Firths, Lochs & Rivers
Travel around the Highlands and you will quickly come to the conclusion that this is a land of a thousand lochs.
No one knows for sure quite how many freshwater lochs and lochans there are, but best estimates run well into the tens of thousands. Caused by glacier movement at the end of the last Ice Age, lochs, a Scots Gaelic word meaning lake, tend to be linear in shape.
The largest loch in Scotland is Loch Ness, the head of which lies just over six miles from Inverness. This deep, 22 mile long loch contains by volume nearly double all the water in the lakes of England and Wales combined.
A firth, for example, the Cromarty Firth or Moray Firth, generally describes a large coastal sea bay or inlet, but sometimes a strait. In Scandinavian countries a firth would most likely be known as a fiord.
This plentiful supply of water has through the ages helped to shape the landscape and culture of the Highlands, a process that continues into the present day. Visitors from all over the globe come here to witness the iconic scenery for themselves and visit its many attractions. Sooner or later, though, they will interact with our soft, clean freshwater and pristine coastal waters.
This could merely be by sampling one of the region’s world famous whiskies made from malted barley and pure river or loch water.
Just as likely, a visitor could find themselves in waders, rod in hand hoping to bag a salmon or trout for their dinner.
But possibly they are standing still not to catch a fish but to observe wildlife such as wading birds or otters. It could also for some visitors be a boat trip to catch a glimpse of any number of maritime wonders, from dolphins, seals and porpoises to basking sharks or killer whales.
Those of us of a more adventurous disposition could be doing all manner of water-borne outdoor activity. River walking, canoeing, kayaking, and white water rafting are just four of the adventure pursuits available to thrill seekers, not to mention dinghy sailing, surfing, water skiing, snorkelling and diving.
Alternatively, you could take a more leisurely approach and set off, like so many before you, in search of the Loch Ness Monster. Nessie has an enduring appeal to young and old alike, and even if you don’t spot anything strange (which is quite likely, it has to be said), a boat trip on the loch takes in some truly remarkable countryside.
You may have noticed that during this journey through the watery choices of northern Scotland there has been no mention of swimming. This is strictly for hardy types, for even during the height of summer the water temperature is definitely bracing at best.
The appeal of the north of Scotland, then, is in no little part due to its awe-inspiring scenery…on land and water.