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Central Lowlands

Rolling hills within Glen Devon, south of Gleneagles
Rolling hills within Glen Devon, south of Gleneagles

The Central Lowlands extend across Scotland with the Grampian Mountains to the north, fringed by the Highland Boundary Fault stretching between Stonehaven and Helensburgh and the hills of the Southern Uplands to the south separated by the Southern Uplands Fault. Whereas the greater part of the region lies below about 175 metres many areas exceed 300 metres and the highest parts reach to nearly 600 metres culminating within isolated peaks within the Campsie and Ochil Hills.
The regional relief has been determined basically by differential erosion of the rock types with the resistant igneous rocks forming hill masses and the softer sedimentary rocks form broad, undulating plains with major river valleys. The landscape has been modified, however, by the effects of three different phases of glaciation followed by oscillations in relative land and sea levels and these have resulted in the formation of different soil parent materials ranging from glacial till deposits to late and post-glacial raised beaches with sands, gravels, silts and clays all present. Within the hill areas, drift and shallow drift deposits are widespread, the latter associated with zones of outcropping rock.

Simplified landforms of the eastern Central Lowlands - deep brown forest soils are widespread on the till plain with imperfectly draining variants and gleys in the intervening hollows. Podzols, including peaty podzols, characterise the hill areas with rankers and lithosols associated with areas of rock outcrop.

Simplified landforms of the western Central Lowlands Mixed glacial tills, often with relatively fine textures, are widespread with a high proportion of surface-water gley soils. Brown forest soils are restricted to the highest ground and peat mosses occupy the larger hollows.


Agriculture is widespread but with considerable human influence. There has also been extensive planting of plantation woodland, both coniferous (for commercial forestry) and deciduous (for amenity planting). Widespread industrial use and urban development have altered the landscape; the vast conurbation of Glasgow and its satellite towns are intermingled with industrial sites. Previous mining, both coal and oil shale, has also left an impact with derelict land and reinstated land a direct legacy of such development. Recent interest in reclamation and restoration has addressed such industrial development.

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The James Hutton Research Institute is the result of the merger in April 2011 of MLURI and SCRI. This merger formed a new powerhouse for research into food, land use, and climate change.