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Shaping the Landscape: Sampson's Slingstane and Fiddler Burn

A mysterious boulder perched on a steep sandstone cliff

The enigmatic boulder of Sampson’s Slingstane is perched on the edge of a sandstone cliff within the deep gorge of Fiddler Burn.

Said to be a remnant of a boulder flung by the giant Sampson, Sampson’s Slingstane is a 4 metre diameter block of coarse-grained sandstone of unknown age and origin. The stone may have been part of a moraine, an accumulation of material deposited by ice, formed along a former ice margin made by a glacier blocking the western end of the dry valley of Nemphlar Channel, to the south-east.

4 metre high Sampson's Slingstane, Fiddler Burn near Braidwood

It is possible that the removal of other morainic debris during floods in the gorge may only have left behind this one big boulder. Alternatively, the stone may have been eroded from the gorge walls and carried to its current position in catastrophic floods during or soon after deglaciation, some 20,000 years ago.

Fiddler Burn is deeply incised into limestone, where there is evidence of former coal workings. This Limestone Coal Formation, formed during the Carboniferous age (359 – 299 million years ago), when this part of the world was covered in dense, swampy, tropical forests, contains a number of coal seams. The sandstone crag which Sampson’s Slingstane sits on is 6 – 10 metres high. At the base of the crag, is a 20 centimetre thick mudstone bed which contains fossils and ironstone nodules. The mudstone bed, softer than the sandstone, is being eroded by up to 2 metres in places, exposing a bed of sandstone.

The geological sites and features of the Clyde and Avon Valley tell a dramatic story of the development of the landscape over 400 million years, from ancient sandy streams, river deltas, swampy forests and glaciers. The rocks and rivers of this story shaped the heritage, and remain a source of power, havens for woodland and wildlife, and places of recreation and creative inspiration today.

Travel through time to reveal the hidden history in the rocks and landforms by exploring the other ‘Shaping the Landscape’ museum items. Read the full report by clicking on the ‘Shaping the Landscape Trail Report’ link under ‘Find Out More’, or below. Whilst many ‘Shaping the Landscape’ sites are accessible to walkers, some sites are inaccessible, but featured as museum pieces to help demonstrate the development of the Clyde and Avon Valley.


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