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Scottish Geography


Scotland occupies the northern third of the island of Great Britain. It is bounded by England in the south and on the other three sides by water: by the Atlantic Ocean on the west and north and by the North Sea on the east. Scotland is divided into three physical regions—the Highlands; the Central Lowlands, containing two-thirds of the population; and the Southern Uplands. The western Highland coast is intersected throughout by long, narrow sea lochs, or fjords. Scotland also includes the Outer and Inner Hebrides and other islands off the west coast and the Orkney and Shetland Islands off the north coast.

Scotland covers about 30,414 square miles (78,772 square kilometres) and has around 790 islands, of which 130 are inhabited. The best known are the Shetland and Orkney isles in the north-east and Lewis, Harris, Skye, Mull and Islay in the Hebrides.

Scotland is about half the size of England and roughly two-thirds of the country is mountain (including Ben Nevis, the highest peak in the UK) and moorland. It stretches only 275 miles (440 kilometres) from South to North and 154 miles (248 kilometres) from east to west. At its narrowest point, you can drive from one coast to the other in less than two hours. However, the coastline is so rugged that its length is estimated (by Scottish Natural Heritage) at almost 6,200 miles (10,000km).

There are three main regions - the Highlands, the Central Lowlands, and the Southern Uplands. The Highlands in the north, account for more than half the total area of Scotland but only 10% of the population. Most of the population is based around the cities of Edinburgh, Glasgow and Dundee, together with numerous towns in the central lowlands.