Plate Tectonics of the UK

Although the UK is not located on a plate margin and is therefore not currently tectonically active, this has not always been the case.

Over time, a series of tectonic events has resulted in the current location and structure of the UK - in the last 700 million years, we have gradually drifted north from near the South Pole! Evidence of this turbulent tectonic past is preserved in the rock record, making the UK an ideal starting point for a geoscientist searching for clues to the Earth’s past.

This section gives an overview of the major tectonic events (called ‘orogenies’) that have left their mark and helped shape the UK.

Caledonian Orogeny

Variscan Orogeny

Tertiary Volcanic Province

Alpine Orogeny