Facts About Scotland's Five Longest Rivers

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Scotland is a nation of water, from it's seven thousand, three hundred and thirty four mile coastline bordering the Irish Sea, the North Sea and the Atlantic Ocean, to it's six thousand strong river network,over three hundred and forty square miles of fre

Scotland is a nation of water, from it's seven thousand, three hundred and thirty four mile coastline bordering the Irish Sea, the North Sea and the Atlantic Ocean, to it's six thousand strong river network, three hundred and forty square miles of freshwater lochs, ten vast firths (bays) and a one hundred and thirty seven mile long canal system, all contained within it's thirty thousand square mile mainland. 

               Below I have compiled a small fact file on each of Scotland's five longest rivers. 


The River Tay – Abhainn Tatha – is the United Kingdom’s seventh longest river and Scotland’s longest river at one hundred and twenty miles long. The River Tay has the largest catchment of all the British rivers with a catchment area of three thousand, one hundred and six square miles.

For more information about this vast river, read my indepth article -  facts-about-the-river-tay-uk 


The River Spey – Uisge Spe – is the United Kindgom’s eighth longest river and Scotland’s second longest river at one hundred and nine miles long and a catchment area of 1,097 square miles.

The river starts life one thousand feet up on the Monadhliath Mountains in the Corrieyairack Forest in the Cairngorms National Park, where it drains from Loch Spey, traveling at first in a northerly direction before setting an easterly course, passing through Lochs Ericht, Garten, Insh and Marlich on the way to it’s mouth at Spey Bay on Scotland’s largest firth (bay), the twenty thousand square mile Moray Firth.

For eighty miles of it’s route the river is followed by the Speyside Way walking path, situated  between Aviemore and Buckie. 

The river passes through the Scottish towns of Aberlour, Aviemore, Ballindalloch, Carron, Fochabers, Garmouth,Inverdrurie, Kincraig, Kingston – on – Spey, Kingussie and Rothes.

The river has several tributaries, the major ones being the rivers – Aberlour, Avon, Calder, Dulnain, Feshie, Fiddich, Livet, Nethy and Truim. 

The river has eighteen bridges of note, the oldest being the two arched stone bridge at Garvamore built in 1731, a three arched stone bridge near Laggan built in 1754, a two arched stone bridge at Fochabers built in 1806, Thomas Telford’s cast iron, rail bridge at Craigellachie built in 1814, and a cast metal, three lattice girdered viaduct near Garmouth built in 1883, formerly a rail bridge but now a foot path along the Speyside Way.

There is also an interesting three arched, concrete bridge, built in 1950, spanning the Spey Dam Resevoir at Lagan in Inverness – shire.

The clear, fresh Highland spring water which flows within the River Spey has led to the Speyside area becoming home to half  the whiskey distilleries in Scotland, giving the whole area the name of Scotland’s Whiskey Trail. The area is home to fifty nine distilleries, including the internationally reknowned Cardhu, Glenfiddich and Glenlivet distilleries.  

The river also passes the estates of the fifteenth century Gordon Castle near Fochabers in the Royal Burgh of Moray and the sixteenth century Ballindalloch Castle at Ballindalloch in Banffshire.

The river’s name comes from the Brythonic language and means hawthorn. 


The River Clyde - Abhainn Chluaidh - is the United Kingdom's ninth longest river and Scotland's third longest river at one hundred and seven miles long, with a catchment area of 1,988 square miles.

The river's source is situated in the Lowther Hills in South Lanarkshire where it goes on to flow in a north, westerly direction before arriving at it's mouth on the one thousand, five hundred and forty four square mile basin on the twenty six mile wide Firth of Clyde.

The river flows through Scotland's most populated region as it passes through the towns of Bathwell, Cardcross, Dunbarton, Greenock, Hamilton, Helensburgh, Lanark, Motherwell and Renfrew, Scotland's largest city, Glasgow and the UNESCO World Heritage village of New Lanark. 

The river is served by seventy two rail, road and foot bridges, the oldest of which is the South Portland Suspension Bridge built in 1853 and the youngest is the Tradeston Bridge in Glasgow, built in 2009. 

The river has thirty eight tributaries, including the rivers Leven, Kelvin and Nethan and the Black Cart Water, White Cart Water, the Avon Water and the North Calder Water and South Calder Water.

Some of the course of the river is followed by the thirty nine mile long Clyde Walkway, situated between Lanark and Dunbarton.

The river also feeds part of the thirty five mile long, Forth and Clyde Canal, situated between Bowling in West Dunbartonshire and the Firth of Forth.The canal is served by thirty nine lochs and was completed in 1769.

Other impressive features of the river include the four waterfalls of Bonnington Linn, Cora Linn, Dundaff Linn and Stonebyres Linn all situated in South Lanarkshire, The two thousand, five hundred foot long Clyde Tunnel which links the A739 road between Whiteinch and Govan, and the ten and a half mile long Glasgow Subway system built in 1896, the world's third oldest metro system.

The river also passes the historical sites of the ancient Dunbarton Castle, the fifteenth century Newark Castle at Port Glasgow and the twelth century Bothwell Castle in South Lanarkshire.



The River Tweed – Abhainn Thuaidh – is Scotland’s fourth longest river at ninety eight miles long with a catchment area of 1,500 square miles.

The river rises at Tweeds Well at Tweedsmuir in Lanarkshire, Scotland and travels at first in a northerly direction before changing course to an easterly direction before it arrives at it’s river mouth on the North Sea at Berwick – upon – Tweed in England.

The river is synonomous for being the only river in the UK that does not need a rod licence to fish it and for being the U.K’s most prolific salmon river. 

The river flows through the Scottish Borders towns of Coldstream, Cornhill – on – Tweed, Galashiels, Kelso, Melrose and Peebles. 

The river has several tributaries, the largest being the rivers – Ettrick, Teviot, Till and Yarrow and the Gala Water, Holmes Water, Leader Water and Lyne Water.

The river is spanned by thirteen bridges of note, the oldest being a fifteen arched, red sandstone bridge at Berwick built in 1634.

Other bridges of note include The Melrose Chain Bridge built in 1826, a seven arched stone bridge at Coldstream built in 1763, the Dryburgh Suspension Bridge built in 1817, a seven arched, stone bridge between Ladykirk in Scotland and Norham in England built in 1888, the Union Bridge built in 1820, situated between Horncliffe in England and Fishwick in Scotland, which is now part of the Pennine Cycleway and the majestic Royal Tweed Bridge at Berwick – upon – Tweed built in 1928.

The whole area surrounding the River Tweed is a special area of conservation (SAC).  

The river passes the historical sites of the twelth century Dryburgh, Kelso and Melrose Abbeys,  the thirteenth century Neidpath Castle at Peebles,  the eighteenth century Floors Castle at Kelso, the twelth century Norham Castle at Bamburgh and the twelth century Berwick Castle at Berwick – upon - Tweed.  


Scotland’s River Dee in Aberdeenshire – Uisge De – is one of two Scottish rivers which go by the name of Dee.

At eighty seven miles long and with a catchment area of 1,242 square miles, Aberdeenshire's River Dee is Scotland’s fifth longest river.

For a more indepth write up about this river and Britain's three other River Dees, read my article -   


                                            You may also be interested in my article -  


                                           All Images courtesy of wikimedia commons

1) Smeaton’s Bridge over the River Tay at Perth.

2) The Tradeston Bridge over the River Clyde in Glasgow.

3) The River Spey at Aberlour, courtesy of Anne Burgess.

4) The Royal Tweed Bridge at Berwick – upon – Tweed.

5) The River Dee at Braemar. 

6) Title image -  The Firth of Clyde.


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