Banffshire coast – an excursion

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From: Unpublished report prepared for the Edinburgh Geological Society Excursion to the Banffshire Coast. 14th – 21st May, 2005. Leaders: John Mendum, Douglas Fettes, David Stephenson and David Gould (British Geological Survey)


View north east to Crovie. Devonian rocks crop out on the foreshore but are faulted against Dalradian Southern Highland Group arenitesand pelites of the Macduff Slate Formation that form the headland beyond the village. P010069.

Day 1. Travel to Cullen, via Tomintoul, Dufftown and Keith. Ballachulish and Blair Atholl Subgroup (Tomintoul and Upper Glenrinnes). Keith Granite at Strathisla Distillery. (Sat 14th May 2005)

Day 2. Findochty – Portknockie – Cullen – Findlater Castle. Grampian Group – Lochaber Subgroup rocks. (Sun 15th May 2005)

Day 3. Garron Point – Sandend Bay West and East – Portsoy West Appin Group – Lochaber, Ballachulish and Blair Atholl Subgroup rocks. Argyll Group – Islay and Easdale Subgroup rocks. The Portsoy Shear Zone. (Mon 16th May 2005)

Day 4. Portsoy Central – Links Bay – East Head Easdale Subgroup – the Portsoy Shear Zone. Serpentinised ultramafic rocks – metagabbros – pegmatitic granites. Crinan Subgroup rocks. (Tue 17th May 2005)

Day 5. Boyne Bay – Whitehills – Inverboyndie – Macduff – Tarlair Tayvallich and Crinan Subgroup rocks – the Boyne Line – Southern Highland Group rocks – Buchan metamorphic zones. (Wed 18th May 2005)

Day 6. Fraserburgh – Inverallochy - Gardenstown – Boggierow Wood Crinan-Tayvallich Subgroup – Migmatites, diorites and granites – Early and Mid Devonian rocks – Portsoy Granite. (Thur 19th May 2005)

Day 7. Teindland – Ardwell Bridge – Cabrach – Clatt – Huntly Ipswichian palaeosol – Argyll Group metavolcanic rocks – Northeast Grampian Basic Suite (layered mafic and ultramafic plutons). (Fri 20th May 2005)

Day 8. Return to Edinburgh via Windy Hills, Collieston, Aberdeen. ?Neogene gravels - Southern Highland Group rocks – metadolerite sills – F1, F3 folding. (Sat 21st May 2005)

Regional setting

Dalradian Supergroup


Mesozoic and Cainozoic rocks and deposits

There is, on the one hand, the truly magnificent coast-section, perfectly continuous over tens of miles and showing in all some fifty miles of Highland Schists. Part of this section runs across the regional strike and plunge; part along them. Against these agreeable arrangements has to be set the poorly exposed condition of much of Lower Banffshire and the Strathbogie, Buchan and Formartine districts of Aberdeenshire.’ indeed, it is likely that the course of north-east Scottish geology would have been rather different if this splendid section had been investigated first and the divisions so established had then been traced inland. But the areas of one-inch map-sheets are rectangular and the official mind is often as rigidly confined. H.H. Read, 1955.

History of research[edit]

The northeast Scotland coast section was first mapped by the Geological Survey in the late 1800’s, notably by J S Grant Wilson in the Fraserburgh and Peterhead areas and by J Horne in the Banff area. Inland, L W Hinxman covered much of upland Banffshire extending to Glenfiddich, Glenlivet and the Cairngorms. However, it was H H Read who in 1917 commenced the mapping of the Banffshire Coast and subsequently (1927, 1928) parts of Deeside that made the greatest impact on the geology (see Read, 1955, for excellent summary of the history). In the course of this and subsequent work Read formulated and promulgated the concept of the Banff Nappe (Read, 1923; 1955). This structure contained the Banff Division rocks that were of lower metamorphic grade and structural complexity than the underlying Keith Division rocks. Read postulated that the two divisions were separated by the Boyne Line, a line of discontinuity with lag (i.e. extensional) geometry. Read’s students, J Sutton and J V Watson also produced several important papers on the coast section applying sedimentary, structural and stratigraphical analysis (Sutton and Watson, 1955, 1956). Sutton and Watson (1954) also first reported the Macduff ‘ Boulder Bed’ as a possible glacial phenomenon.

Subsequent work has focussed on the structure (e.g. Johnson, 1962; Treagus and Roberts, 1981) and particularly on the metamorphism (Fettes, 1970; Harte and Hudson, 1979; Hudson, 1985; Beddoe Stephens, 1990; Hudson and Kearns, 2000; Johnson et al, 2001, 2003). Detailed remapping of the coast section and much of the inland East Grampian area by the Geological Survey in the 1980’s and early 1990’s has clarified the Dalradian stratigraphy and enabled the regional structural and metamorphic patterns to be better elucidated. The area is now covered by a set of 1:50 000 geological maps for both the bedrock and superficial deposits. The nature of the ‘Older’ and ‘Younger’ Basic intrusions, now all included within the Northeast Grampian Basic Suite, has been resolved (Munro, 1970, 1984; Munro and Gallagher, 1984), and U-Pb zircon age dating has shown they are all of Early Ordovician age (Dempster et al, 2002, Oliver et al, 2000; Carty, 2001). The Geology of the Aberdeen area (Trewin et al, 1987) provided an excellent reference and field excursion guide to coastal localities of Northeast Scotland stretching from Lossiemouth to Fraserburgh, Stonehaven and St Cyrus, and inland to Edzell, Braemar and Huntly. The Cainozoic geology has also been subject to intensive research and age dating. T F Jamieson first published a wealth of detail about the Quaternary and earlier ?Neogene deposits in the late 1800’s. His mantle was taken on by A Bremner and H H Read in the 20th century. The recent publication of the memoir of the Cainozoic geology and landscape evolution of Northeast Scotland (Merritt et al, 2003) summarised the early work and provides a definitive and exhaustive account of the Quaternary and earlier ?Neogene deposits and their evolution. The Quaternary Research Association field guide to the Banffshire coast and Buchan (Merritt et al, 2000) is also a valuable reference work. For a more regional view of the bedrock and Quaternary geology, the Geology of Scotland (Trewin, 2002) is recommended.

Selected bibliography[edit]

Ashcroft, W.A., Kneller, B.C. Leslie, A.G. and Munro, M. 1984. Major shear zones and autochthonous Dalradian in the northeast Scottish Caledonides. Nature, London. 310, 760-762.

Beddoe-Stephens, B. 1990. Pressures and temperatures of Dalradian metamorphism and the andalusite-kyanite transformation in the north-east Grampians. Scott. Jour. Geol., 26, 3-14.

Bremner, A. 1916. Problems in the glacial geology of northeast Scotland and some fresh facts bearing on them. Trans. Edin. Geol. Soc., 10, 334-347.

Carty, J. 2001. Deformation, metamorphism, magmatism and fluid-flow in the Portsoy shear-zone NE Scotland. Unpubl. PhD thesis, Univ. Derby.

Clayburn, J.A.P. 1981. Age and petrogenetic studies of some magmatic and metamorphic rocks in the Grampian Highlands. Unpubl. PhD thesis, Univ. Oxford

Dempster, T.J., Rogers, G., Tanner, P.G.W., Bluck, B.J., Muir, R.J., Redwood, S.D., Ireland, T.E. and Paterson, B.A. 2002. timing of deposition, orogenesis and glaciation within the Dalradian rocks of Scotland: constraints from U-Pb zircon ages. Jour. Geol. Soc., London, 159, 83-94.

Dewey, J.F. and Mange, M., 1999. Petrography of Ordovician and Silurian sediments in the western Irish Caledonides: tracers of a short-lived Ordovician continent-arc collision orogeny and the evolution of the Laurentia-Appalachian-Caledonian margin. In, MacNiociall, C. and Ryan, P.D. (eds), Continental Tectonics. Geol. Soc. London, Special paper, 164, 55-107.

Dunning, G.R., Swindon, H.S., Kearn, B.F., Evans, D.T.W., and Jenner, G.A., 1991. A Cambrian island arc in Iapetus:geochronology and geochemistry of the Lake Ambrose volcanic belt, Newfoundland, Appalachians. Geol. Mag., 128, 1-17

Fettes, D.J. 1970. The structural and metamorphic state of the Dalradian rocks and their bearing on the age of emplacement of the basic sheet. Scott. Jour. Geol., 6, 108-118.

Fettes, D.J., Leslie, A.G., Stephenson, D. and Kimbell, S.F. 1991. Disruption of Dalradian Stratigraphy along the Portsoy Lineament from new geological and magnetic surveys. Scott. Jour. Geol., 27, 57-73

Fitzpatrick, E. A. 1975. particle size distribution and some stone orientation patterns in some soils of northeast Scotland, pp49-60. In Gemmel, A.M.D., (ed) Quaternary studies in North East Scotland. Geography department, University of Aberdeen.

Flett, J.S. and Read, H.H. 1921. Tertiary gravels of the Buchan district of Aberdeenshire. Geol. Mag, 58, 215-225.

Gemmel A.M.D. and Kesel, R.H. 1979. Developments in the studies of the Buchan flint deposits, pp66-77. In Thoms, L.M. (ed) Early man in the Scottish landscape. Edinburgh University Press

Goodman, S.1991. The Pannanich Hill Complex and the origin of the Crinan Subgroup migmatites in the North-eastern and Central Highlands. Scott. Jour. Geol., 27, 147-156.

Goodman, S. 1994. The Portsoy-Duchray Hill Lineament: a review of the evidence. Geol. Mag., 130, 407-415

Hall, A.M. 1982. The Pliocene gravels of Buchan: a reappraisal: a discussion. Scott. Jour. Geol., 18, 336-338.

Hall, A.M. 1983. Deep weathering and landform evolution in north-east Scotland. Unpubl. PhD thesis, Univ. St Andrews.

Hall, A.M. and Jarvis, J 1989. a preliminary report on the late devensian glaciomarine deposits around St Fergus, Grampian region. Quaternary newsletter, 59, 5-7.

Harris, A.L., Haselock, P.J., Kennedy, M.J. and Mendum, J.R. 1994. The Dalradian Supergroup in Scotland, Shetland and Ireland. In, Gibbons, W. and Harris, A.L. (eds) A Revised Correlation of Precambrian Rocks in the British Isles. Geol. Soc. London, Spec. Rep., 22, 33-53.

Harte, B. 1979. The Tarfside succession and the structure and stratigraphy of the eastern Scottish Daradian rocks. In Harris, A.L. Holland, C.H. and Leake, B.E., The Caledonides of the British Isles – Reviewed. Geol. Soc. London, Spec. Publ., 8, 221-228.

Harte, B. and Hudson, N.F.C. 1979. Pelite facies series and the temperature and pressure of Dalradian metamorphism in E Scotland. In Harris, A.L. Holland, C.H. and Leake, B.E., The Caledonides of the British Isles – Reviewed. Geol. Soc. London, Spec. Publ., 8, 323-337.

Highton, A.J., Hyslop, E.K. and Noble, S.J. 1999. U-Pb geochronology of migmatisation in the northern Central Highlands; evidence for pre-caledonian (Neoproterozoic) tectonometmorphism in the grampian block, Scotland. Jour. Geol. Soc., London, 156, 1195-1204.

Hudson, N.F.C. 1980. Regional metamorphism of some Dalradian pelites in the Buchan area, NE Scotland. Contributions to Mineralogy and Petrology, 73, 39-51.

Hudson, N.F.C. 1985. Conditions of Dalradian metamorphism in the Buchan area, NE Scotland. Jour. Geol. Soc., London, 142, 63-76.

Hudson,N.F.C. and Kearns, S.L. 2000. On the origins of layered calc-silicate rocks from the Buchan Dalradian and their bearing on the diagenetic history of the Southern Highland Group. Scott. Jour. Geol. 36, 39-50.

Jamieson, T.F. 1865. on the history of the last geological changes in Scotland. Quart. Jour. Geol. Soc. London, 21, 161-203.

Jamieson, T.F. 1906. The glacial period in Aberdeenshire and the southern border of the Moray Firth. Quart. Jour. Geol. Soc. London, 62, 13-39.

Johnson, M.R.W. 1962. Relations of movement and metamorphism in the Dalradians of Banffshire. Trans. Edin. Geol. Soc., 19, 29-64.

Johnson, T.E., Hudson, N.F.C. and Droop, G.T.R. 2001a. Partial melting in the Inzie Head gneisses: the role of water and a petrogenetic grid in KFMASH applicable to anatectic pelitic migmatites. Journal of Metamorphic Petrology, 19, 99-118.

Johnson, T.E., Hudson, N.F.C. and Droop, G.T.R. 2001b. Melt segregationstructures within the Inzie Head gneisses of the northeast Dalradian. Scott. Jour. Geol., 37, 59-72.

Johnson, T.E., Hudson, N.F.C. and Droop, G.T.R. 2003.Evidence for a genetic granite-migmatite link in the Dalradian of NE Scotland. Jour. Geol. Soc., 160, 447-457.

Kesel, R.H. and Gemmel, A.M.D. 1981. The ‘Pliocene’ gravels of Buchan: a reappraisal. Scott. Geol. Jour. 17, 185-203.

McMillan, A.A. and Merritt, J.W. 1980. A reappraisal of the ‘Tertiary’ deposits of Buchan, Grampian Region. Rep. Inst. Geol. Sci. No 80/1, 18-25.

Merritt, J.W. and McMillan, A.A. 1982. Letters to the Editor. The ‘Pliocene’ gravels of Buchan: a reappraisal. Scott. Jour. Geol., 18, 329-332.

Merritt, J.W., Connell, E.R. and Bridgland, D.R. 2000. The Quaternary of the Banffshire Coast and Buchan. Field Guide. Quaternary Research Association, London. 154 pp.

Merritt, J.W., Auton, C.A., Connell, E.R., Hall, A.M. and Peacock, J.D. 2003.

Cainozoic geology and landscape evolution of north-east Scotland. Mem. British Geol. Survey.

Munro, M. A reassessment of the ‘younger’ basic igneous rocks between Huntly and Portsoy based on new borehole evidence. Scott. Jour. Geol., 6, 41-52.

Munro, M. 1984. Cumulate relations in the ‘Younger Basic’ masses of the Huntly-Portsoy area, Grampian Region. Scott. Jour. Geol., 20, 343-359.

Munro, M. and Gallagher, J.W. 1984. Disruption of the ‘Younger Basic’ masses in the Huntly-Portsoy area, Grampian Region. Scott. Jour. Geol., 20, 361-382.

Oliver, G.J.H., Chen, F., Buchwald, R. and Heger, E. 2000. Fast tectonothermal metamorphism and exhumation in the type area of Barrovian and Buchan zones. Geology, 28 ,459-462

Phillips, E.R., Highton, A.J., Hyslop, E.K. and Smith, M. 1999. The timing and P-T conditions of regional metamorphism in the Central Highlands, Scotland. Jour. Geol. Soc, London, 156, 1175-1193.

Read, H.H. 1923. The geology of the country around Banff, Huntly and Turriff. Memoir of the Geological Survey of Scotland (Sheets 86 and 96). 240pp.

Read, H.H. 1955. The Banff Nappe: an interpretation of the structure of the Dalradian rocks of north-east Scotland. Proc. Geol. Ass., 66, 1-29.

Robertson, S. and Smith, M. 1999. The significance of the Geal Charn-Ossian Steep Belt in basin development in the Central Scottish Highlands. Jour. Geol. Soc. London, 156, 1175-1182.

Rollin, K.E. 1994. Geophysical Correlation of Precambrian Rocks in northern Britain. In, Gibbons, W. and Harris, A.L. (eds) A revised correlation of Precambrian rocks in the British Isles. Geol. Soc, London, Spec. Rep., 22, 65-74.

Soper, J. 1994. Neoproterozoic sedimentation on the northeast margin of Laurentia and the opening of Iapetus. Geol. Mag., 131, 291-299.

Smith, M., Robertson, S. and Rollin, K.E. 1999. Rift basin architecture and stratigraphical implications for basement-cover relationships in the Neoproterozoic Grampian Group of the Scottish Caledonides. Jour. Geol. Soc. London, 156, 1163-1173.

Stephenson, D. and Gould, D. 1995. British Regional Geology: The Grampian Highlands. 4th Edition. HMSO, London. 261pp.

Stoker, M.S., Howe, J.A. and Stoker, S.J. 1999. Late Vendian - ?Cambrian glacially influenced deep-water sedimentation, Macduff Slate Formation (Dalradian), NE Scotland. Jour. Geol. Soc., London, 156, 55-61.

Strachan, R.A., Smith, M., Harris, A.L. and Fettes, D.J. 2002. Chapter 4: The Northern Highland and Grampian terranes. In: The Geology of Scotland (4th edition). Trewin, N.H. (editor). Bath: The Geological Society, London. 81-147.

Sutton, J. and Watson J.V. 1960. The deposition of the Upper Dalradian rocks of the Banffshire Coast. Proc. Geol.Ass., 66, 101-133.

Sutton, J and Watson, J. 1954. Ice-borne boulders in the Macduff Group of the Dalradian of Banffshire. Geol. Mag., 91, 391-398.

Sutton, J. and Watson, J. 1955. The deposition of the Upper Dalradian rocks of the Banffshire coast. Proc. Geol. Ass., 66, 101-133

Sutton, J. and Watson J.V. 1956. The Boyndie Syncline of the Dalradian of the Banffshire Coast. Quart. Jour. Geol. Soc. London, 112, 103-130.

Treagus, J.E. and Roberts, J.L. 1981. The Boyndie Syncline: a D1 structure in the Kinlochleven area, Scotland. Geological Journal, 16, 125-135.

Trewin, N.H, Kneller, B.C. and Gillen, C. 1987. Excursion Guide to the Geology of the Aberdeen area. Scottish Academic Press. 295 pp.

Trewin N.H. (ed) 2002. The Geology of Scotland. The Geological Society, London.

Van der Pluijm, B.A., Van der Voo, R., and Torsvik, T.H. 1995. Convergence and subduction at the Ordovician margin of Laurentia. In, Hibbard, J.B, van Staal, C.R., and Cawood, P.A., (eds), Current perspectives in the Appalachian-Caledonian Orogen. Geol. Soc. Canada, Spec. Pap., 41, 127-136.

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