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Supply of fresh material
Dangers to consider
Dunrobin is better known for its fairy-tail style castle
Dunrobin Castle than its fossils, which in comparison are small in
size and number; however experienced visitors should be able to
locate a range of specimens from the Jurassic rocks accumulated at
the base of the low-cliff. In comparison with other locations that
yield Jurassic fossils, the find frequency at Dunrobin is very low
and is therefore not recommended for collecting.
Left: Parking is
available in the main car park of Dunrobin Castle. Right:
Access to the beach is made via the southern side (right) of the
Parking is available in the castle car park throughout the year
(above-left), from which a path descends to the foreshore via the
south-side of the castle (above-right).
The geology of Dunrobin
The geology of the coast beneath Dunrobin Castle represents a
transition during the Lower Jurassic (200 million years ago) from
freshwater sediments, through estuarine deposits (with occasional
marine influences) to fully marine. Evidence of this changing
environment is clearly apparent from the change of fossils fauna
within the foreshore exposures and the low-cliff.
Left: Underlying marginal marine
sediments (White Sandstone Unit). Right: Marine sediments
(Lady's Walk Shale Member).
The following page is concerned with the exposures within the
low-cliff (above-right), which specifically relates to a period of
marine conditions during the early part of the Sinemurian stage
(Lady's Walk Shale Member). The transition from the underlying
White Sandstone Unit (semi-marine) can be clearly followed moving
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Where to look for fossils?
Fossils can found within intermittent exposures on the foreshore and
within the eroded low-cliff (below-right); a low-tide is needed in order
to observe foreshore exposures. During our recent visit the only
exposures were at the top of the beach, within the low-cliff (Lady's
Walk Shale Member), and it's here that the following page is based upon.
Left: View towards
Dunrobin Castle from the beach. Right: Sinemurian
marine sediments (Lady's Walk Shale Member) exposed by coastal
Once on the beach, walk in north-east direction along the foreshore,
passing in front of the magnificent castle (above-left), past the
sea defenses (paved foreshore) and onwards towards the eroded
For much of the year the high-tide
doesn't reach the top of the pebbled beach and as such it's usually
possible to find fossils. Please note that this stretch of coast has
been assigned SSSI, which means extracting fossils directly from the
exposures is not permitted; however collecting is allowed from the
loose material accumulated at the base of the eroded shoreline.
As with all coastal locations, a fossil hunting trip is best timed to coincide
with a falling or low-tide. For a relatively low one-off cost we
recommend the use of Neptune Tides software, which provides
future tidal information around the UK. To download a free trial
Alternatively a free short range forecast covering the next 7 days
is available on the BBC website
What fossils might you find?
It takes quite some time to gather enough specimens to begin to
build a picture of what life was like in this region 200 million
years ago; with patience bivalves, brachiopods, belemnites and
ammonites (reported but not observed during our recent visit) can be
found. The following specimens were collected from the Lady's
Walk Shale Member (see notes above).
Left: A small
bivalve. Right: The inner surface of a small brachiopod shell.
Left: A fragment of
crinoid stem (Balanocrinus). Right:
The inner cast of a small brachiopod shell.
The crinoid fragment (above-left) has been identified by the
Hunterian Museum as a significant find for Dunrobin, and a paper to
describe it has been produced
Left: The broken
tip of a small belemnite guard protruding from the eroded coastline.
Right: A small bivalve.
Left: A partly squashed
Right: A small brachiopod from the White Sandstone Unit.
The final photo (above-right) is included to represent the
underlying White Sandstone Unit; the sandy sediment represents a
Tools & equipment
It's a good idea to spend some time considering the tools and
equipment you're likely to require while fossil hunting at
Dunrobin. Preparation in advance will help ensure your visit is
productive and safe. Below are some of the items you should consider
carrying with you. You can purchase a selection of geological tools
and equipment online from
Steel point: In some instances
it's not necessary to use a hammer and chisel to remove the matrix
surrounding the fossil. Sometimes all that's required is some
careful precision work using a steel point. This is particularly
relevant with crumbly matrix, where chiselling may otherwise shatter
a fragile fossil.
Hand lens: A hand lens enables the fossil hunter to enjoy the finer
details of the specimens they find. It's often remarkable how well preserved
some of the most intricate structures can be. We recommend
a lens with x10 magnification that folds away into a metal casing to protect
it from damage.
Strong bag: When considering the type of bag to use it's worth setting aside
one that will only be used for fossil hunting, rocks are usually
dusty or muddy and will
make a mess of anything they come in contact with. The bag will also
need to carry a range of accessories which need to
be easily accessible. Among the features recommended include: brightly coloured,
a strong holder construction, back
support, strong straps, plenty of easily accessible pockets and a rain cover.
Walking boots: A good pair of walking boots will
protect you from ankle sprains, provide more grip on
slippery surfaces and keep you dry in wet conditions. During your
fossil hunt you're likely to encounter a variety of terrains so
footwear needs to be designed for a range of conditions.
For more information and examples of tools and equipment
recommended for fossil hunting
or shop online at
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Protecting your finds
It's important to spend some time considering the best way to
protect your finds onsite, in transit, on display and in storage.
Prior to your visit, consider the equipment and accessories you're
likely to need, as these will differ depending on the type of rock,
terrain and prevailing weather conditions.
wrapped in foam, ready for transport. Right:
A small compartment box containing cotton wool is ideal for
separating delicate specimens.
When you discover a fossil, examine the surrounding matrix (rock)
and consider how best to remove the specimen without breaking it;
patience and consideration are key. The aim of extraction is to
remove the specimen with some of the matrix attached, as this will
provide added protection during transit and future handling;
sometimes breaks are unavoidable, but with care you should be able
to extract most specimens intact. In the event of breakage,
carefully gather all the pieces together, as in most cases repairs
can be made at a later time.
For more information about collecting fossils please refer to the
following online guides:
Fossil Hunting and
Conserving Prehistoric Evidence.
Join us on a fossil hunt
Left: A birthday party with
a twist - fossil hunting at
Right: A family hold their prized ammonite at Beachy Head.
Discovering Fossils guided fossil hunts reveal evidence of life that
existed millions of years ago. Whether it's your first time fossil
hunting or you're looking to expand your subject knowledge, our fossil
hunts provide an enjoyable and educational experience for all. To find