Moray Firth

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The Moray Firth from the Black Isle
Dolphins playing at Chanonry Point
The Moray Firth

The Moray Firth is a roughly triangular inlet of the North Sea, north and east of Inverness, like a broad, funnel. It is the largest firth in Scotland, considered to stretch from Caithness in the north to Fraserburgh in the east.

The Moray Firth washes the shores of 9 counties; Inverness-shire, then Ross-shire, Cromartyshire, Sutherland and Caithness on its north-western shore, and Nairnshire, Banffshire, Morayshire and Aberdeenshire on its southern shore. Of its 500 miles of coastline, much of it is cliff. The name of the firth is from the ancient province of Moray, from which today comes the county of Moray, on the southern shore of the firth.

The Beauly Firth is an inner sea-loch closer to Inverness, part of the Moray Firth or separated from it by the narrows at Inverness.


A number of rivers flow into the Moray Firth, including the River Ness, the River Findhorn and the River Spey. Various smaller firths and bays are inlets of the firth, including the Cromarty Firth and the Dornoch Firth.

The Moray Firth is effectively two firths, the Inner Moray Firth, which was traditionally known as the Firth of Inverness, and the Outer Moray Firth which is more open North Sea water. The name "Firth of Inverness" is rarely found on modern maps, but extended from the Beauly Firth in the west, to Chanonry Point in the east.

The Moray Firth is visible for considerable distances, including a long range view from as far to the east as Longman Hill.[1] From Buckie, on a clear day it is possible to see Wick in the far north, in Caithness, more than 50 miles away. From Lossiemouth it is possible to see the hills of Caithness and the hills are easily identified, one being Morven, Caithness and the other Scaraben. From Burghead one can just make out the white mass of Dunrobin Castle in the distance on a very clear day. From Nairn, an observer with binoculars can see the two red bands on the Tarbat Ness, 20 miles away.

The Great Channel in the Inner Moray Firth, was dredged by engineers in 1917 for the safe passage of ships which sought to avoid the long and dangerous passage around the northern seas, by transiting the Caledonian Canal. The Channel went from the entrance of Munlochy Bay to the Meikle Mee Starboard Hand Mark, but was not maintained and filled in very quickly.

Conservation and economy

The Moray Firth is one of the most important places on the British coast for observing dolphins and whales. The most common species are the bottlenose dolphin and the harbour porpoise. With occasional sightings of common dolphin and minke whale. The popular wildlife viewing area located at Chanonry Point host some spectacular displays of dolphins within the inner Moray Firth. There are also visitor centres at Spey Bay and North Kessock run by the Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society where dolphins and other wildlife can often be seen. The old jetty at the Fort George Point is the location of the Dolphin Research Centre, with leading marine biologist Prof. Greame Taylor working part time studying hunting and breeding habits and part time working with the Community Council giving tours and teaching the ways of the dolphin.[2]

It is also an important oil field and fishing grounds. The Beatrice oil field in the Outer Moray Firth is the closest of the North Sea oil fields. Much of the fishing industry focuses on scallops and Norway lobsters.

The Inner Moray Firth is designated as a "Special Protection Area" for wildlife conservation purposes and contains a European "Special Area of Conservation" to protect the inner waters of the Moray Firth, from a line between Lossiemouth (Morayshire) and Helmsdale (Sutherland) westwards.

Outside links

("Wikimedia Commons" has material
about Moray Firth)


  1. C.M. Hogan, 2008
  2. WDCS, 2008