Ross and Cromarty


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Ross and Cromarty (Ros agus Cromba in Gaelic) is a vaguely or variously defined area in the Highlands and Islands of Scotland. There is a registration county and a lieutenancy area in current use. Historically there has been a constituency of the Parliament of the United Kingdom (1832 to 1983), a local government county (1890 to 1975), a district of the Highland local government region (1975 to 1996) and a management area of the Highland Council (1996 to 2007). The local government county is now divided between two local government areas: the Highland area and Na h-Eileanan Siar (the Western Isles).

Ross and Cromarty lies south of Sutherland and the Dornoch Firth, west of the North Sea and the Moray Firth, north of the Beauly Firth and Inverness-shire and east of The Minch. There are also a number of small islands off the area's west coast, amongst which are:

    * Gillean (lighthouse) in the parish of Lochalsh
    * Crowlin Islands in Applecross
    * Eilean Horrisdale, and Isle of Ewe in Gairloch parish
    * Isle Martin and Tanera More, of the Summer Isles group in the parish of Lochbroom.

The area of the mainland comprises 1,572,332 acres (6,363 km²).

On the North Sea (eastern side) of the area the major firths are the Beauly Firth and the (Inner) Moray Firth, which mark off the Black Isle from Inverness-shire, the Cromarty Firth, which bounds the districts of Easter Ross and the Black Isle, the Moray Firth, separating Easter Ross from Nairnshire, and the Dornoch Firth, dividing north-east Ross from Sutherland.

On the Atlantic (western) coastline - which has a length of nearly 311 miles (500 km) - the principal sea lochs and bays, from south to north, include Loch Duich, Loch Alsh, Loch Carron, Loch Kishorn, Loch Torridon, Loch Shieldaig, Upper Loch Torridon, Loch Gairloch, Loch Ewe, Gruinard Bay, Loch Broom and Enard Bay.

The chief capes include Tarbat Ness on the east coast, and Coigach, Greenstone Point, Rubha Reidh, Redpoint and Hamha Point on the west.

Almost all the southern boundary with Inverness-shire consists of a rampart of peaks, many of them Munros:

    * An Riabhachan (3704 ft, 1129 m),
    * Sgurr na Lapaich (3773 ft., 1150 m),
    * Carn Eige (Càrn Eighe) (3881 ft., 1183 m),
    * Mam Sodhail (Mam Soul) (3871 ft., 1180 m),
    * Beinn Fhada (Ben Attow) (3386 ft., 1032 m),
    * Sgurr Fhuaran (3504 ft., 1068 m),
    * The Saddle (3317 ft., 1011 m).

To the north of Glen Torridon are the masses of Liathach (3455 ft), Beinn Eighe (3313 ft), Beinn Alligin (3235 ft) and Beinn Dearg (2998 ft). On the northeastern shore of Loch Maree rises Slioch (3219 ft., 981 m), while the Fannich group contains six Munros, the highest being Sgurr Mor (3645 ft). The immense isolated bulk of Ben Wyvis (3428 ft., 1045 m), forms the most noteworthy feature in the north-east, and An Teallach (3484 ft. 1062 m) in the north-west appears equally conspicuous, though less solitary. Only a small fraction of the west and south of the area is under 1000 ft. (305 m) in height. Easter Ross and the peninsula of the Black Isle are comparatively level.

The longest stream of the mainland portion of Ross and Cromarty is the River Orrin, which rises from the slopes of An Sidhean (2671 ft., 814 m) and pursues a north-easterly course to its confluence with the River Conon after a run of about 26 miles (42 km), during a small part of which it forms the boundary with Inverness-shire. At Aultgowrie the stream rushes through a narrow gorge where the drop is considerable enough to make the Falls of Orrin. The River Blackwater flows from mountains in Strathvaich southeast for 18 miles (30 km) until it joins the Conon, forming soon after it leaves Loch Garve the small but picturesque Falls of Rogie. Within a short distance of its exit from Loch Luichart the Conon pours over a series of graceful cascades and rapids and then pursues a winding course of 12 miles (19 km), mainly eastward to the head of the Cromarty Firth. Situated above Glen Elchaig in the southwest of the region are the Falls of Glomach. The stream giving rise to them drains a series of small lochs on the northern flanks of Beinn Fhada (Ben Attow) and, in an almost unbroken sheet over a metre in width, effects a sheer drop of 110 m, and soon afterwards ends its course in Glen Elchaig. The falls are usually visited from Invershiel 11 km to the south-west. 12 miles (19 km) south-east of Ullapool, on the estate of Braemore, are the Falls of Measach, formed by the Droma, a headstream of the River Broom. The cascades, three in number, are close to Corrieshalloch Gorge. The River Oykel, throughout its course, forms the boundary with Sutherland.

There are many freshwater lochs, the largest being Loch Maree. In the far north-west, 243 ft. (74 m) above the sea, lies Loch Sionascaig, a loch of such irregularity of outline that it has a shore-line of 17 miles (27 km). It contains several wooded islands, and drains into Enard Bay by the River Polly. Lochan Fada (the long loch ), 1000 ft. (305 m) above the sea, is 4 miles (6.4 km) in length, and covers an area of 1112 acres (4.5km²), and is 42 fathoms (76 m) deep, with a mean depth of 17 fathoms (31 m). Once drained by the Muice (Allt na Muice), it has been tapped a little farther west by the Abhainn na Fhasaigh, which has lowered the level of the loch. Other lochs are Fionn Loch (the white or clear lake), 8 miles (13 km) long by 1 mile (1.6 km) wide, famous for its herons, Loch Luichart towards the centre of the area (8 miles (13 km) long and between 0.5-1 mile (1-1.6 km) wide), fringed with birches and having the shape of a crescent, the mountain-girt Loch Fannich (1 mile (1.6 km) wide); and the wild narrow Lochs Monar (4 miles (6.5 km) long) and Mullardoch (5 miles (8 km) long), on the Inverness-shire boundary.

Of the straths or valleys the more important run from the centre eastwards, such as Strathconon, Strathbran, Strathgarve, Strathpeffer and Strathcarron. Excepting Glen Orrin, in the east central district, the longer glens lie in the south and towards the west. In the extreme south Glen Shiel runs between five mountains (The Five Sisters of Kintail to its mouth on Loch Duich. The A87 passes down the glen. Further north lie Glen Elchaig, Glen Carron, and Glen Torridon. The railway from Dingwall runs through Glen Carron to Kyle of Lochalsh.

Tourism is a major industry in the region, with over 20% of the workforce employed in the wholesale, restaurant and hotels sector, second only to the public service sector. A little over 5% of the workforce are employed in agriculture, forestry and fishing, traditionally major industries in the region. The oil industry, which spurred a rapid increase in industrial development in the 1970s, is in decline, although still a major employer.

The Glen Ord and Glenmorangie distilleries are prominent whisky distilleries.

A railway, the Far North Line from Inverness, enters the county to the north of Beauly and runs northwards to Dingwall. From there the Far North Line continues north/northeast through Sutherland to Thurso and Wick in Caithness, and the Kyle of Lochalsh Line runs west/southwest to the Kyle of Lochalsh.

The principal relics of antiquity - mainly stone circles, cairns and forts - appear in the eastern district. A vitrified fort crowns the hill of Knockfarrel in the parish of Fodderty, and there is a circular dun near the village of Lochcarron. Some fine examples of sculptured stones occur, especially those which, according to tradition, mark the burial-place of the three sons of a Danish king who were shipwrecked off the coast of Nigg. The largest and handsomest of these three crosses - the Clach a' Charraidh, or Stone of Lamentation - stands at Shandwick. It is about 10 feet (3 m) high and contains representations of the martyrdom of St Andrew and figures of an elephant and dog. It fell during a storm in 1847 and was broken in three pieces. On the top of the cross in Nigg churchyard are two figures with outstretched arms in the act of supplication; the dove descends between them, and below are two dogs. The cross was knocked down by the fall of the belfry in 1725, but has been riveted together. The third stone formerly stood at Hilton of Cadboll, but was removed for security to the grounds of Invergordon Castle.

Among old castles are those of Lochslin, in the parish of Fearn, said to date from the 13th century, which, though ruinous, possesses two square towers in good preservation; Balone, in the parish of Tarbat, once a stronghold of the Earls of Ross; the remains of Dingwall Castle, their original seat; and Eilean Donan in Loch Alsh, which was blown up by English warships during the abortive Jacobite rising in 1719.

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