Scotland

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Scotland and its offshore islands comprise the northernmost part of the United Kingdom.
The Scottish mainland, which occupies roughly the northern third of the island of Great Britain, is bordered on three sides by seas. To the north and west is the Atlantic Ocean; to the east is the North Sea. Rugged uplands separate Scotland from England to the south. The territory of Scotland includes 186 nearby islands, a majority of which are contained in three groups. These are the Hebrides, also known as the Western Isles, located off the western coast; the Orkney Islands, located off the northeastern coast; and the Shetland Islands, located northeast of the Orkney Islands. The largest of the other islands is the Island of Arran. The total land area of Scotland, including the islands, is 78, 790 sq km (30, 420 sq mi). An independent nation for much of its history, Scotland was joined to England by a series of dynastic and political unions in the 17th and 18th centuries. Scotland retains a separate national identity, however, supported by separate legal and educational systems, a national church, a parliament with wide-ranging powers, and other national symbols and institutions. Scotland has an irregular and deeply indented coastline. The rugged western coast, in particular, is pierced by numerous inlets from the sea. Most of these inlets are narrow submerged valleys with steep sides, known as sea lochs. The larger and broader inlets are called firths. The principal firths are the Firth of Lorne, the Firth of Clyde (see Clyde), and Solway Firth. The major indentations on the eastern coast are Dornoch Firth, Moray Firth, the Firth of Tay, and the Firth of Forth (see Forth). Measured around the various firths and lochs, the coastline of Scotland is about 3, 700 km (about 2, 300 mi) long.
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 one-half of the land in Scotland is occupied by the Highlands, the most rugged region on the island of Great Britain and the least densely inhabited part of Scotland. The Highlands contain two parallel mountain chains that run roughly northeast to southwest. The rocky summits of the Highlands were carved by ancient glaciers and centuries of rain. Broken by deep ravines and valleys, the region is noted for its scenic grandeur. Precipitous cliffs, moorland plateaus, mountain lakes, sea lochs, swift-flowing streams, and dense thickets are common to the Highlands.
Dividing the parallel mountain ranges of the Highlands is a depression, or fault line, known as the Glen More, or the Great Glen. This depression extends southwest from Moray Firth on the eastern coast to Loch Linnhe on the western coast. Within the Great Glen is a chain of narrow lakes, or lochs, including Loch Ness. These natural lochs are linked by a series of artificial channels and together form the Caledonian ...


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