Must visit places for fossil hunters

Fossils can be found anywhere. They could be buried deep in the ground beneath where you’re standing at this very moment. Some lucky people even find them in their own back gardens.

That said, there are a few spots that are famed for their fossils. If you’re interested in fossils or your kids are working their way through the 50 Things to do before you’re 11 ¾ you can’t do better than starting at these places:

    Fossil hunting in the East of England

    Seals on Blakeney Point

    On the strand at Blakeney Point, Norfolk, fossils and bones are often washed up and occasionally ammonites too. Important areas for nesting birds will be fenced off and please remember to keep an eye on tide times.

    Fossil hunting in London and the South East

    Compton Bay

    * Birling Gap and the Seven Sisters, in East Sussex, is our best spot for finding fossils.

    * ‘The chalk cliffs of the South Downs, in West Sussex, are continually eroding, meaning a lot of Cretaceous fossils are found here. Everyone will find something here to intrigue them.’
    - Natasha Sharma, learning officer

    * Occasionally referred to as ‘Dinosaur Island’, the Isle of Wight is a rich source of fossils. Compton Bay is particularly popular for this.

    Fossil hunting in the North East

    Stones at Robin Hood

    On the Yorkshire coast rocks from the Jurassic period are exposed for all to see, in a series of spectacular cliffs and bays. Staithes, Port Mulgrave, Runswick, Robin Hood’s Bay, Boggle Hole and Saltburn are all good fossiling spots.

    Fossil hunting in the North West

    What a discovery at White Park Bay

    * The limestone features around Arnside and Silverdale, in Cumbria, all have great geology for fossils. You can see brachiopods, which are the remains of marine animals, at Arnside Knott in particular.

    * There are fossilised footprints of ancient hunters, deer, wolves and extinct giant cows on the beach at Formby, Merseyside.

    Fossil hunting in the South West

    A view of the coastline from the summit of Golden Cap, at dawn.

    The Jurassic Coast is famous for fossils. Charmouth beach, part of the Golden Cap estate, is a great starting place:

    ‘Many millions of years ago Charmouth beach was a tropical sea and salt marsh. As animals died they fell to the bottom of the sea and were fossilised. Since then the land has moved and the rock that makes up the cliffs was once the rock of the sea floor.

    ‘These cliffs are easily eroded by the sea, which washes away the soft rock to reveal hidden fossils of the creatures that once roamed these shores. You can literally pick the fossils up as you walk on the shore.’
    - Rob Rhodes, countryside manager

    Fossil hunting in Wales

    Graptolyte fossils on slate at Abereiddi beach, Pembrokeshire

    Abereiddi, in Pembrokeshire, is famous for its graptolite fossils. These are the remains of small sea creatures from 470 million years ago. They look like tiny hacksaw blades or tuning forks - look for them in the rocks and among the beach pebbles.

    Indoor places to hunt for fossils

    Meet the archaeologist event at A la Ronde

    * Arlington Court, in Devon, is home to two impressive ammonites.

    * Florence Court, in County Fermanagh, offers activities based around the Earl’s fossil collection in the Rock Hound room.

    * You can see fossils by appointment at Biddulph Grange Garden, Staffordshire. Please call a few weeks in advance of your visit if you’d like to do this.

    * Within the cabinet of curiosities at A La Ronde, in Devon, you will find fossils along with an eclectic mix of shells and other items.

    * There is a fossilised elk head at Powis Castle, Powys. Look carefully at the exit stairs too.

Get all the top tips in our beginner’s guide to fossil hunting.