
So, while I was there, I took the opportunity to leave the family in their respective beds early one morning (none of whom are really interested in geology) and drive to the little Staffin Museum (known also as Staffin Dinosaur Museum), in the northeast of the island. This also provided me with the opportunity to drive past and visit some of Skye’s other geological highlights, namely the Storr (Fig. 2), the impressive Mealt Falls cascading directly into the sea and the equally impressive Kilt Rock (Fig. 3).
However, it is Skye’s Jurassic rocks, from a time when a warm shallow sea covered the area, that yield the finest of fossils (Fig. 4). In fact, the island is rightly famous for its Jurassic fossils and has a number of sites that are worth visiting, with geology from the Hettangian at the bottom of the Lower Jurassic to the Oxfordian at the base of the Upper Jurassic. But it is its dinosaur footprints (Figs. 5 to 7) that perhaps fires up the imagination the most (see, for example, Dinosaurs footprints on the Isle of Skye, Scotland).
So there are certainly some good geological resources to stock the museum. In fact, the Staffin Dinosaur Museum was established by Dugald Ross in 1976, when he was only a teenager. As far as Skye dinosaurs are concerned, he himself has identified a number, including Stegosaurus, Megalosaurus, Cetiosaurus, Hadrosaurus and Ceolophysis, and there is evidence of these at the museum (Figs. 5 to 7).
As far as the museum is concerned, it moved to its present building in 1994. This was originally a byre (that is, a cowshed, Fig 8), which also used to be a Gaelic school run by the church in the early nineteenth century. It contains many fossils, several of which were found by Dugald, along with many other non-geological cultural artefacts. However, it is its palaeontological exhibits that attracted me to visit the museum and, if you are reading this article, will probably be of most interest to you.
However, it is not just dinosaurs that you can look at. Other vertebrate and invertebrate fossils you can see at the museum include a Hybodus dorsal fin (Fig. 9), bones from an ichthyosaur (Fig. 10), crinoids (Fig. 11), bivalves (Fig. 12), brachiopods (Fig. 13), belemnites (Figs. 14 and 15) and much else besides. However, in my view, it is Skye’s ammonites that really steal the show and make this museum well worth visiting (Figs. 16 to 19).
The museum can be found at Elishader in Staffin (postcode: IV51 9JE). For details of opening times and more, call 01470 562 321 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
|OTHER ARTICLES IN THIS SERIES:|
|Geology museums of Britain: Whitby Museum, Yorkshire|
|Geology museums of Britain: The Booth Museum of Natural History, Brighton|
|Geology museums of Britain: The Museum of London|
|Geology museums of Britain: The National Stone Centre, Derbyshire|
|Geology museums of Britain: Staffin (Dinosaur) Museum, Isle of Skye|
|Geology museums of Britain: Watchet Market House Museum, Somerset|
|Geology museums of Britain: The Museum of Somerset, Taunton|
|Geology Museums of Britain: Portland Museum, Dorset|
|Geology museums of Britain: Yorkshire Natural History Museum, Sheffield|
|Geology museums of Britain: Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum, Glasgow|
|Geology museums of Britain: The Hunterian, Glasgow Geology museums of Britain: Kendal Museum of Natural History and Archaeology, Cumbria|
Jurassic Skye: Dinosaurs & other fossils of the Isle of Skye by Sarah White and Dugald Ross, Pisces Publications, Berkshire (2020), 63 pages (paperback), ISBN: 978-1-874357-97-1.