What is ‘special’ about the geology at Carmel Head SSSI?

Carmel Head SSSI has one special feature:

The foreshore and coastal cliffs at Carmel Head are of special scientific interest because they provide exposures of rocks which were folded and fractured during a period of mountain building, known as the Caledonian Orogeny, which took place approximately 450 million years ago. The site is most famous for the “Carmel Head Thrust”, where older Precambrian rocks have been thrust over younger Ordovician shales. During Earth movements the rocks were pressed together and began to fold and buckle. Eventually, the buckling became so great that the fold turned over, fractured at the base and then slid over the younger rocks.

What do we want Carmel Head SSSI to look like?

The geological exposures should remain visible and accessible in order to enable further study and research. This should be achieved by avoiding activities which would diminish the current high level and continuity of exposure so that these rocks can be accessed when required for scientific purposes.

An example of what we do not wish to see at Carmel Head!

What management is needed on Carmel Head SSSI and why?

Carmel Head is an excellent place for geological study and sites such as this are vital for further geological research. However it will only remain so if the necessary management continues and CCW will work with you to ensure that this management is carried out.

What does this mean in practice?

There are many factors that could damage the special feature at Carmel Head SSSI if they are not properly managed. These are the ones we regard as most important:

Engineering works that would obscure the rock exposures, for example construction of steps to the beach, building of groynes or the construction of sewage pipes, may be damaging to the site interest. Similarly, the deposition of soil, rock or other material to strengthen shore defences may obscure the rocks. Any works that are required should be discussed with the Countryside Council for Wales to ensure that there is no damage to the site interest.

Students and researchers need access to study the rocks exposed within Carmel Head SSSI. Although the land is owned by the National Trust, and there are public rights of way across parts of the site, much of the land is closed to the public for part of the year. Permission to enter these areas for the purpose of study or research is entirely at the discretion of the landowner or tenant.


Our knowledge of geology is continually improving and sites such as this are vital in that process. It is possible that new issues may arise in the future, whilst other issues may disappear. This statement is written with the best information we have now, but may have to change in the future as our understanding improves. Any information you can provide on the special feature of your site and its conservation would be much appreciated.

If you would like to discuss any aspect of your SSSI, or have any concerns about your SSSI, please contact your local CCW office.

Your local office is;

Cyngor Cefn Gwlad Cymru/Countryside Council for Wales

North Region

Llys y Bont,

Ffordd y Parc,

Parc Menai,


Gwynedd, LL57 4BN,

Telephone: 01248 672500

Fax: 01248 679259