The Small Isles comprise the Inner Hebridean islands of Rum, Eigg, Canna and Muck.
The landscapes, rocks and fossils of these beautiful, remote islands tells of a drama involving erupting volcanoes, an ancient ecosystem that included dinosaurs and an ancient desert landscape. The geological history stretches back 3 billion years to the earliest events recorded on Earth.
All four islands owe their origin to a group of three adjacent volcanoes that were active around 60 million years ago. Rum is the eroded remains of the magma chamber of one of these volcanoes. Eigg and Muck are part of the lava field that extends north from the Mull volcano and Canna lies towards the southern extent of the lavas that flowed from the Skye volcano.
The final event that left a mark on these islands was the Ice Age that started around 2.4 million years ago. Its effect on the landscape was profound. The thick cover of erosive ice shaped the contours of the land into the hills and glens that we are familiar with today.
Alan McKirdy has written many popular books and book chapters on geology and related topics and has helped to promote the study of environmental geology in Scotland. He co-authored Set in Stone: The Geology and Landscapes of Scotland and Land of Mountain and Flood, which was nominated for the Saltire Research Book of the Year. Before his retirement, he was Head of Knowledge and Information Management at Scottish Natural Heritage. He is now a freelance writer and has given many talks on Scottish geology and landscapes at book festivals and other events across the country.