About Shetland - Geological Overview

Virtually all of Highland Scotland’s geology is represented in Geopark Shetland together with unique features such as the Shetland ophiolite – an exposed section of ancient ocean-bed - in Unst and Fetlar, the volcanic rocks of Eshaness and Papa Stour, and the beautiful St Ninian’s Isle tombolo.

St Ninian's Tombolo. Copyright Shetland Geotours St Ninian's Tombolo. Copyright Shetland Geotours Where else can you walk on an ancient ocean floor, explore an extinct volcano and stroll across shifting sands all in the space of a day?

The islands’ rocks provide the evidence that nearly three thousand million years ago Shetland, and indeed Scotland, were a part of North America. It is possible to trace Shetland’s 700 million year journey from close to the South Pole, across the Equator to its current location at 60º north through the remains of a mountain chain of Himalayan proportions, a Sahara-like desert, an explosive volcano like Mount St. Helens and the floor of an ocean as wide as the Atlantic.

Volcano trail. Copyright Shetland Amenity Trust Volcano trail. Copyright Shetland Amenity Trust The coastal cliffs provide easily visible exposures of the many rock types, as well as illustrating the powerful erosive forces of the sea through the display of spectacular stacks, arches and caves, whilst inland the island’s landforms clearly reflect the underlying geology. 

Geopark Shetland is managed by Shetland Amenity Trust. It aims to:

  • Conserve geological heritage and demonstrate links with natural and cultural heritage.
  • Raise awareness and increase understanding of Shetland’s geological heritage.
  • Promote sustainable development linked to geological heritage and Geotourism.