This compact book is a journey through Scotland’s geological past. It is written by an authority on the subject – and Alan McKirdy writes engagingly to make a complex subject accessible and even entertaining. He does this by relating the geological processes and features to beautifully photographed examples, from the more remote parts of the country to the hills on our doorsteps. This book should appeal to anyone interested in Scotland’s landscape and scenery.
The book has only five chapters, supplemented by a useful glossary of terms and a short guide to further reading for those who would like to pursue the subject in more detail. A feature of the book is the beautiful design and presentation, and credit to both author and publisher. This follows a strong recent tradition of books on the subject, including McKirdy et al.’s (2007),Land of Mountain and Flood and Gillen’s (2013)Geology and Landscapes of Scotland. McKirdy’s new book has the advantage of being handy to carry around and, at £9.99, is inexpensive. Even so, it is lavishly illustrated with colour photographs throughout, along with block diagrams, maps and cross-sections for explanation. Themed panels are also used effectively to highlight topics of more specialist interest. The relatively small size of the book means some illustrations are necessarily reproduced at a smaller size than would be ideal, but they retain their clarity, and a lot of information is packed into a small volume.
On a first reading I have only one criticism: I wish it was longer. This book tells you all you need to know to interpret the geological foundations of the country, but no more. For example, everything west of the Moine Thrust is dealt with in just five pages, so the reader would have to refer to one of the aforementioned works for more detailed material. However, McKirdy’s book is much more than a geological history. Geology is part of Scotland’s scientific culture and his book provides historical anecdotes about the pioneers from Hutton and Lyell to Peach, Horne and Holmes. It highlights the relevance of geological understanding to our architecture, soils, ecology and natural hazards. It makes the subject seem vibrant and alive and, quite rightly, places geology at the centre of things.