GPS information from a hi-tech British Geological Survey (BGS) smartphone app shows ancient rock formations and rugged coastlines in Ullapool and on the islands of Skye and Arran are attracting amateur and professional geologists in their droves.
The village of Ullapool, in Ross and Cromarty, came out as Scotland’s top geological hotspot and the second favourite in the UK.
It is known as the gateway to the nation’s first Unesco-designated Geopark, and is home to some of the oldest rocks in Europe. It is also near the famous bone caves of Inchnadamph, where the remains have been found of species such as lynx, reindeer and polar bear that once roamed there.
Its Lewisian gneisses were formed three billion years ago, while the impacts of tectonic activity have left a complicated legacy of rock formations that have been puzzling earth scientists for decades.
The imposing scenery on the Isle of Skye, including the volcanic rocks of the Cuillin hills, dynamic cliffs at Storr and fossilised dinosaur footprints on the shore at Staffin, have helped the Misty Isle into the runner-up spot in Scotland and number five in the UK.
The Isle of Arran, home to the mountain Goatfell, is famous for its examples of unconformity – rock formations identified by 18th-century Scottish geologist James Hutton, know as the father of modern geology.
The Ayrshire island came out third in Scotland and ninth overall.
The popularity of Scotland’s internationally renowned geological features has been welcomed by tourism chiefs and geographers.
Malcolm Roughead, chief executive of VisitScotland, said: “We are delighted to see stunning Scottish destinations feature so prominently on this list and to learn that the country is proving so popular among geology enthusiasts.
“This kind of recognition will help to inspire even more visitors to explore Scotland and its many hidden gems, helping to boost the country’s visitor economy as a result.”
Mike Robinson, chief Executive of the Royal Scottish Geographical Society, said: “As the most geo-diverse country in the world, Scotland has a wealth of fascinating geological sites.
“It is therefore unsurprising, yet encouraging, to see Scotland feature so heavily in this list.”
Brighton and Hove, in East Sussex, were named as Britain’s top geological holiday destination.
The hit list was generated from location technology built into the BGS’s popular iGeology app for tablets and smartphones, which pinpoints the user’s whereabouts and displays the geology beneath their feet.
It identifies local rock formations and gives access to information on their geology from the BGS databanks.
Since its launch in late 2010, the iGeology app has been downloaded more than 285,000 times.