THE GEOGRAPHY OF SCOTLAND
Scotland forms the northern half of Great Britain. Rugged uplands separate it from England to the south. Within this border territory north of England the Scots fought many battles to keep their independence. In 1707 Scotland joined with England, and the entire island became a single kingdom, Great Britain. The Scots, however, remain a distinct and proud people, and they have a long history different from that of England.
Scotland has long been characterised as a land of romance. It contains ruins of many ancient castles and abbeys, and there is a haunting beauty in its windswept mountains, long deep valleys, and ribbon lakes. It attracts many tourists, particularly from the United States, Europe and England.
The coast of Scotland is deeply pierced by inlets from the sea. The larger inlets are called firths. Long, narrow inlets are called sea lochs. On the rugged west coast the sea lochs are framed by great cliffs and resemble the fjords of Norway.
Numerous islands line the coast. In the north are two large groups, the Orkney Islands and the Shetland Islands. Close to the west coast are the Inner and Outer Hebrides groups, and the islands of Arran and Bute.
The land may be divided into three regions: the Highlands in the north, the Central Lowlands and the Southern Uplands.
The Highlands are wild and picturesque. Their rocky, barren summits were chiseled by Ice Age glaciers and the rainfall of many centuries. Purple heather clothes the lower slopes in late summer. The valleys are usually steep-sided glens, with a long, narrow loch at the bottom. A long valley called Glenmore crosses the Highlands from southwest to northeast. The Caledonian Canal links this valley's lochs to form a waterway from the Firth of Lorne to Moray Firth.
South of the Highlands are the Grampian Mountains, highest in the British Isles. Ben Nevis, the tallest peak, rises to 4,406 feet (1,343 metres). Ben Lomond, at 3,192 feet (973 metres), rises from the shore of Loch Lomond, Scotland's largest freshwater loch.
The Central Lowlands run from southwest to northeast, and the greatest length is nearly 90 miles (145 kilometres). They are only 30 miles (48 kilometres) across the narrow waist of Scotland--from the head of the Firth of Clyde in the west to the Firth of Forth in the east. These firths provide valuable outlets to the sea but in the past constricted communications from north to south into the waist. The soil is fertile, and four coalfields underlie the area. Here is Scotland's chief farming district and also its largest cities. In the east is Edinburgh, Scotland's historic capital. In the west is Glasgow, hub of a great metropolitan area. Almost 90 percent of Scotland's population live in the Lowlands.
In the Southern Uplands the hills are generally less than 2,000 feet (600 metres) high. Their rounded or flat tops are often capped with dark peat. The slopes are covered with grass as well as heather. Along this border England and Scotland meet. In the west the boundary runs from the Solway Firth across the crest of the Cheviot Hills. In the east it follows the River Tweed almost to its mouth. The Tweed Valley is the chief gateway into England.