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26 Jun 2024

Step back in time and discover Scotland’s prehistoric past

Written by Paul Williams
A range of fossils are displayed on a dark felt mat on a table in a museum.
Hugh Miller's Birthplace is home to a fascinating collection of the fossils collected by the renowned geologist
The Trust will take visitors on a journey through time to explore the prehistoric history of the town where famous Scots geologist Hugh Miller was born. Join one of our new Fossil Walks this summer to follow in his footsteps.

We are excited to invite visitors to come to Hugh Miller’s Birthplace Cottage & Museum to join one of our new Fossil Walks throughout the summer and get involved in citizen science.

Over 200 years after Miller found his first fossil, we are offering visitors the chance to discover their own fossils on the Black Isle with an experience truly unique to the area. Pre-booked walks will leave from Hugh’s historic home in the town, where he was born in 1802, and walk along the shingle shoreline towards the Sutor headland guarding the Cromarty Firth.

The team at Hugh Miller’s Birthplace are proud to collaborate with a palaeontologist from the University of Aberdeen. This expert is currently studying the fossils in the Cromarty area. Our guided walks offer a unique opportunity for visitors to actively participate in citizen science. By collecting fossils from the shoreline, you can contribute to ongoing research. These fossils will be recorded, displayed at the museum for a month, and then returned to their natural habitat on the beach.

Period furniture is displayed in the sitting room of Hugh Miller's Birthplace Cottage & Museum. There are several wooden chairs, a spinning wheel and a large table, all on a flagstone floor.
Hugh’s childhood home in Cromarty was built by his great-grandfather in the 1700s

James Ryan, Visitor Services Assistant at Hugh Miller’s Birthplace, said: ’We are excited to welcome visitors to our new Fossil Walks for what promises to be an exciting journey back in time to discover an ancient Scotland that existed far before humans, mammals and even dinosaurs walked the Earth. Visitors can follow in the footsteps of renowned home-grown geologist Hugh Miller to find fossils and explore the geology that captured his attention as a young man over 200 years ago. After discovering a fossil ammonite when he was 17 years old, Miller became obsessed with studying the fossils around the town he called home, and in 1830, he found the first of his famous fossil fish from the Old Red Sandstone deposits on the Black Isle.’

“Our tours aim to discover the fossils; examine the rocks they are encased in and the geological processes that shaped this stretch of coastline here on the Black Isle over the centuries. We want to ensure what we are doing doesn’t damage the geological heritage of the site, so we will be highlighting how visitors can enjoy fossil hunts in a responsible, environmentally friendly and sustainable way. While visitors won’t be able to take fossils home with them, they can enjoy contributing to our understanding of Scotland’s prehistoric world through citizen science.”
James Ryan
Visitor Services Assistant, Hugh Miller’s Birthplace

Hugh Miller’s Birthplace’s fossil walks launched on 21 June 2024 and are only possible during low tide. The tours are tide-dependent, meaning times may vary each week. Further details are available on the property’s Eventbrite page, where visitors can also book a place on one of the walks.

Close-up of crescent-shaped rocks with carved images grouped closely together
Travel back in time at Hugh Miller’s Birthplace to explore the many artefacts on display

Stone mason, geologist, writer and social justice campaigner Hugh Miller was born inside a thatched cottage in Cromarty in the early 19th century. Starting from humble beginnings, he would go on to become one of Victorian Britain’s greatest minds and a leading voice of the Scottish people.

Events like the Fossil Walks support the Trust’s vision to care for, share and protect Scotland’s natural and cultural heritage, as outlined in our strategy launched in 2022. They also contribute to our engagement objectives to provide access and enjoyment for everyone.

Explore Hugh Miller’s Birthplace

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