The Quaternary in Scotland

Colin K. Ballantyne*, Adrian M. Hall, Alastair G. Dawson

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


The Quaternary Period in Scotland was characterized by major climatic shifts and the alternation of glacial and temperate conditions over a wide range of timescales. The extent of multiple glaciations prior to the Mid-Pleistocene Transition (1.25–0.70 Ma) is uncertain, but thereafter up to ten major episodes of ice-sheet expansion occurred. Glacial erosion by successive glaciers and ice sheets created a range of terrain types: glaciated mountains, zones of areal scouring, landscapes of selective linear erosion, drift-mantled terrain of differential erosion and areas of limited glacial modification. The last ice sheet (~35–14 ka) extended to the shelf edge in the west and was confluent with the Fennoscandian Ice Sheet in the North Sea Basin; during its existence, it experienced marked changes in configuration, in part driven by the development of major ice streams. Subsequent glaciation during the Loch Lomond Stade (~12.9–11.7 ka) was restricted to a major icefield in the western Highlands and smaller glaciers in peripheral mountain areas. Contrasting glacial landsystems occupy terrain inside and outside the limits of the Loch Lomond Stadial glaciers. Postglacial landscape changes have been characterized by Lateglacial periglaciation and paraglacial landscape modification, mainly in the form of rock-slope failure and the accumulation (then later erosion) of paraglacial sediment stores and incision and terracing of glacigenic valley fills. Shore platforms of various ages formed around rock coastlines during the Quaternary, glacio-isostatic uplift has resulted in the formation of Lateglacial and Holocene raised beaches, and reworking of glacigenic deposits has provided sediments for present-day beach and dune systems.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationLandscapes and landforms of Scotland
EditorsColin K. Ballantyne, John E. Gordon
Place of PublicationCham
PublisherSpringer Science and Business Media B.V.
Number of pages44
ISBN (Electronic)9783030712464
ISBN (Print)9783030712457, 9783030712488
Publication statusPublished - 25 Aug 2021

Publication series

NameWorld geomorphological landscapes
ISSN (Print)2213-2090
ISSN (Electronic)2213-2104


  • Beach and dune systems
  • Fluvial landforms
  • Glacial erosion
  • Glacial landsystems
  • Glaciation
  • Holocene
  • Ice streams
  • Late Devensian
  • Loch Lomond Stade
  • Paraglacial landscape modification
  • Periglaciation
  • Permafrost
  • Pleistocene
  • Raised beaches
  • Rock platforms
  • Rock-slope failure
  • Sea-level change


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