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Chapter 1: A Gneiss View

This chapter is set in the North West Highlands of Scotland - amongst the oldest landscapes on Earth. The Lewisian Gneisses, a striped and banded family of rocks that form a hummocky plateau along the north west sea-board of Scotland, were formed between 2.5 and 3 billion years ago. Scattered around this hummocky plateau are the outliers of Torridon sandstone, the remains of a once vast escarpment, worn down over the course of a billion years into striking and solitary inselbergs that stand like the mesas and buttes of the Colorado plains.

An aerial view of the North West Highlands

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A view of Gneiss

A boulder of Lewisioan Gneiss, clearly showing its stripes

Not just any lump of rock, but a boulder of Lewisian gneiss, clearly showing its stripes, bands of higher and lower density minerals separated out by huge temperatures and pressures thirty miles underground where it was formed. The picture below is a good indicator of what geologists like to call ‘hummocky terrain’.