Follow us on:
news ● discuss ● share
Supply of fresh material
Dangers to consider
The River Brora provides an isolated exposure of Middle Jurassic
rock along its banks, approximately one mile inland from the river
mouth. Accessibility is dependent on the prevailing weather
conditions; during periods of sustained wet weather the water depth
and flow makes viewing or collecting fossils difficult and
Please also note that this location has been designated a Site
of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI), which means it's illegal to
hammer or collect in situ fossils from the river-cliff (see details
below); fossil collecting is permitted from the boulders at the
river side, down stream of the exposures described. The nature of
the terrain and exposures means the River Brora is best enjoyed by
experienced collectors and/or the scientific community; it's less
suitable for families or inexperienced collectors for much of the
roadside parking is available with permission from the farm.
Right: Access to the river is made along a narrow track
leading from the road.
Access to the river is made along a narrow road running along
the north side of the river; a small track (see above-right) leads
to the exposure river banks.
The geology of River Brora
The rocks exposed along the River Brora date from the later part
of Middle Jurassic, specifically the Callovian stage 164.7 ± 4.0 to
161.2 ± 4.0 million years ago. The presence of ammonites and drift
wood indicates the sediment was formed within a marine environment,
close to the land.
ADVERTISEMENT BY UKGE - OFFICIAL ADVERTISING PARTNER OF DISCOVERING FOSSILS
Where to look for fossils?
The erosive forces of the River Brora have exposed a relatively
small stretch of Jurassic rock, rich in fossils, along its northern
flank, approximately one mile inland of the river mouth. The photos
below show the river follow a period of relatively low
precipitation, at which time the water level and flow are
sufficiently low to examine the exposures.
Left: The loose
boulders provide the best opportunity to collect fossils.
Right: The eroded river bank provides an opportunity to
examine (not collect) fossils.
Due to its SSSI status fossil collecting is not permitted from
the exposures themselves (see photos above); however visitors can
still observe a number of belemnite guards protruding from the
eroded surface. The best place to collect fossils is down stream
of the exposures, from the boulders on the river bank and within the
shallows (see photos below).
fossils from a river boulder, down-stream of the exposures.
Right: A hammer and chisel are needed to split loose rocks.
A hammer and chisel provide the best opportunity for extracting
specimens, many of which are clearly visible on the boulder surfaces.
What fossils might you find?
The most common fossils (worth retrieving) are Belemnite guards and
Ammonite shells, although the latter are often poorly preserved. The
photos below provide a snapshot of the type of specimens encountered
during a typical visit.
(Binatisphinctes?) exhibiting a reflective blue tint.
Right: A squashed ammonite (Kosmoceras) on
the surface of a boulder.
The ammonites at Brora are poorly preserved, often barely
distinguishable from the surrounding matrix (above-left) or squashed
(above-right). The Belemnites guards on the other hand are well
preserved and can be collected with ease; specimens range from just a
few centimetres to over 20cm as shown in the photo below-right.
Left: A second squashed
ammonite (Kosmoceras) on the surface of a boulder.
Right: A large and nearly intact belemnite within a
Other common fossils include pieces of wood (below-right), which
provide evidence that these sediments were deposited in close proximity
to the land; in most instances fossils provide enjoyment for the context
they add, rather than their collectability!
Left: A small, complete
belemnite on the surface of a river boulder. Right: A
fragment of wood.
Tools & equipment
Left: Wellies are
essential for accessing the fossil collecting areas along the river. Right:
A hammer and chisel are useful for splitting prospective rocks.
It's a good idea to spend some time considering the tools and
equipment you're likely to require while fossil hunting at the
River Brora. Preparation in advance will help ensure your visit is
productive and safe. Below are some of the items you should consider
carrying with you. You can purchase a selection of geological tools
and equipment online from
A strong hammer will be required to split prospective rocks. The
hammer should be as heavy as can be easily managed without causing
strain to the user. For individuals with less physical strength and
children (in particular) we recommend a head weight no more than
Chisel: A chisel is required in conjunction with a
hammer for removing fossils from the rocks. In most instances a
large chisel should be used for completing the bulk of the work,
while a smaller, more precise chisel should be used for finer work.
A chisel founded from cold steel is recommended as this metal is
especially engineered for hard materials.
Safety glasses: While
hammering rocks there's a risk of injury from rock splinters
unless the necessary eye protection is worn. Safety glasses ensure any splinters are deflected away from the eyes. Eye
protection should also be worn by spectators as splinters can
travel several metres from their origin.
Strong bag: When considering the type of bag to use it's worth setting aside
one that will only be used for fossil hunting, rocks are usually
dusty or muddy and will
make a mess of anything they come in contact with. The bag will also
need to carry a range of accessories which need to
be easily accessible. Among the features recommended include: brightly coloured,
a strong holder construction, back
support, strong straps, plenty of easily accessible pockets and a rain cover.
Wellies: A good pair of
wellies are needed to access the best fossil collecting areas along
the river banks and among the boulders.
For more information and examples of tools and equipment
recommended for fossil hunting
or shop online at
ADVERTISEMENT BY UKGE - OFFICIAL ADVERTISING PARTNER OF DISCOVERING
Protecting your finds
It's important to spend some time considering the best way to
protect your finds onsite, in transit, on display and in storage.
Prior to your visit, consider the equipment and accessories you're
likely to need, as these will differ depending on the type of rock,
terrain and prevailing weather conditions.
wrapped in foam, ready for transport. Right:
A small compartment box containing cotton wool is ideal for
separating delicate specimens.
When you discover a fossil, examine the surrounding matrix (rock)
and consider how best to remove the specimen without breaking it;
patience and consideration are key. The aim of extraction is to
remove the specimen with some of the matrix attached, as this will
provide added protection during transit and future handling;
sometimes breaks are unavoidable, but with care you should be able
to extract most specimens intact. In the event of breakage,
carefully gather all the pieces together, as in most cases repairs
can be made at a later time.
For more information about collecting fossils please refer to the
following online guides:
Fossil Hunting and
Conserving Prehistoric Evidence.
Join us on a fossil hunt
Left: A birthday party with
a twist - fossil hunting at
Right: A family hold their prized ammonite at Beachy Head.
Discovering Fossils guided fossil hunts reveal evidence of life that
existed millions of years ago. Whether it's your first time fossil
hunting or you're looking to expand your subject knowledge, our fossil
hunts provide an enjoyable and educational experience for all. To find