Ferryden and Scurdie Ness

The ancient town of Montrose was founded in 1140 and effectively stands on and is surrounded by volcanic rock of Old Red Sandstone age. It has long been recognized as one of the main areas for Scottish agates. The site of the town is unique, the High Street, the oldest planned settlement, being laid out on a shingle ridge forming the highest part of a peninsula between the tidal basin and the North Sea.

Agates can be found to the north and the south of the town as well as on the beaches on the North Sea shores. Intensive collecting has however severely depleted the later locations. It seems likely that agate-bearing rock also continues out under the sea since many water-worn examples were previously found here on the beaches.

Immediately south of Montrose, on the opposite bank of the river South Esk, lies the fishing village of Ferryden. In the early 1970s this used to be a very prolific site providing agates of ‘orange, grey and the beautiful “Ferryden Blue” At this time, excavations for a new oil terminal associated with the developing North Sea oilfields provided a bonanza for agate collectors. Work on the foundations of the new terminal required extensive dredging of the estuary bed. The resulting gravels were deposited on the shore providing prolific finds.


Ferryden, Scurdie Ness and the South Esk from the North

Ferryden was also the source of large numbers of generally small (30-50mm) but exquisite and finely banded brown and white stones. This source unfortunately was covered over by the dredging operations and has not been accessible in recent times. It is still possible to pick up an occasional specimen lying free on the beach but locating the best material requires digging into the shingle.

As well as the beach agates, nodules can be found in the ploughed fields around Ferryden and adjacent to the nearby lighthouse at Scurdie Ness, which guards the entrance to the South Esk and entry to the oil Terminal and Montrose basin.

The rocks on which the lighthouse stands also contain several species of richly coloured examples including banded fortification agates in colourful, variegated assortments of red, pink, chestnut-brown, lavender, green, blue, yellow and white” large, generally uncracked grey-blue stones also occur at Scurdie Ness and productive andesitic rocks continue to outcrop for a few hundred yards south of the lighthouse. However, in the case of both shore and field deposits, identifying suitable sites usually requires extensive searching on the ground.

Scurdie Ness lighthouse from the air

I have collected agates from Ferryden off and on over the last 30 years. They are my favorites! Although they are not usually large the subtle pastel shades of pink, red and white and the detail of the fine banding and the fact that they are usually have no cracks makes some of the best. They were fairly easy to extract from the rocks between Ferryden and Scurdie Ness in the past but recently with the advent of the oil industry in Montrose and deep dredging of the channel these localities have all but disappeared beneath the material now dumped high on the shoreline.

My friend Bob Sutherland, who is unfortunately no longer with us, knew all these places and I have spent many a day digging out these beauties with him. I am sure in the future these localities will again become productive of these beautiful agates.


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Scurdie Ness


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