Geology of the Scarborough area
Geologically, this area of
north-east Yorkshire is among the most interesting in the country.
There are few areas in which the complete sequence of strata
throughout a whole era can be studied so thoroughly. The entire
Jurassic series from lower lias in the north to the cretaceous in
the south is to be found around Scarborough.
The oldest rocks, the lias, form
the base of the uplands and they outcrop on the sides of many of
the dales and also along the coast from Ravenscar northwards. From
North Cheek, the northern point of Robin Hood’s Bay, consisting of
harder middle lias, to the Peak, at the south end of the Bay also
of more resistant rock, the soft lower lias has been eroded to form
the long curved bay.
Larger areas of estuarine sandstone form the moors to the east and
also the tops of many ridges separating the dales. The
‘Bridestones’ are good examples of remnants of this cap.
The Ellerbeck beds separate these from the later sandstones, which
were removed from a large area of the uplands but remain to form
the riggs between the dales on the south side of the Esk Valley.
The moor grit, easily recognised by its compact whitish structure,
forms the moors between Whitby and Scarborough.
The wide moorlands of Harwood Dale and Fylingdales show the shales
and sandstone of the upper estuarine series. These rocks marked the
close of the estuarine period and the encroachment of the sea, with
the deposition of the oolites.
Of these the Kellaways and calcareous grits can be seen in the
Tabular Hills. It is through these that the gorge of Newton Dale is
cut. Along the North side of the Vale of Pickering the Corallian
forms the hills overlooking the Vale.
The Vale of Pickering was once the bed of a huge glacial lake and
has the typical features of undisturbed sedimentary deposits. South
of the Vale lie the chalk wolds with many of the characteristics of
such areas: rolling hills, dry valleys, and intermittent steams.
The cliffs at Bempton and Flamborough have the familiar caves and
stacks of chalk coasts.
The high cliffs from Ravenscar to Scalby Mills run roughly NNW to
SSE and have been determined by a series of fault lines following
the same direction. The oolites of this stretch of coast have a
thick covering of boulder clay.
The headland, which separates the
two bays at Scarborough, is due to the resistance of the sandstones
of which it is composed. Estuarine sandstone and Scarborough
limestone are responsible for the cliffs of the South Bay.
At Cornelian Bay the cliffs are
largely of boulder clay, whilst from Cayton Bay the calcareous
grits and Oxford clay form the greater part of the coastline until
at Filey the calcareous grits capped by boulder clay run out to
form the Brigg, a long reef forming the north side of the bay. The
clay cliffs south of the Brigg are a fine example of weathering by
Adapted from the Wood End Guide (1969) by C I Massey
For further information, please contact the Scarborough Tourism
Bureau on 01723 383636.