Geology and landscape
The character of the beautiful North Pennine landscape has its foundation in the underlying rocks, and is the result of millions of years of Earth history.
Millions of years in the making
The North Pennine landscape has been nearly 500 million years in the making and its rocks, minerals and fossils tell a remarkable story. The rocks which underlie most of the area were formed in ancient tropical seas, river deltas and rainforests. The dramatic Whin Sill was once molten, and the area’s mineral deposits crystallized from hot fluids deep underground. The rocks along the North Pennine escarpment tell of a long-vanished ocean, volcanoes and deserts. In the more recent geological past, vast ice sheets smoothed and sculpted the landscape. And in the last few thousand years – just the blink of an eye in geological terms – North Pennine people have further shaped the landscape with settlements, mines and quarries.
Here you can explore this fascinating geological story. Find out which rocks form the deep roots of the North Pennines and how the layers of limestone, sandstone and shale underlie the familiar landscape we see today. Some of the North Pennines’ most dramatic landscapes are shaped by the Whin Sill, while others have been influenced by mining and the search for minerals. Limestone gives us features such as shake holes and limestone pavements and distinctive sandstones in the Eden Valley tell a story of deserts and floods. During the last Ice Age other landforms were created by glaciers and meltwater.
UNESCO Global Geoparks
In November 2015 UNESCO – the United Nations Organisation for Education, Science and Culture – announced a programme to create UNESCO Global Geoparks. This is the first new UNESCO programme to be established in over 40 years and puts the Global Geoparks alongside UNESCO’s World Heritage Sites. Previously operating with the informal support of UNESCO, the status of Global Geoparks is formally recognised under this programme. Find out more about the Geopark network and the way we support sustainable economic development of the area, primarily through geological and responsible tourism on our UNESCO Global Geopark page.