Ross lies south of Sutherland and the Dornoch Firth, west of the North Sea and the Moray Firth, north of the Beauly Firth and Inverness-shire and east of The Minch. There are also a number of small islands off the area's west coast, among which are:
- Gillean (lighthouse) in the parish of Lochalsh
- Crowlin Islands in Applecross
- Eilean Horrisdale, and Isle of Ewe in Gairloch parish
- Isle Martin and Tanera More, of the Summer Isles group in the parish of Lochbroom
The area of the mainland comprises 1,572,332 acres (636,300 ha).
On the North Sea (eastern side) of the area the major firths are the Beauly Firth and the (Inner) Moray Firth, which mark off the Black Isle from Inverness-shire, the Cromarty Firth, which bounds the districts of Easter Ross and the Black Isle, the Moray Firth, separating Easter Ross from Nairnshire, and the Dornoch Firth, dividing north-east Ross from Sutherland.
On the Atlantic (western) coastline—which has a length of nearly 311 miles (501 km)—the principal sea lochs and bays, from south to north, include Loch Duich, Loch Alsh, Loch Carron, Loch Kishorn, Loch Torridon, Loch Shieldaig, Upper Loch Torridon, Gair Loch, Loch Ewe, Gruinard Bay, Loch Broom and Enard Bay.
The chief capes include Tarbat Ness on the east coast, and Coigach, Greenstone Point, Rubha Reidh, Redpoint and Hamha Point on the west.
Almost all the southern boundary with Inverness-shire consists of a rampart of peaks, many of them Munros:
- An Riabhachan (3,704 ft/1,129 m),
- Sgurr na Lapaich (3,773 ft/1,150 m),
- Carn Eige (Càrn Eighe) (3,881 ft/1,183 m),
- Mam Sodhail (Mam Soul) (3,871 ft/1,180 m),
- Beinn Fhada (Ben Attow) (3,386 ft/1,032 m),
- Sgurr Fhuaran (3,504 ft/1,068 m),
- The Saddle (3,317 ft/1,011 m).
To the north of Glen Torridon are the masses of Liathach (3,455 ft/1,053 m), Beinn Eighe (3,313 ft/1,010 m), Beinn Alligin (3,235 ft/986 m) and Beinn Dearg (2,998 ft/914 m). On the northeastern shore of Loch Maree rises Slioch (3,219 ft/981 m), while the Fannich group contains six Munros, the highest being Sgurr Mor (3,645 ft/1,111 m). The immense isolated bulk of Ben Wyvis (3,428 ft/1,045 m), forms the most noteworthy feature in the north-east, and An Teallach (3,484 ft/1,062 m) in the north-west appears equally conspicuous, though less solitary. Only a small fraction of the west and south of the area is under 1,000 ft (300 m) in height. Easter Ross and the peninsula of the Black Isle are comparatively level.
The longest stream of the mainland portion of Ross and Cromarty is the River Orrin, which rises from the slopes of An Sidhean (2,671 ft/814 m) and pursues a north-easterly course to its confluence with the River Conon after a run of about 26 miles (42 km), during a small part of which it forms the boundary with Inverness-shire. At Aultgowrie the stream rushes through a narrow gorge where the drop is considerable enough to make the Falls of Orrin. The River Blackwater flows from mountains in Strathvaich southeast for 18 miles (29 km) until it joins the Conon, forming soon after it leaves Loch Garve the small but picturesque Falls of Rogie. Within a short distance of its exit from Loch Luichart the Conon pours over a series of graceful cascades and rapids and then pursues a winding course of 12 miles (19 km), mainly eastward to the head of the Cromarty Firth. Situated above Glen Elchaig in the southwest of the region are the Falls of Glomach. The stream giving rise to them drains a series of small lochs on the northern flanks of Beinn Fhada (Ben Attow) and, in an almost unbroken sheet over a metre in width, effects a sheer drop of 110 m, and soon afterwards ends its course in Glen Elchaig. The falls are usually visited from Invershiel 11 km to the south-west. 12 miles south-east of Ullapool, on the estate of Braemore, are the Falls of Measach, formed by the Droma, a headstream of the River Broom. The cascades, three in number, are close to Corrieshalloch Gorge. The River Oykel, throughout its course, forms the boundary with Sutherland.
There are many freshwater lochs, the largest being Loch Maree. In the far north-west, 243 ft (74 m) above the sea, lies Loch Sionascaig, a loch of such irregularity of outline that it has a shore-line of 17 miles (27 km). It contains several wooded islands, and drains into Enard Bay by the River Polly. Lochan Fada (the long loch), 1,000 ft (300 m) above the sea, is 4 miles (6.4 km) in length, and covers an area of 1,112 acres (450 ha), and is 42 fathoms (77 m) deep, with a mean depth of 17 fathoms (31 m). Once drained by the Muice (Allt na Muice), it has been tapped a little farther west by the Abhainn na Fhasaigh, which has lowered the level of the loch. Other lochs are Fionn Loch (the white or clear lake), 8 miles (13 km) long by 1 mile (1.6 km) wide, famous for its herons, Loch Luichart towards the centre of the area (8 miles long and between 0.5–1 mile (0.8–1.6 km) wide), fringed with birches and having the shape of a crescent, the mountain-girt Loch Fannich (1 mile wide); and the wild narrow Lochs Monar (4 mi/6.4 km long) and Mullardoch (5 mi/8.0 km long), on the Inverness-shire boundary.
Of the straths or valleys the more important run from the centre eastwards, such as Strathconon, Strathbran, Strathgarve, Strathpeffer and Strathcarron. Excepting Glen Orrin, in the east central district, the longer glens lie in the south and towards the west. In the extreme south Glen Shiel runs between five mountains (The Five Sisters of Kintail to its mouth on Loch Duich. The A87 passes down the glen. Further north lie Glen Elchaig, Glen Carron, and Glen Torridon. The railway from Dingwall runs through Glen Carron to Kyle of Lochalsh.
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