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Scotland’s Mountain Landscapes: A Geomorphological Perspective

By Colin K. Ballantyne

31 May 2021

I was keen to get my teeth into this book by well-known expert Professor Colin Ballantyne of the University of St. Andrews, because, as well as being a geologist, I am an (aspirant) mountaineer. I am pleased to say that I was not disappointed!

The book covers a wide range of topics. A general introduction to the geology of Scotland is valuable, both as the beginning of the geomorphological story and as a starting point for the non-specialist reader. This is followed by a comprehensive overview of the relevant geomorphological topics, covering the pre-glacial landscape, the Ice Age in Scotland, glacial and periglacial landforms, landslides, aeolian and fluvial landforms and example key sites. The book is very well illustrated with excellent colour photographs – particularly useful in a book that aims to explain geomorphological features (and it does no harm that Scotland’s beautiful mountains form the backdrop).

My favourite chapter was probably that on aeolian landforms, as this is a topic I know very little about and had never considered in the context of the Scottish mountains. However, thanks to this book, I now have some idea of how to recognise deflation surfaces, wind-patterned ground, turf-banked terraces and ventifacts.

The final chapter provides details of key sites that exemplify some of the features discussed in the book. For this reason alone I will be pleased to hold onto my review copy, so that I can visit these sites.

A couple of criticisms. Firstly, the blurb of the book states that it is written in clear, non-technical language. While, as a geologist, I found the book clear and accessible, I am not sure that a layperson would always find it so easy (although any difficulties would be overcome with reference to a geological dictionary). Secondly, some of the photographs would have benefitted from some mark-ups to assist non-Earth scientists. However, these minor quibbles are easy to overlook, given that Professor Ballantyne’s enthusiasm for the topic shines through the book.

I can easily recommend this book to geomorphologists looking for an accessible introduction to the mountains of Scotland, Earth scientists who love the mountains and mountaineers who have a keen interest in how their playground came to be.

Reviewed by Chris Jack

By Colin K. Ballantyne (2019) Dunedin Academic Press, 174 pp. (hbk) ISBN: 9781780460796 PRICE: £27.99 www.dunedinacademicpress.co.uk