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The spectacular topography of Scotland reflects possibly more clearly than that of any other part of the island of Great Britain the effects of glaciation - in the over-deepened valleys which produced the country's many lochs and firths, in the glacial till which forms the fertile soils of eastern lowland Scotland, and in the many features such as drumlins and eskers that dot the rugged Scottish landscape.  Scotland’s very irregular coastline is another product of glaciation.  The western coast in particular is deeply penetrated by numerous arms of the sea, most of which are narrow over-deepened valleys, known locally as sea lochs, and by a number of broad indentations, generally called firths.  The principal firths are the Firth of Lorn, the Firth of Clyde, and the Solway Firth.  The major indentations on the eastern coast are Dornoch Firth, the Moray Firth, the Firth of Tay, and the Firth of Forth.

The terrain of Scotland is predominantly mountainous but may be divided into three distinct regions, from north to south: the Highlands, the Central Lowlands, and the Southern Uplands.  More than a half of the surface of Scotland is occupied by the Highlands, containing most of the highest peaks.  Consisting of parallel mountain chains with a general north-eastern to south-western trend and broken by deep ravines and valleys, the Highlands are noted for their unspoilt, wild beauty and scenic grandeur.

The region is divided in two by a depression, known as Glen More, or the Great Glen, which extends from the Moray Firth in the north-east, south-west to Loch Linnhe.  To the north-west of this lie heavily eroded peaks with fairly uniform elevations ranging from 600 to 900 m (2,000 to 3,000 ft).  In the Highlands south-east of the Great Glen the topography is highly diversified.  This region is traversed by the Grampian Mountains, which includes on the east the Cairngorms.  The highest peak of the Grampians is Ben Nevis (1,343 m/4,406 ft), the highest summit in the United Kingdom, located near the head of Loch Linnhe, overlooking Fort William.

To the south of the Highlands lie the Central Lowlands, a narrow belt comprising only about one tenth of the area of Scotland, but containing three quarters of the country’s population.  The Central Lowlands are traversed by several chains of hills, including the Ochil and Sidlaw hills, and by several important rivers, notably the Clyde, the Forth, and the Tay.

The terrain of the Southern Uplands, a region much less elevated and rugged than the Highlands, consists largely of a moorland plateau traversed by rolling valleys and broken by mountainous outcrops.  Only a few summits in the Southern Uplands exceed 760 m (2,500 ft) in elevation, the highest being Merrick (843 m/2,765 ft) in the Dumfries and Galloway region in the south-west.

As with the island climate of Great Britain, the Scottish climate is subject to the moderating influences of the surrounding seas.  As a result of these influences, extreme seasonal variations are rare, and relatively temperate winters and cool summers are the outstanding climatic features.  Low temperatures and heavy snowfalls are, however, common during the winter season in many areas, particularly the mountainous districts of the interior.  In the western coastal region, which benefits more from the moderating effects of the warm Gulf Stream, conditions are milder than in the east.  The average January temperature of the eastern coastal region is 3.1° C (37.5° F); that of the western coastal region is 3.9° C (39° F).  Corresponding July averages are 13.8° C (56.8° F) and 15° C (59° F), respectively.  Precipitation, which is marked by regional variations, ranges from about 3,810 mm (150 in) annually in the western Highlands to about 635 mm (25 in) annually in certain eastern areas.

See all my images of Scotland at alamy and TopFoto

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