Coastal landscapes

The traveller racing north by road misses perhaps the most impressive scenery in Caithness - the cliffs, geos and caves of its coast. Where plain of Caithness drops sheer to the sea marine erosion has quarried the Old Red Sandstone to give a marvellous array of cliff forms. This coast is exposed to the full force of North Atlantic and North Sea storms. During historic storms, waves have swept away breakwaters, submerged parts of the island of Stroma and scoured cliff faces to great heights. There is only the occasional bay - these sanctuaries hold fine sandy beaches backed by extensive dune systems.

Sea level has dropped since ice retreat to leave raised shorelines. The low postglacial raised beach lies just a few metres above sea level. Along some stretches of coast, it separates the cliff from the wave action that maintains its sharpness. Here the cliff was steepened earlier in the Holocene. More widely, however, the emergence of geos and cliffs from beneath glacial deposits requires that parts of this rock coast have a longer history which has yet to be fully explored.

coastal erosion  coastal deposition  

sea level tide race

                                                                      The Stacks of Duncansby by David Body