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Saturday, 18 November 2017

Discovering volcanic Britain: From Mount Snowdon to the remains of a Scottish SUPERVOLCANO, the country's (former) hot spots revealed

  • The mountains of Glen Coe are actually the remains of a supervolcano that erupted millions of years ago
  • Other ex-volcanic spots in Britain include Ben Nevis, Mount Snowdon, Edinburgh Castle and Lindisfarne
  • Expert insight on Britain's fiery past comes from Professor Emeritus Peter Styles from Keele University

  • Just like Yellowstone Park, Britain is home to a supervolcano.
    Although there is a crucial difference – Britain’s is extinct. It erupted 420million years ago. Still, its dramatic remains can be seen at Glen Coe in Scotland.
    Here MailOnline Travel presents this and other former volcanic hot spots you can visit in Britain, including Ben Nevis, Mount Snowdon and Lindisfarne, with expert insight from Professor Emeritus Peter Styles, Professor of Applied and Environmental Geophysics at Keele University.

    Ardnamurchan

    Ardnamurchan, pictured, used to be a major volcanic area and today is used for university geological training courses

    Professor Styles explained that the origin of its protruding basalt rock formations can be traced back 55million years to the plate tectonic movements associated with the formation of the Atlantic Ocean.
    Back then, Ardnamurchan was a major volcanic area.
    Today it has European Geopark status and is a popular area for fossil hunting and for university geological training courses.
    One of its only access points is a single track road – perfect for cyclists and walkers seeking an escape.

    North Berwick Law
    North Berwick Law is a volcanic plug that overlooks the East Lothian town of North Berwick. It stands at 613ft
    North Berwick Law is a volcanic plug that overlooks the East Lothian town of North Berwick. It stands at 613ft

    North Berwick Law is a volcanic plug – an object created from hardened magma in a volcanic vent - that rises from the surrounding landscape in dramatic fashion.
    It overlooks the East Lothian town of North Berwick and stands at 613ft (187m) above sea level.
    The summit bears remnants of an Iron Age hill fort, and the ruins of later military buildings that were once used by lookouts in both the Napoleonic Wars, and in World War II.

    Arthur's Seat in Edinburgh
    The Seat (pictured) - a long extinct volcano - offers panoramic views over the city and the walking trails are popular with ramblers, joggers and dog owners alike
    The Seat (pictured) - a long extinct volcano - offers panoramic views over the city and the walking trails are popular with ramblers, joggers and dog owners alike

    Arthur’s Seat is the highest peak in the city of Edinburgh and is a long extinct volcano thought to have first erupted 350million years ago, during the Carboniferous period. Professor Styles explained that at this time, the British Isles was ‘trying to split apart rather like the current East African Rift, but along the Midland Valley of Scotland’.
    The Seat offers panoramic views over the city and the walking trails are popular with ramblers, joggers and dog owners alike.
    Try walking it at dawn or dusk, to see either the sun rising or setting over the capital.

    Edinburgh Castle
    Edinburgh Castle is a popular attraction to visitors to the city - and sits on a volcanic plug that's 340million years old
    Edinburgh Castle is a popular attraction to visitors to the city - and sits on a volcanic plug that's 340million years old
    The volcanic plug upon which Edinburgh Castle sits is around 340million years old. 
    The cliffs it’s built on rise up 80 metres, forming a formidable natural defence. 
    Edinburgh Castle is an incredibly popular attraction to visitors to the city, surrounded by well-preserved Reformation-era architecture, and also providing views to the Firth of Forth.
    Cuillin Hills on the Isle of Skye

    Cuillin Hills on the Isle of Skye
    This rocky mountain range is formed from basalt rock pushed up by volcanic activity that dates back 55million years
    This rocky mountain range is formed from basalt rock pushed up by volcanic activity that dates back 55million years
    This rocky mountain range is located on the Isle of Skye and is a favourite of climbers and mountaineers.
    They scramble over basalt rock pushed up by volcanic activity that dates back 55million years.
    Also known as the Black Cuillin, the highest point is Sgurr Alasdair at 3,255ft (992m). The sharp peaks, which rise up from the flatness of the surrounding terrain, are the dominating feature of the island and can be seen from every other peninsula on Skye.
    If you don't want to tackle the Cuillin mountains alone, you can hire a local guide to help you.

    Mount Snowdon
    For the crater good: Snowdon is actually the remains of an ancient volcano formed 400 to 500million years ago. This picture shows the summit, which at one point would have been the edge of the caldera
    For the crater good: Snowdon is actually the remains of an ancient volcano formed 400 to 500million years ago. This picture shows the summit, which at one point would have been the edge of the caldera
    Snowdon, the highest mountain in England and Wales, is actually the remains of an ancient volcano formed 400 to 500million years ago.
    Since then, Professor Styles said, its form has been worn away.
    The caldera is difficult to pinpoint, but the summit lies at the northern edge.

    Dundee Law
    The hill overlooking Dundee is actually an extinct volcano that dates back about 400million years
    An extinct volcano formed around 400million years ago, the 572ft peak is the city's most distinctive landmark and an enduring attraction for visitors and locals.
    Central to Dundee’s defences for thousands of years, the Law was used as Iron Age hillfort and prehistoric graves dating to about 1500 BC have been uncovered on its slopes.
    Roman pottery dating from the 1st century AD has also been discovered here.

    Giant's Causeway
    The Causeway formed around 60million years ago when volcanic explosions deep underground forced molten basalt up to the surface and formed a plateau of lava
    One of the UK’s most photographed tourist destinations, the Giant’s Causeway is an eye-popping hexagonal rock formation ranked as a Unesco World Heritage Site.
    The Causeway formed around 60million years ago when volcanic explosions deep underground forced molten basalt up to the surface and formed a plateau of lava.
    As it cooled and contracted, it coalesced into huge hexagonal basalt columns

    Glen Coe caldera
    Glen Coe, pictured, is a very dead supervolcano that last erupted about 420million years ago
    Glen Coe, pictured, is a very dead supervolcano that last erupted about 420million years ago
    Britain used to be far more dramatic geologically and Glen Coe is evidence of just how extreme matters once were – because it’s the remains of a supervolcano.
    A very dead supervolcano that erupted 420million years ago, but nevertheless, a whopper.
    Professor Styles said: ‘We can only see the pale shadow of what it must have been like and it would have devastated anything alive, which at that time wasn’t that much I suspect.
    ‘We won’t get their like again until we have a new reorganisation of the plate boundaries, which is sure to happen but probably not for a few 10s to hundreds of millions of years from now and probably when the Atlantic Ocean decides to close.’
    What remains of this ancient supervolcano can be experienced by skiing, climbing, snowboarding, sledging, hiking and mountain biking, depending on the time of year you choose to visit.

    Ben Nevis
    This most famous of mounds is all that remains of a Devonian volcano. This image shows its volcanic shape very clearly
    This most famous of mounds is all that remains of a Devonian volcano. This image shows its volcanic shape very clearly
    Ben Nevis is a volcano that is no more.
    This most famous of mounds is all that remains of a Devonian volcano that met a cataclysmic end in the Carboniferous period around 350million years ago.
    It collapsed in on itself creating an explosion comparable to Thera (2nd millennium BC) or Krakatoa (1883).

    The Whin Sill at Hadrian's Wall
    This geological protrusion was pushed up during plate tectonic movements 300 to 350million years ago
    This geological protrusion was pushed up during plate tectonic movements 300 to 350million years ago
    This huge body of rock protruding from the Northumberland countryside was formed by sheets of volcanic rock surging upwards through weaknesses in the landscape during plate tectonic movements 300 to 350million years ago.
    The defensive properties of the wall were boosted by the outcrop.
    Today it makes for a stunning landscape that’s popular with hikers and photographers.

    Bamburgh Castle
    This castle dates back to the fifth century, but the rock it's built on is volcanic, and dates back 350million years
    This castle dates back to the fifth century, but the rock it's built on is volcanic, and dates back 350million years
    This grade I listed building is built on formidable basalt flows dating back up to 350million years ago.
    It’s a popular wedding venue and has featured in several movies and TV shows, including 1971 and 2015 adaptions of Macbeth.
    The castle dates back to the fifth century.

    Lindisfarne
    Built on basalt flow, Lindisfarne features a monastery founded in 635 and a castle built in the 16th century
    Built on basalt flow, Lindisfarne features a monastery founded in 635 and a castle built in the 16th century
    Lindisfarne, also known as Holy Island, is built on a basalt flow and is one of Britain’s most-photographed spots – because to reach this two-square-mile island you need to drive along a three-mile causeway that is submerged during high tide.
    Lots of drivers misjudge it.
    A monastery was founded on the island in 635 and a castle built there in the 16th century.

    Dunstanburgh Castle
    Some say that the ghost of a 16th-century knight still haunts the ruins of this 14th-century Northumberland fortification, which was built on basalt flow
    Some say that the ghost of a 16th-century knight still haunts the ruins of this 14th-century Northumberland fortification, which was built on basalt flow
    This castle, once one of northern England’s biggest, is also built on a basalt flow.
    Some say that the ghost of a 16th-century knight still haunts the ruins of the 14th-century Northumberland fortification.


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