The Geo of Sclaites
Lovers of geology and birds unite at the Geo of Sclaites, a huge slice through the Earth which nesting birds of Scotland have taken over.

The Geo of Sclaites and nesting birds in Scotland

Discover the remarkable geology of the Scottish Highlands

Near Duncansby Head there is a stunning formation just off the coast that you can’t miss seeing. Or, to be more precise, if you are nearby you can’t miss hearing it! Geo of Sclaites looks like a large slice of the earth has been removed and in its place thousands of nesting birds in Scotland have taken up home! Here we’ll tell you a little more about the history of this beautiful feature and what you can find there. 

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What is the Geo of Sclaites?

Inlets of water around this coast are common, but there are few as impressive as this one. A ‘geo’ is a deep cleft in the side of a cliff, caused by heavy sea erosion. Over millions of years, the water has taken advantage of weaknesses in the bedding of the cliffs, and the softer rock has been worn away, leaving behind the harder rock on the sides. It comes from the Norse word ‘gya’, meaning creek. 


We stayed here as part of our NC500 tour. A very nice hotel with rooms obviously quite recently redecorated. A very large bed, and a decent sized bathroom to boot. The food was lovely too and even their Covid one way system wasn’t too much of a problem. They have a couple of car chargers in their off street car park which are free to use, just ask at reception

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A puffin stood on a rock in Scotland
Puffins on the rocks at Geo of Sclaites

Highland geology

As you peer over into the crevice, you can see some Scottish Highland geology with Old Red Sandstone formations dating from 300 – 400 million years ago. And today, they are being used by some very noisy residents…

Sights and sounds

See nesting birds in Scotland

When you visit this area, you’ll probably be able to find it just by using your ears. That’s because the cliff faces are used by hundreds of nesting birds, each on shouting to be heard above all others. 

The sound can be quite disorientating, but what an experience it is! Thousands of birds nest here, including gannets, fulmars, skuas, razorbills, shags and ever-delightful puffins. 

You can visit any time of year to see the birds, but they reach peak numbers (and volume, and smell!) from the middle of April to the middle of July. Take your binoculars for an even better view of the birds.  

How to get there

Visiting the Geo of Sclaites

Getting to Geo of Sclaites from Mackays is straightforward. You can combine it with visits to other areas of interest on your trip. Nearby is Duncansby Head, the most northerly point of the British Isles. And there’s also Duncansby Head Lighthouse, which makes for a great spot to look out over the sea. 

If you are doing ‘most northerlies’, then make sure you also tick ‘most northerly village’ – the famous John O’Groats. This is where you can get your photo next to a signpost pointing out how far away you are from other places of interest, including Land’s End, the most southerly point on Britain’s mainland. You can also visit their local brewery!

You can get to Geo of Sclaites in around half an hour by car. There is some walking required on grassland paths and it can be windy around here. 

Razorbill perched on a cliffside