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1. The islands of Scotland are exceedingly numerous, but they are nearly all situated off the north and west coasts. The few rocky islets off the east coast are chiefly remarkable for the swarms of sea birds which frequent them.
2. Cut off from the mainland by the stormy channel of the Pentland Firth are the Orkneys, a group of islands famed for the fine rock-scenery on their coasts. In number the islands amount to 67, of which about 27 are inhabited. On some of the islands we find interesting monuments of antiquity in the shape of old forts and temples. The largest island is Pomona, or Mainland, on which Kirkwall the chief town, and Stromness, are situated.
3. North-east from the Orkneys, and distant about 40 miles, are the Shetlands, a group of about 100 islands, of which between 30 and 40 are inhabited. These islands, together with the Orkneys, at one time belonged to the kingdom of Denmark ; but when James III. of Scotland married the Princess Margaret of Denmark, in 1648, they were given in pledge for the payment of her dowry, and have never since been redeemed. The largest island in this group is also called Mainland. Lerwick is the principal town. East of the Mainland is the island of Bressay. The sound which separates these two islands forms a splendid harbour, and is used as a calling station by ships going to the whale fishery. The climate of these northern islands is very variable and very damp, and the summers are short. The Orkneys and Shetlands form together one county.
4. West of Scotland there are two large groups of islands: the Outer Hebrides, or Western Islands, a chain of mountainous islands and rocky islets cut off from the mainland of the Northern Islands by a channel called the
Minch; and the Inner Hebrides, a broken and scattered chain, nearer the coast.
5. Of the Outer Hebrides, the largest island forms two districts—Lewis and Harris. Its principal town, Stornoway, is the chief station for the herring fishery on the west coast. In surface and outline this group of islands much resembles the Northern Highlands. Large mountain masses broken by glens fill the interior, and the coasts are indented by bays and inlets which abound with shell-fish. The climate of these Western Islands is mild, but they experience very rough weather in winter. Lewis forms a portion of Ross-shire, whilst Harris, North and South Uist, Benbecula, Barra, and the smaller islands, are included in Inverness-shire.
6. Of the coast islands, the largest, the most irregular in shape, and the most varied in scenery, is Skye. The surface is very mountainous, the sombre brown crags of the southern and western peaks being the boldest in form and the wildest in scenery to be found in the British Isles. The centre of attraction of the island are the Cuchullin (or Coolin) Hills, and the far-famed Loch Coruisk * in the south.
7. “This lake is long and narrow, hemmed in by steep mountains, and drained by a little stream, which descends the lowest part of the glen, and then tumbles over the rocks into the sea. The waters of the lake do not seem to be of any great depth, as they are broken by two or three little islets. But little vegetation clothes the rugged shores ; all around are swelling domes of rock, rounded by the ancient glacier, and roughened by the action of the atmosphere; and above them rise cliff, and gully, and scar, crowned at last by shattered peaks, all of the same hue of sombre russet. The summer sun may bathe those desolate crags from the highest peak to their base ; it may glitter on the still surface of the lake, and illumine every herb which grows upon its margin; the sky above may be one vault of cloudless blue; but neither glory of sun nor calm of sky can take away the feeling of gloom and of loneliness in this desolate glen. It is grand, strangely grand; beautiful, wildly beautiful; but it is one of the places where nature has forgotten its joy, where life seems to have lost its charm."
* Pronounced Coroosk.
8. The island of Skye forms a portion of Invernessshire. Portree is the chief town. The remaining islands -except Arran and Bute in the Firth of Clyde, which form a county by themselves-are portions of Argyll
. 9. The larger islands of Argyll are Mull, Islay, and Jura. Rum, Eigg, Coll, Tiree, and Colonsay, are next in size, whilst Staffa and Iona, two of the smallest, are the most interesting.
10. Staffa means “the isle of columns," and the name refers to the basaltic columns which form the cliffs on the coast. In the isle are six great caverns. The largest of them, “Fingal's Cave," is one of the greatest natural curiosities in the world. The island is uninhabited, but thousands of people visit it every summer.
11. Iona is noted for its ruins of ancient churches and as the burying-place of many kings of Scotland, Ireland, and Norway. It was from this island that early missionaries were sent out to preach the gospel to the Pictish tribes in the Highlands.
12. Rothsay, the chief town of Bute, is, owing to the mildness of its climate, a noted resort for invalids.
CLIMATE, NATURAL PRODUCTIONS, AND INDUSTRIES.
1. The climate of Scotland differs but little from that of England ; but it is somewhat colder and more humid. Owing to its broken and indented coasts, no part of the country is far from the tempering influence of the ocean, and the temperature is lower in summer and higher in winter than in inland countries in the same latitude. The Shetlands have a mean winter temperature higher than that of London.
2. More than three-fourths of the surface of Scotland consists of heath and mountain land unfit for agricultural purposes.
Less than five million acres are under cultivation. Of these nearly one-and-a-half millions are devoted to corn crops, more than two-thirds of which are oats ; nearly three-fourths of a million to green crops, chiefly turnips, swedes, and potatoes ; nearly a million and a half to clover and grasses, under rotation; and a little over a million to permanent pasture. The moors and mountain slopes form grazing-ground for sheep and cattle.
3. Notwithstanding the small proportion of the country under cultivation, farming is carried to a higher state of perfection in Scotland than in any other country of the world. The parts of the country more especially devoted to agriculture are the Vale of Strathmore, the Carses of Stirling, Falkirk, and Gowrie, the Merse of Berwick, and the Lothians. Besides these are numerous river vales, and strips along the coast which are fertile and well cultivated. The south-western counties of the Lowlands are the chief dairy-farming counties.
4. Fishing is an important industry in Scotland. It is of two kinds-river-fishing, chiefly for salmon, of which £150,000 worth are exported every year, and seafishing, chiefly for herrings and haddock. The herring fishery is carried on on all the coasts, but Loch Fyne produces the finest fish. Wick is the chief station for this fishery, but Dunbar, Fraserburgh, and Stornoway, are important herring towns.
5. The minerals of Scotland are not so numerous, nor are they produced in anything like the same quantities as in England. Coal, iron, lead, granite, and other building stones, are the chief. The coal-fields are four in number. One occupies the county of Clackmannan, and extends eastward into Fife. A second spreads eastward, from the river Esk, in the county of Edinburgh, into Haddington. A third occupies the northern portion of Ayr. The fourth, or Lanark coal-field, is the largest and most important. It extends across the middle of the country, from the Clyde almost to the Forth. It is