Main image on top: Langwell Water with Caithness mountains beyond (Credit: Mark Ferguson / Alamy Stock Photo/2HC1EPB)

A powerful flow of ice exiting the Moray Firth crossed Caithness during the last glaciation as it moved towards the edge of the North Atlantic shelf. As a result, Caithness carries an impressive array of glacial landforms and deposits. The county was of key importance to 19th century debates about the relative importance of sea ice and glacier ice in moulding the terrain. In the late 20th century, Caithness was at the centre of controversy over the extent of the last ice sheet in Scotland.

Conventionally, glacial landforms are classified according to

  • origin, either formed by ice (glacial) or meltwater (glacifluvial)
  • origin, either products of erosion or deposition
  • position relative to the former ice, whether subglacial, englacial, supraglacial or ice marginal or in front of the ice (proglacial).

We will adopt this simple classification here to describe the glacial landforms and sediments in Caithness.

Classic paper on the glaciation of Caithness.

Peach, B.N., Horne, J., 1881. The glaciation of Caithness. Proceedings of the Royal Physical Society of Edinburgh 6, 316-352.

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