British regional geology: Orkney and Shetland

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The British regional geology: Orkney and Shetland has been converted to a series of articles for this wiki. The book is available for purchase at the BGS Online Shop Its full reference is:

Mykura, W. 1976. British regional geology: Orkney and Shetland. Edinburgh, Her Majesty's Stationery Office.
Orkney and Shetland regional guide cover image. P894508.



Physical features
Summary of geology
History of research

Metamorphic rocks of Shetland: I Area west of Walls Boundary Fault[edit]

North Roe and Northmaven
Walls Peninsula

Metamorphic rocks of Shetland: II East Mainland and adjacent islands[edit]

East Mainland Succession
Quarff Nappe and Mélange
Metamorphic history
Lunnasting, Whalsay and Out Skerries

Metamorphic rocks of Shetland: III Yell, Unst and Fetlar[edit]

Nappe Pile
Structural synopsis

Basement Complex of Orkney[edit]

Plutonic complexes of Shetland[edit]

Eastern Late-orogenic complexes
Western Post-orogenic complexes

Old Red Sandstone of Shetland[edit]

Western outcrops— Walls Peninsula; Papa Stour; Esha Ness; Foula
Central outcrops— Walls Peninsula; North Mainland
Eastern outcrops— Southeast Mainland; Fair Isle

Old Red Sandstone of Orkney[edit]

Probable Lower Old Red Sandstone
Middle Old Red Sandstone of Orkney
Stromness Flags
Rousay Flags
Eday Beds
Upper Old Red Sandstone

Minor intrusions[edit]


Volcanic breccias and vents and associated mineralisation[edit]


Pleistocene and Recent[edit]

Shetland—main island group
Fair Isle

Economic geology[edit]

Ore minerals
Semi-precious and lapidary stones
Flagstones and building stones
Road metal and aggregate
Sand and gravel



The Orkney and Shetland Islands have not so far been included in any of the British Regional Geology Handbooks because although the area had been completely surveyed, only the maps and memoir for the Orkneys had been published. Post-war revision of the Shetlands by J Phemister, W Mykura, F May and P A Sabine has resulted in all but one of the Shetland maps being either published or in press. The remaining Central Shetland map will shortly be in press as a result of the kind co-operation of Dr D. Flinn, who is at present compiling this sheet, based on his own researches. It is unlikely however that full memoir coverage will be available for the Shetland Islands.

Accordingly, although this Handbook covers only a small land area, it has been written in rather more detail than others in the series so that an adequate description of the geology for general purposes should be available, with Chapter 1 forming an initial, brief but comprehensive, summary. The opportunity has also been taken to incorporate modern views on the Old Red Sandstone of Orkney based not only on published work but on the use, by permission, of information from so far unpublished post-graduate theses. Some of the areas to which these theses relate were visited by Mr Mykura in the company of the authors.

Austin W. Woodland, Director,
Institute of Geological Sciences,
Exhibition Road,
South Kensington,
London, SW7 2DE.


Mr Mykura has had a difficult task in the compilation of this account of an area which in its varied geology is certainly one of the most complicated for its size in the United Kingdom. He has of course drawn heavily on the work of the original surveyors. For the Orkney Islands their names are fully acknowledged in the maps and memoir. For the Shetlands they are as follows: J K Allan, S Buchan, D Haldane, J Knox, J Phemister, H H Read, T Robertson, G V Wilson. Dr F May wrote the section on the Spiggie Complex and Dr D. Flinn that on the Brae Complex, while Mr P Brand checked fossil lists, Mr R Elliot checked the petrographic material and Messrs A Christie and J Pulsford provided most of the photographs.

The assistance of Drs Phemister and May in providing and checking details of their own areas is specifically acknowledged. Of the additional contributions Mr Mykura would like to acknowledge the help given, in Orkney, by N G T Fannin, U McL. Michie and Miss M Ridgeway, while in Shetland the ready help and co-operation by Dr Flinn must especially be mentioned. Not only did he make the written contribution referred to above but he provided unpublished details for incorporation dealing with Lunnasting, Whalsay, the Out Skerries, the Graven Complex, Unst and Fetlar, Quaternary Geology and Economic Geology. In addition he read and commented on the whole of the work dealing with Shetland. Dr R S Miles named the Shetland fish and Professor W G Chaloner the Shetland plants. Dr K R Gill read and commented on the Brae Complex section.

Our thanks are due to Aerofilms Ltd. for permission to reproduce P916220 and P916224.

The initial editing of the Handbook was carried out by Dr J D Peacock, while the Drawing Office staff of IGS Edinburgh produced the numerous diagrams.