Explore the geology in and around Dorset

This 3D Digital Terrain Model (DTM) collates information from a range of authoritative map sources and may take a while to load. Please, be patient…

If the map appears dark, adjust the terrain lighting with the timeline control

Map controls:
Navigation (pan, zoom and rotate) instructions
Layer menu to show/hide different map layers, adjust opacity (transparency) and order.
Display the map in full screen mode (recommended). Return to this page by reselecting the icon or pressing [Esc] on your keyboard.
Select 3D,  2D or  ‘Columbus’ map view.
Search for a specific location.
Return to the ‘Home’ view of Dorset.
Timeline to adjust terrain lighting and shadows.

The underlying terrain model is largely derived from high resolution (typically, 1m) LiDAR Digital Terrain Model (DTM) from the UK Environment Agency. This provides around 2/3 coverage of England, though is more extensive for coastal and low-lying areas. Full coverage should be available by 2020. The remaining terrain is derived from lower resolution (25m) data from the Copernicus Digital Elevation Model over Europe (EU-DEM). The terrain model is hosted on the Cesium Ion service.

By default, terrain lighting is applied, based on the current date, time and position of the sun. Use the Timeline, at the bottom of the map, to adjust this and the extent and aspect of terrain shadows. This helps to accentuate the landscape and geomorphology including coastal erosion features,  quarries and archaeological features such as hill forts, round barrows, and strip lynchets. 10:00 (morning) or 14:00 (afternoon) lighting works well.

The geology layers are provided by British Geological Survey (BGS) Web Map Services (WMS). As you zoom in, the geology layers switch from  a 1:625 000 (DiGMapGB-625) overview to the more detailed 1:50 000 (DiGMapGB-50) scale. If you click on the maps, relevant geological details (Group, Formation, Member, Bed etc) are displayed.

Similarly, as you zoom in, Ordnance Survey 1:50 000 (Landranger) and 1:25 000 (Explorer) map layers are progressively displayed, via Bing Maps

From the layers menu (top-left), detailed historic Ordnance Survey maps of Dorset and adjacent counties may be displayed. These are reproduced with the permission of the National Library of Scotland.

Details of other map layer providers can be found in the Data attribution link at the bottom of the terrain map.

Location coordinates are displayed by hovering your mouse-pinter over a position. These are given as decimal Longitude/Latitude and as British National Grid Eastings/Nothings and Grid Reference. The accuracy should be around 2m, comparable to that of the map layers and consumer GPS devices.

This interactive terrain model uses CesiumJS and is built on WebGL, which all modern browsers (Chrome, Firefox, Edge, Internet Explorer 11, Safari, Opera etc) support. However, if it doesn’t work for you, try these steps:

  1. Update your web browser to the latest version.
  2. Try updating your video card drivers to better support 3D. Download and install the driver from your manufacturer. It will most likely be NVIDIA, AMD/ATI, or Intel.
  3. If you’re still having problems, try visiting, which offers additional trouble-shooting advice.

As an alternative, you can also view 2D geological maps in the BGS Geology of Britain viewer.

Older versions of geological maps and sections may be freely viewed via the BGS maps portal

There is also a BGS Geology of Britain 3D (Beta version) viewer. This has a lower terrain resolution than the DGAG 3D map, above, but includes additional borehole information and geological cross-sections (fence diagrams).

Google Maps also have some high resolution 3D aerial imagery, generated via stereophotogrammetry, along the coast between Poole Harbour and Barton on Sea and the section of the World Heritage Coast between the Fleet and Kimmeridge Bay.

Preserving our geological heritage