Highlands & Islands

Earthquake recorded in Scottish Highlands

Fort William High St Image copyright Kenneth Allen/Geograph
Image caption Buildings were reported to have shaken in Fort William and the surrounding area

A magnitude 3 earthquake has been recorded near Fort William in the Scottish Highlands.

The quake happened at about 19:36 BST on Thursday evening just west of the town, the British Geological Survey (BGS) said.

It was felt in a number of other areas including Glencoe, Oban and Lochaber, the BGS added on its website.

BGS seismologist Richard Luckett said magnitude 3 quakes occurred in the UK about once a year.

In the part of Scotland where Thursday's earthquake happened, Mr Luckett said it was usually a once in 10 years event.

The seismologist said the quake was felt as far as 18 to 24 miles (30 to 40km) from the epicentre.

The quake has been recorded on the BGS website as measuring 2.9, but Mr Luckett told BBC Radio Scotland that it was being regarded as a more significant magnitude 3.0.

He said quakes of that size would not cause structural damage, but people had reported feeling vibrations and hearing thunder-like rumblings.

One person said their house shook and their dog started whining.

  • A number of small earthquakes are regularly recorded in the Highlands.
  • Over the past few weeks, BGS has recorded quakes in Acharacle, Arran, Jura and Islay.
  • In 2008, Scottish Water brought on stream a new waste water pipe which was designed to withstand minor earthquakes because it lies across the Great Glen Fault in the Highlands.
  • Inverness Town Steeple on the corner of Church Street and Bridge Street was twisted during an earthquake in 1816.

Mr Luckett said the quake occurred in the area of the Great Glen Fault (GGF).

Described by geologists as the site of a large strike-slip fault, the GGF splits the Scottish Highlands into the Grampian Highlands in south east and the Northern Highlands in north west.

It runs from Inverness to beyond Fort William, down the sea loch of Loch Linnhe and towards Ireland.

The GGF's Great Glen is more than 62 miles long (100km) and includes Loch Ness.

Social media users reported shaking houses and the noise of bang after Thursday's quake.

Twitter user ‏@Lindaztap posted: "Was a huge bang and house shook - turns out there was an earthquake in fort william".

The full list of areas that felt the earthquake, according to the BGS, was: Fort William, Glenfinnan, Spean Bridge, Lochaber, Lochailort, Glencoe, Corpach, Kinlochleven, Acharacle, Roy Bridge, Duror of Appin, Gairlochy, Inverlochy, Kentellan, Kilmelford, Kinlocheil, Caol, Banavie, Lochyside, Strontian, Glenaladale, Onich, Ballachulish, Kinlochmoidart, Glenuig, Lismore and Oban.

It is not the first time an earthquake has hit the area.

In 2011, a stronger 3.5-magnitude struck 25 miles (56km) west of Fort William in Glenuig.

More on this story