Central Lowlands

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The Central Lowlands or Midland Valley is the relatively low-lying region of Scotland between the Highlands to the north and the Southern Uplands to the south. It is the most fertile land of the north, but also the most urbanised: here are great cities of Glasgow and Edinburgh and the countless suburbs, towns and villages which surround them and almost threaten to join them. In terms of demography, the towns of the Central Lowlands are known as The Central Belt.

The main rivers watering the Central Lowlands are the River Clyde, reaching the sea at Glasgow and the Firth of Clyde, and the River Forth, which creates the Firth of Forth on the shores of which stand many major towns, Edinburgh among them.

Geologically the region may be defined as a rift valley between the Highland Boundary Fault to the north and the Southern Uplands Fault to the south.[1]

Human geography

The Central Belt towns

A productive combination of fertile low-lying agricultural land and significant deposits of economically valuable coal and iron have led to the Central Lowlands being much more densely populated than the rest of Scotland. The major cities of Glasgow, Edinburgh, Stirling and Dundee all lie in the Central Lowlands, and over half of Scotland's population lives in this region.

Geology and geomorphology

Arthur's Seat in Edinburgh

The Central Lowlands is largely underlain by Paleozoic formations. Many of these sedimentary rocks have economic significance for it is here that the coal and iron bearing rocks that fueled Scotland's industrial revolution are to be found. This area has also experienced intense volcanism: Arthur's Seat in Edinburgh for example is the remnant of a once much larger volcano active in the Carboniferous period some 300 million years ago.

This area is relatively low-lying, although even here hills such as the Ochils and Campsie Fells are rarely far from view.[2] In common with the rest of northern Britain, the whole region was affected by Pleistocene glaciations, which have carved out its landscape and its hills.

Boundary faults

The Highland Boundary Fault runs from Lochranza on the Isle of Arran in the south and west through the Isle of Bute and Helensburgh, then forms the northern boundary of Strathmore before reaching Stonehaven in the north east. The fault was active during the Caledonian orogeny,[3] a plate tectonic collision which took place from Mid Ordovician to Mid Devonian periods (520 to 400 million years ago), during the closure of the Iapetus Ocean. The fault allowed the Midland Valley to descend as a major rift by as much as 4,500 yards and there was subsequently vertical movement. This earlier vertical movement was later replaced by a horizontal shear.[4]

The Southern Uplands Fault runs from the Rhins of Galloway in the west towards Dunbar on the east coast thirty miles from Edinburgh.[5]


  1. Gillen (2003) p.17
  2. Keay (1994) p.420.
  3. "Loch Lomond - Highland Boundary Fault". Scottish Geology. Hunterian Museum and others. 2006-07-20. Archived from the original on 2011-02-25. https://www.webcitation.org/5wlhU7up1?url=http://www.scottishgeology.com/outandabout/classic_sites/locations/loch_lomond_fault.html. Retrieved 2006-12-13. 
  4. "Highland Boundary Fault". Gazetteer for Scotland. University of Edinburgh and Royal Scottish Geographical Society. http://www.scottish-places.info/features/featurefirst7728.html. Retrieved 2006-12-13. 
  5. "Regional Geology, Southern Uplands - Map" Scottishgeology.com. Retrieved 21 March 2008.
  • Gillen, Con (2003) Geology and landscapes of Scotland. Harpenden. Terra Publishing.
  • Keay, J. & Keay, J. (1994) Collins Encyclopaedia of Scotland. London. HarperCollins.
  • McKirdy, Alan Gordon, John & Crofts, Roger (2007) Land of Mountain and Flood: The Geology and Landforms of Scotland. Edinburgh. Birlinn.