28th November 1880

Scotland is hit by its largest ever earthquake

An earth tremor measuring 5.2 on the Richter scale was felt along Scotland’s west coast, the Inner and Outer Hebrides, and as far afield as Northern Ireland. Its epicentre was later calculated to be somewhere close to Loch Awe, although a report published in Nature the year after the quake stated that it had been close to Phladda (Fladda) lighthouse.

The 21 April 1881 report surmised that “it appears that the wave travelled with a greater velocity over the sea-basin than over the land, probably due to the fact that over sea there was a thinner and lighter crust to throw into vibration; the average velocity on sea journeys being 6.74 geographical miles per minute, and the average velocity on land journeys 4.65 miles per minute, the mean of the whole being about 5.75 miles per minute.”

Two shocks at Bute

Two days after the earthquake, on 30 November, The Scotsman reported that “the wave of oscillation appeared to travel from WSW to ENE and lasted for several seconds… the central part of Bute [had] two very distinct shocks. In houses, bells were rung and the buildings themselves were considerably shaken; this was particularly felt in Union Street, Mill Street and the centre of Victoria Street.”

Also on 30 November, the Dundee Evening Telegraph told how, on the 28th, “the shock of an earthquake was perceptibly felt in many houses in Stornoway and in the suburbs of Laxdale and Sandwich.”

Scotland is sliced in two by the Highland Boundary Fault, which runs south-west from Stonehaven on the east coast to Helensburgh on the west coast. This would place Loch Awe on its northern flank, potentially making seismic activity unsurprising.



Other events that occured in November

FREE Scotland history newsletter

Don't miss our weekly update on Scotland's fascinating history. We promise never to sell your data to anyone else, and there's a super-easy unsubscribe link on the bottom of each email so you can leave whenever you want.