A Jurassic Road Trip Through Scotland
Trace Scotland’s Jurassic roots
From giant footprints in the sand to dinosaur bones in a Glasgow museum
With its looming castles and deep lochs shrouded in mystery, Scotland is pretty well-known for its historic sites. But dig a little deeper and you’ll make some fascinating prehistoric discoveries. From one of the world’s most complete Tyrannosaurus rex casts to enormous dinosaur footprints recently discovered on the Isle of Skye, Scotland’s Jurassic attractions are as beguiling as the legend of Nessie.
The film industry has taken note, too, with scenes from Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom shot at the Glen Mallan Jetty on Loch Long, a 45-minute drive from Glasgow Airport.
Here’s where to stop on a Jurassic road trip through Scotland, tracing the footsteps of giants – and, at times, seeing them up close.Car hire Glasgow
Glasgow’s dino displays
The University of Glasgow’s Hunterian Museum makes the perfect first stop on a prehistoric road trip, being home to the earliest dinosaur print to be discovered. Other rather old exhibits include a full-size plesiosaur skeleton, which belonged to a marine reptile in the Triassic Period, and the bizarre Bearsden Shark, a 330 million-year-old fossilised fish with an anvil-like dorsal fin.
Nearby, the Kelvingrove Art Gallery & Museum has more than 8,000 fossils and skeletons in its Creatures of the Past Gallery. Among the curios and oddities is an almost complete shell of a Jurassic turtle.
Airth’s woodland dinosaur trail
If you go down to the woods in Airth, you can be sure of a big surprise. Or several giant surprises, as life-size models of 11 Jurassic beasts lurk among the trees.
The Michaelswood Dinosaur Trail is part of a picnic spot and woodland area created in memory of Michael Ferrie, a young local musician who died of cancer in 1996.
Storyboards detail facts about each of the models, among them a stegosaurus and a sabre-toothed tiger.
How to get there: Airth is a half-hour drive from Glasgow, via the M80.
Fossil hunting on the Isle of Mull
Reached via a narrow, winding road, the cove of Carsaig Bay has a ruggedly beautiful beach, natural limestone arches – and one of Scotland’s richest collections of Jurassic fossils.
Peer at rock formations dotted about the beach to see fossilised clusters of gryphaea, similar to oysters.
East of Carsaig Pier, scour rocky outcrops for large casts of ammonites, now-extinct marine mollusks that existed when dinosaurs roamed.
How to get there: It will take you just over 4 hours to reach the Isle of Mull from Glasgow, including the ferry crossing from Oban to Craignure
Giant footprints on the Isle of Skye
Whenever you’re looking for a little perspective on life, head to the Isle of Skye. Few experiences are more humbling than standing next a 170 million-year-old footprint the size of a car tyre.
The first tracks, of a two-legged, herbivorous ornithopod family, were discovered here in 1982. Now hundreds of prints have been discovered, including 50 unearthed as recently as spring 2018. Those latest finds include prints left by the sauropod, a long-necked vegetarian that dwarfed the T.rex by more than 15m.
Given their size, the tracks are surprisingly hard to find. Head to the Staffin Dinosaur Museum, which houses fossil displays and offers guided walking tours around the footprints, some of which – including the enormous sauropod tracks – are right on Staffin Beach.
How to get there: It is 216 miles from Glasgow to Skye, and the drive takes 5-6 hours. A good place to stop and break up the journey is Fort William, known as a gateway to Ben Nevis, the U.K.’s highest peak.
Fife’s giant sea scorpions
Imagine Fife’s scenic coastline roamed by six-foot-long scorpions. It sounds like the plot of a sci-fi film but rewind 330 million years and it was the terrifying reality.
A region that’s now dotted with traditional fishing villages was the crawling ground for the amphibious hibbertopterus, an enormous sea scorpion. Their tracks were found on a beach here in 2010, though paleontologists keep the exact location secret for preservation purposes.
If all that isn’t enough to give you nightmares, here’s a lovely little fact: the armoured creatures wielded a sword-sharp tail, used to skewer prey.
How to get there: The drive to Fife from Glasgow takes about an hour and 15 minutes, crossing the Firth of Forth at Queensferry.
Edinburgh’s dinosaur bones
The capital boasts what is believed to be the most complete T.rex specimen, with the neck-craning cast dominating the Grand Gallery of the National Museum of Scotland. (The real thing looms in the Museum of the Rockies in Montana, USA).
The huge skull of a triceratops (the horned, herbivorous dinosaur that looked a little like a rhino) vies for attention among other remnants of a long-gone past
Replica beasts in Dumfries
If all the fossil-hunting and footprint-tracking – and perhaps Jurassic Park-watching – makes you want to ‘meet’ a dinosaur, you can. Well, sort of.
Dino Park at Hetland Garden Centre in Carrutherstown is a collection of startlingly lifelike models of prehistoric beasts, with a Komodo dragon and crocodiles thrown in for good measure.
How to get there: The drive from Glasgow to Dumfries takes about one and a half hours, via the M74.