Interactive geological map » Mobile version


The Geological Walk celebrates the diverse geology of Britain and Northern Ireland through a display of impressive boulder-scale specimens and natural stone paving. The walk was opened in May 2012 as part of a major redevelopment of the BGS's Keyworth headquarters site. The display, covering almost three billion years of Earth history, includes many of the fascinating rock types that shape our landscape and are associated with our natural resources.

Use the Geological Walk mobile version to learn more about the rocks or collect a printed Geological Walk leaflet 2 MB pdf from Reception.

The approach to Reception

The path sweeps from the main front car park to Reception past five feature boulders representing the geology of Scotland, England, Wales and Northern Ireland; as well as the three main rock types: igneous, sedimentary and metamorphic. The focal point of this area is a monolith of Lewisian Gneiss, the most ancient rock type found in the British Isles.

The approach to Reception

Click on the map to the right to learn more about the rocks of the approach to Reception.

Lewisian Gneiss Lewisian Gneiss Cumbrian Slate ('green') Cumbrian Slate ('green') Bardon Breccia Cumbrian Slate ('green') Cumbrian Slate ('green') Caithness Flagstone Caithness Flagstone Caithness Flagstone Caithness Flagstone Coedana Granite Bardon Breccia Welsh Slate ('heather') Charnian volcaniclastic sediment Charnian volcaniclastic sediment Chalk with flints Welsh Slate ('heather') Welsh Slate ('heather') Cumbrian Slate ('green') Chalk with flints Coedana Granite Welsh Slate ('heather') Cumbrian Slate ('green') Cumbrian Slate ('green') Cumbrian Slate ('green') Cumbrian Slate ('green') Cumbrian Slate ('green') Cumbrian Slate ('green') Cumbrian Slate ('green') Cumbrian Slate ('green')

Geological Walk

You can access the Geological Walk via the Reception area.

The Walk comprises a substantial area of natural stone paving accompanied by feature boulders and several items of 'rock furniture'.

The walkway extends some 130 metres from west to east across the site, linking the BGS Reception with the James Hutton and William Smith buildings. A metre-wide 'spine' of Carboniferous flagstone runs the length of the Geological Walk and bears numbered discs that cross-reference with the interactive map (right) and identify the various paving types. The paving is laid out in chronological order, beginning with rocks of Precambrian age. These are followed successively by a selection of rock types representing the eleven principal subdivisions of the Phanerozoic Eon. Most of the paving materials are commercially available and are chosen to showcase the UK's stone industry. The two exceptions are the Precambrian and Quaternary sections, which are paved with specially sourced stone. The major intervals of geological time are delineated by stainless steel strips and individually identified by name plates set into the 'spine' of the walkway. Owing to both the length of Precambrian time and a number of logistical considerations, the Geological Walk is not 'to scale'.

Paving in the Ordovician section of the Geological Walk

Large monolithic boulders (designated B1M, B5M, B7M and B13M on the map) again represent the four component countries of the UK and exemplify the three principal types of rock. The remaining feature boulders, which in contrast to the monolithic boulders occupy only approximately correct 'stratigraphical' positions, expand the range of rock types and geological processes displayed and in some cases highlight the importance of geology to society and the economy. Sedimentary rocks of Jurassic age, associated with the UK's hydrocarbon reserves, are an example. A link between geology and our human ancestors is made in the Quaternary section, where there are boulders of Sarsen sandstone from Wiltshire and igneous 'Bluestone' from the Mynydd Preseli district of Pembrokeshire — the two principal rock types found at Stonehenge.

Feature boulders line the course of the Geological Walk.

Click on the map to the right to learn more about the rocks along the Geological Walk.

James Hutton Building steps (Cornish granite) Lower Old Red Sandstone Pair of millstones (Millstone Grit) Carboniferous limestone Pair of millstones (Millstone Grit) Stone benches and kerbs (Delabole Slate) Ashburton Marble Ashburton Marble Lower Old Red Sandstone Stone benches and kerbs (Delabole Slate) Caithness Flagstone Caithness Flagstone Caithness Flagstone Reclaimed 'ironstone' setts Knapped flints Beach pebbles Pennant Sandstone (sawn) Pennant Sandstone (sawn) Baycliff Limestone Elland Flags (riven) Cumbrian Slate ('green') Spynie Sandstone Portland Limestone Fossiliferous sediment Caithness Flagstone Mourne Granite Sliced glacial boulders and cobbles Dalradian metasediment Augen granite Delabole Slate Caithness Flagstone Reclaimed Peterhead Granite setts Reclaimed Peterhead Granite setts Lewisian Gneiss (Monolith) - Meta-anorthosite Meta-anorthosite ('pink') Meta-anorthosite ('white') Torridonian sandstone Augen granite Torridonian sandstone Ledmore Marble Markfieldite Cambrian quartzite Torridonian sandstone Welsh Slate ('heather') Welsh Slate ('heather') Welsh Slate ('heather') Welsh Slate ('heather') Avochie Granite Cumbrian Slate ('green') Cumbrian Slate ('green') Welsh Slate (dark grey) Reclaimed Aberdeen Granite setts Avochie Granite Cumbrian Slate ('green') Cumbrian Slate (dark grey) Cumbrian Slate (dark grey) (Monolith) - Shap Granite Caithness Flagstone Pennant Sandstone (self-faced) Pennant Sandstone (riven) Pennant Sandstone (riven) Rough Rock (Monolith) - Penant Sandstone Carboniferous limestone (Monolith) - Penant Sandstone Midgely Grit Midgely Grit Rough Rock Elland Flags (self-faced) Elland Flags (self-faced) Cornish granite Bunter Pebble Beds Locharbriggs Sandstone Bunter Pebble Beds Cornish granite Clashach Sandstone Clashach Sandstone Spynie Sandstone Sherwood Sandstone Blue Lias Limestone Fossilised Purbeck conifer Purbeck Limestone Fossilised Purbeck conifer Reclaimed 'ironstone' setts Purbeck Limestone Knapped flints Reclaimed 'ironstone' setts Reclaimed 'ironstone' setts Basalt setts (Monolith) Columnar basalt blocks (Monolith) Columnar basalt blocks Mourne Granite Basalt setts Basalt setts Pembrokeshire 'Bluestone' Sarsen sandstone Beach pebbles Pembrokeshire 'Bluestone' Sarsen sandstone Beach pebbles (Monolith) - Meta-anorthosite Ledmore Marble Markfieldite Torridonian sandstone Meta-anorthosite ('white') Torridonian sandstone (Monolith) - Shap Granite Delabole Slate Rough Rock Rough Rock Rough Rock Elland Flags (riven) Cornish granite Sherwood Sandstone Spynie Sandstone Portland Limestone Fossiliferous sediment Purbeck Limestone Purbeck Limestone Mourne Granite Mourne Granite Basalt setts Geological walk map

James Hutton Building 'feature wall'

Overlooking the Geological Walk, the façade of the James Hutton Building incorporates a 'feature wall' that commemorates the work of the 18th century geologist after whom the building is named.

The feature wall is a stylized representation of Siccar Point on the Berwickshire Coast — the locality most synonymous with Hutton, having provided him with convincing proof of his 'cyclic processes' theory.

James Hutton Building.

Click on the drawing to the right to learn more about the rocks of the James Hutton 'feature wall'.

Red sandstone Wacke sandstone and siltstone Coping red sandstone James Hutton feature wall

Siccar Point viewed from the south-west.

At Siccar Point, near-vertical Silurian (late Llandovery) wacke sandstones of the Ettrick Group (previously assigned to the Gala Group) are overlain with angular unconformity by thinly bedded, red-brown conglomerates and sandstones of the Upper Devonian Stratheden Group. Seaward-facing views of the outcrop, together with a field sketch made by Sir James Hall when he accompanied Hutton and Professor John Playfair to the locality in 1788, formed the basis for the feature wall's design. The design was largely executed using mid-Llandovery wacke sandstones exposed elsewhere in the Southern Uplands and red-brown Middle Devonian sandstones from Easter Ross.

Visiting the Walk

  • the Walk is normally open from 09.00 to 16.30 Monday to Friday (except public holidays and other advertised closures)
  • check the Walk is open before travelling by contacting or 0115 936 3143
  • groups of 10 or more should contact to 'book in' in advance
  • no dogs (except guide/assistance dogs)
  • pedestrian access only (no bicycles, scooters etc.)
  • visitors must sign in at Reception on arrival and sign out on leaving

We offer a limited number of guided tours of the BGS facilities, including a self-guided tour of the Geological Walk, for groups of 10 or more visitors. For information on dates and availability, please contact Enquiries.