Midland Valley

(Central Lowlands, Central Belt)

One of the three main physiographic divisions of Scotland, the Midland Valley (also known as the Central Lowlands or Central Belt) extends to around 125 miles (200 km) in length and 50 miles (80 km) wide. The highest point is Ben Cleuch in the Ochil Hills. The Midland Valley contains the country's two largest cities (Glasgow and Edinburgh), four further cities, most of Scotland's large towns, eighty per cent of its population, and much of its industry. The valley lies between the Highlands and the Southern Uplands. Geologically, it is separated from the former by the Highland Boundary Fault and the latter by the Southern Uplands Fault. The Midland Valley represents an immense block of the earth's crust which descended more than 4000m (13,123 feet) between the Middle Devonian and Carboniferous periods (400 to 340 million years ago). The valley is filled with sedimentary rocks, primarily Old Red Sandstone which was deposited in ephemeral desert rivers and lakes contemporaneously as the valley descended and Carboniferous sediments and coal measures deposited in coastal or shallow marine conditions. Volcanoes and volcanic intrusions from Carboniferous times have pushed through the sediments, surviving in the form of steep volcanic plugs, such as Abbey Craig northeast of Stirling, Castle Rock in Edinburgh and North Berwick Law. The West Lothian Oil Shale Formation was the birthplace of an oil industry in the 1850s and remains a potential source of shale-gas.

Fertile soils ensure that the Midland Valley includes much of Scotland's prime agricultural land, for example the Valley of Strathmore, the Mearns, East Lothian, the Forth and Clyde Valleys and Ayrshire. The Scottish Industrial Revolution developed here, taking advantage of the coal, ironstone, limestone, sandstone, whinstone and other raw materials which were the gift of geological happenstance.

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