Dating of zircon cores and rims from granulites developed in a shear zone provides insights into the complex relationship between magmatism and metamorphism in the deep roots of arc environments. The granulites belong to the uppermost allochthonous terrane of the NW Iberian Massif, which forms part of a Cambro-Ordovician magmatic arc developed in the peri-Gondwanan realm. The obtained zircon ages confirm that voluminous calc-alkaline magmatism peaked around 500Ma and was shortly followed by granulite facies metamorphism accompanied by deformation at c. 480Ma, giving a time framework for crustal heating, regional metamorphism, deformation and partial melting, the main processes that control the tectonothermal evolution of arc systems. Traces of this arc can be discontinuously followed in different massifs throughout the European Variscan Belt, and we propose that the uppermost allochthonous units of the NW Iberian Massif, together with the related terranes in Europe, constitute an independent and coherent terrane that drifted away from northern Gondwana prior to the Variscan collisional orogenesis. ?? 2007 Blackwell Publishing Ltd.