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Definitions of the Highland area differed from the Lowlands by language and tradition, bed breakfast glencoe having preserved Gaelic speech and customs centuries after the anglicization of the latter; the result of which led to a growing perception of a divide with the cultural distinction between Highlander and Lowlander first noted towards the end of the 14th century.
The Highland Council area, created as one of the local government regions of Scotland, bed breakfast glencoe has been a unitary council area since 1996. The council area excludes a large chunk of the southern and eastern Highlands, and the Western Isles, but includes Caithness. Highlands is sometimes used, however, as a name for the council area, as in Highlands and Islands Fire and Rescue Service. Northern, as in Northern Constabulary, is also used to refer to the area covered by the fire and rescue service. This area consists of the Highland council area and the island council areas of Orkney, Shetland and the Western Isles.
Highland council signs in the Pass of Drumochter, between Glen Garry and Dalwhinnie, saying "Welcome to the Highlands", are still regarded as controversial bed breakfast glencoe.
Much of the Scottish Highlands area overlaps the Highlands and Islands area. An electoral region called Highlands and Islands is used in elections to the Scottish Parliament: this area includes Orkney and Shetland, as well as the Highland Council local government area, the Western Isles and most of the Argyll and Bute and Moray local government areas. Highlands and Islands has, however, different meanings in different contexts. It means Highland (the local government area), Orkney, Shetland, and the Western Isles in Highlands and Islands Fire and Rescue Service. Northern, as in Northern Constabulary, refers to the same area as that covered by the fire and rescue service.
Since prehistoric times there have been a number of crossings from the Scottish Lowlands to the Highlands. A number of these routes are traversals of the Mounth, a spur of mountainous land that extends from the higher inland range to the North Sea slightly north of Stonehaven. Some of the most well known and historically important trackways are the Causey Mounth, Elsick Mounth, Cryne Corse Mounth and Cairnamounth.
The Scottish Highlands lie to the north and west of the Highland Boundary Fault, which runs from Arran to Stonehaven. This part of Scotland is largely composed of ancient rocks from the Cambrian and Precambrian periods which were uplifted during the later Caledonian Orogeny. Smaller formations of Lewisian gneiss in the north west are up to 3,000 million years old and amongst the oldest found anywhere on Earth. These foundations are interspersed with many igneous intrusions of a more recent age, the remnants of which have formed mountain massifs such as the Cairngorms and Skye Cuillin. A significant exception to the above are the fossil-bearing beds of Old Red Sandstones found principally along the Moray Firth coast. The Great Glen is a rift valley which divides the Grampian Mountains to the southeast from the Northwest Highlands.
The entire region was covered by ice sheets during the Pleistocene ice ages, save perhaps for a few nunataks (A peak of resistant rock of sufficient height that it rises above the ice sheet like an island and thus escapes the effects of glaciation.)
The last glacial period was the most recent glacial period within the current ice age occurring during the Pleistocene from ~110,000—10,000 years ago, a period of ~0.1 million years. During this period there were several changes between glacier advance and retreat. The maximum extent of glaciation was approximately 18,000 years ago. While the general pattern of global cooling and glacier advance was similar, local differences in the development of glacier advance and retreat make it difficult to compare the details from continent to continent .
The complex geomorphology includes incised valleys and lochs carved by the action of mountain streams and ice, and a topography of irregularly distributed mountains whose summits have similar heights above sea-level, but whose bases depend upon the amount of denudation to which the plateau has been subjected in various places.
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