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Firth is the word in the Lowland Scots language used to denote various coastal waters in Scotlandmarker. In mainland Scotland it is used to describe a large sea bay, or even a strait. In the Northern Isles it more usually refers to a smaller inlet. It is linguistically cognate to fjord (both from Proto-Germanic *ferþuz) which has a more constrained sense in English; a firth would most likely be called a fjord if it were situated in Scandinavia. Bodies of water named "firths" tend to be more common on the east coast, or in the southwest of the country, although the Firth of Lornmarker is an exception to this. The Highland coast contains numerous estuaries, straits and inlets of a similar kind, not called "firth", e.g. the Minchmarker, and Loch Torridonmarker; these are often called sea loch.

A firth is generally the result of ice age glaciation and is very often associated with a large river, where erosion caused by the tidal effects of incoming sea water passing upriver has widened the riverbed to an estuary. Demarcation can be rather vague. The Firth of Clydemarker is sometimes thought to include the estuary as far upriver as Dumbartonmarker, but the Ordnance Surveymarker map shows the change from river to firth occurring off Port Glasgowmarker, while locally the change is held to be at the Tail of the Bank where the river crosses a sandbar off Greenockmarker at the junction to the Gare Lochmarker, or even further west at Gourockmarker point.

However, some firths are exceptions. The Cromarty Firthmarker on the east coast of Scotland, for example, resembles a large loch with only a relatively small outlet to the sea and the Solway Firthmarker and the Moray Firth are more like extremely large bays. The Pentland Firthmarker is a strait rather than a bay or an inlet.

Scottish firths

Firths on the west coast of Scotland (from north to south)

The Firth of Lorn and other nearby waterways




Firths on the east coast of Scotland (from north to south)



These are connected to, or form part of, the North Seamarker.



Firths on the north coast of Scotland

Map of the Pentland Firth and associated lands




Firths in the Northern Isles



The Northern Isles were part of Norway until the 15th century, and retain many Norse names. In Shetland in particular, "firth" can refer to smaller inlets, although geo, voe and wick are as common. In Orkney, "wick" is common.



Other similar waters in Scotland

Loch Eriboll
In the Scottish Gaelic language, linne is used to refer to most of the firths above; it is also applied to the Sound of Sleat, Crowlin Sound, Cuillin Sound, Sound of Juramarker, Sound of Raasay, and part of Loch Linnhemarker.

The following is a selection of other bodies of water in Scotland which are similar to various firths, but which are not termed such -

Likewise, in the Northern Isles, the words "firth" and "sound" are often used arbitrarily or interchangeably. Bluemull Soundmarker for example, is very similar to some of the firths in the Shetland Islands.

Firths outside Scottish waters

The Firth of Thames is the large bay to the southeast




See also



References


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