The Highlands (Scots: the Hielands; Scottish Gaelic: A’
Ghàidhealtachd pronounced [ə ɣɛːəl̪ˠt̪ʰəxk], "the
place of the Gaels") are a historic region of Scotland. Culturally,
the Highlands and the Lowlands diverged from the later Middle Ages
into the modern period, when Lowland Scots replaced Scottish Gaelic
throughout most of the Lowlands. The term is also used for the area
north and west of the Highland Boundary Fault, although the exact
boundaries are not clearly defined, particularly to the east. The
Great Glen divides the
Grampian Mountains to the southeast from the
Northwest Highlands. The
Scottish Gaelic name of A' Ghàidhealtachd
literally means "the place of the Gaels" and traditionally, from a
Gaelic-speaking point of view, includes both the
Western Isles and the
The area is very sparsely populated, with many mountain ranges
dominating the region, and includes the highest mountain in the
British Isles, Ben Nevis. Before the 19th century the Highlands was
home to a much larger population, but due to a combination of factors
including the outlawing of the traditional Highland way of life
following the Jacobite Rising of 1745, the infamous Highland
Clearances, and mass migration to urban areas during the Industrial
Revolution, the area is now one of the most sparsely populated in
Europe. At 9.1 per km2 in 2012, the population density in the
Highlands and Islands
Highlands and Islands is less than one seventh of Scotland's as a
whole, comparable with that of Bolivia,
Chad and Russia.
Highland Council is the administrative body for much of the
Highlands, with its administrative centre at Inverness. However, the
Highlands also includes parts of the council areas of Aberdeenshire,
Angus, Argyll and Bute, Moray, North Ayrshire, Perth and Kinross,
Stirling and West Dunbartonshire.
The Scottish highlands is the only area in the
British Isles to have
the taiga biome as it features concentrated populations of Scots pine
forest: see Caledonian Forest.
2 Historical geography
Highland Council area
2.2 Highlands and Islands
2.3 Historical crossings
2.4 Courier delivery
4 Places of interest
6 See also
8 Further reading
9 External links
The main geographical divisions of Scotland
Battle of Alma,
Between the 15th century and the 20th century, the area differed from
most of the Lowlands in terms of language. In Scottish Gaelic, the
region is known as the Gàidhealtachd, because it was traditionally
the Gaelic-speaking part of Scotland, although the language is now
largely confined to The Hebrides. The terms are sometimes used
interchangeably but have different meanings in their respective
Scottish English (in its Highland form) is the predominant
language of the area today, though
Highland English has been
influenced by Gaelic speech to a significant extent. Historically,
the "Highland line" distinguished the two Scottish cultures. While the
Highland line broadly followed the geography of the Grampians in the
south, it continued in the north, cutting off the north-eastern areas,
that is Caithness,
Orkney and Shetland, from the more Gaelic Highlands
In the aftermath of the Jacobite risings, the British government
enacted a series of laws to try to speed up the destruction of the
clan system, including bans on the bearing of arms and the wearing of
tartan, and limitations on the activities of the Scottish Episcopal
Church. Most of this legislation was repealed by the end of the 18th
century as the Jacobite threat subsided. There was soon a
rehabilitation of Highland culture.
Tartan was adopted for Highland
regiments in the British Army, which poor Highlanders joined in large
numbers in the era of the Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars
Tartan had largely been abandoned by the ordinary
people of the region, but in the 1820s, tartan and the kilt were
adopted by members of the social elite, not just in Scotland, but
across Europe. The international craze for tartan, and for
idealising a romanticised Highlands, was set off by the Ossian
cycle, and further popularised by the works of Walter Scott.
His "staging" of the visit of King George IV to
Scotland in 1822 and
the king's wearing of tartan resulted in a massive upsurge in demand
for kilts and tartans that could not be met by the Scottish woollen
industry. Individual clan tartans were largely designated in this
period and they became a major symbol of Scottish identity. This
"Highlandism", by which all of
Scotland was identified with the
culture of the Highlands, was cemented by Queen Victoria's interest in
the country, her adoption of Balmoral as a major royal retreat, and
her interest in "tartenry".
The Highlands before 1800 were very poor and traditional, and were not
much affected by the uplift of the
Scottish Enlightenment or the
Industrial Revolution that was sweeping the Lowlands of Scotland. The
period of the Napoleonic wars brought prosperity, optimism, and
economic growth to the Highlands. The economy grew thanks to wages
paid in industries such as kelping (in which kelp was burned for the
useful chemicals obtained from the ashes), fisheries, and weaving, as
well as large-scale infrastructure spending such as the Caledonian
Canal project. On the East Coast, farmlands were improved, and
high prices for cattle brought money to the area. Service in the Army
was also attractive to young men from the Highlands, who sent pay home
and retired there with their army pensions. This prosperity ended
after 1815, and long-term negative factors began to undermine the
economic position of the poor tenant farmers, who typically rented a
few acres, and were known as crofters. Landowners were increasingly
market-oriented in the century after 1750, and this tended to dissolve
the traditional social and economic structure of the North-West
Highlands and the Hebrides, causing great disruption for the crofters.
Highland Clearances and the end of the township system followed
changes in land ownership and tenancy and the replacement of cattle by
sheep. The Great Irish Famine of the 1840s was caused by a plant
disease that reached the Highlands in 1846, causing great distress.
Many Highlanders emigrated in a complex form of chain migration. Clan
leaders would designate which young people should emigrate, where to,
and in which order. The first arrivals would prepare the way for their
kinsmen who continued to arrive in the chain migration.
The unequal concentration of land ownership remained an emotional and
controversial subject, of enormous importance to the Highland economy,
and eventually became a cornerstone of liberal radicalism. The poor
crofters were politically powerless, and many of them turned to
religion. They embraced the popularly oriented, fervently evangelical
Presbyterian revival after 1800. Most joined the breakaway "Free
Church" after 1843. This evangelical movement was led by lay preachers
who themselves came from the lower strata, and whose preaching was
implicitly critical of the established order. The religious change
energised the crofters and separated them from the landlords; it
helped prepare them for their successful and violent challenge to the
landlords in the 1880s through the Highland Land League. Violence
erupted, starting on the Isle of Skye, when Highland landlords cleared
their lands for sheep and deer parks. It was quietened when the
government stepped in, passing the Crofters' Holdings (Scotland) Act,
1886 to reduce rents, guarantee fixity of tenure, and break up large
estates to provide crofts for the homeless. This contrasted with
Irish Land War
Irish Land War under way at the same time, where the Irish were
intensely politicised through roots in Irish nationalism, while
political dimensions were limited. In 1885 three Independent Crofter
candidates were elected to Parliament, which listened to their pleas.
The results included explicit security for the Scottish smallholders;
the legal right to bequeath tenancies to descendants; and the creation
of a Crofting Commission. The Crofters as a political movement faded
away by 1892, and the Liberal Party gained their votes.
Scottish Reformation achieved partial success in the Highlands.
Roman Catholicism remained strong in some areas, owing to remote
locations and the efforts of
Franciscan missionaries from Ireland, who
regularly came to celebrate Mass. Although the presence of Roman
Catholicism has faded, there remain significant Catholic strongholds
Highlands and Islands
Highlands and Islands such as
Morar on the
South Uist and
Barra in the southern Outer Hebrides. The
remoteness of the region and the lack of a Gaelic-speaking clergy
undermined the missionary efforts of the established church. The later
18th century saw somewhat greater success, owing to the efforts of the
SSPCK missionaries and to the disruption of traditional society after
Battle of Culloden
Battle of Culloden in 1746. In the 19th century, the evangelical
Free Churches, which were more accepting of Gaelic language and
culture, grew rapidly, appealing much more strongly than did the
For the most part, however, the Highlands are considered predominantly
Protestant, loyal to the Church of Scotland. In contrast to the
Catholic southern islands, the northern
Outer Hebrides islands (Lewis,
Harris and North Uist) have an exceptionally high proportion of their
population belonging to the Protestant Free Church of
Scotland or the
Free Presbyterian Church of Scotland. The
Outer Hebrides have been
described as the last bastion of
Calvinism in Britain and the
Sabbath remains widely observed.
Inverness and the surrounding area
has a majority Protestant population, with most locals belonging to
either The Kirk or the Free Church of Scotland. The church maintains a
noticeable presence within the area, with church attendance notably
higher than in other Scottish cities. Religion continues to play an
important role in Highland culture, with Sabbath observance still
widely practised, particularly in the Hebrides.
Inverness, the administrative centre and traditional capital of the
Ben Nevis from the path to the CIC Hut alongside the Allt a' Mhuilinn
In traditional Scottish geography, the Highlands refers to that part
Scotland north-west of the Highland Boundary Fault, which crosses
Scotland in a near-straight line from
Stonehaven. However the flat coastal lands that occupy parts of the
counties of Nairnshire, Morayshire,
often excluded as they do not share the distinctive geographical and
cultural features of the rest of the Highlands. The north-east of
Caithness, as well as
Orkney and Shetland, are also often excluded
from the Highlands, although the
Hebrides are usually included. The
Highland area, as so defined, differed from the Lowlands in language
and tradition, having preserved Gaelic speech and customs centuries
after the anglicisation of the latter; this 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. In Aberdeenshire, the boundary between the Highlands and the
Lowlands is not well defined. There is a stone beside the A93 road
near the village of
Dinnet on Royal Deeside which states 'You are now
in the Highlands', although there are areas of Highland character to
the east of this point.
A much wider definition of the Highlands is that used by the Scotch
Highland Single Malts
Highland Single Malts are produced at distilleries
north of an imaginary line between
Dundee and Greenock, thus
including all of
Aberdeenshire and Angus.
Inverness is traditionally regarded as the capital of the
Highlands, although less so in the Highland parts of
Stirlingshire which look more to
Stirling as their commercial centres.
Under some of the wider definitions in use,
Aberdeen could be
considered the largest city in the Highlands, although it does not
share the recent Gaelic cultural history typical of the Highlands
Highland Council area
Highland Council area, created as one of the local government
regions of Scotland, has been a unitary council area since 1996. The
council area excludes a large area 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
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
Highland Council signs in the Pass of Drumochter, between Glen Garry
and Dalwhinnie, say "Welcome to the Highlands".
Highlands and Islands
Isle of Skye
Much of the Highlands area overlaps the
Highlands and Islands
Highlands and Islands area. An
electoral region called
Highlands and Islands
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
Argyll and Bute and
Moray local government areas.
Highlands and Islands
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
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.
There have been trackways from the Lowlands to the Highlands since
prehistoric times. Many traverse the Mounth, a spur of mountainous
land that extends from the higher inland range to the North Sea
slightly north of Stonehaven. The most well-known and historically
important trackways are the Causey Mounth, Elsick Mounth, Cryne
Mounth and Cairnamounth.
Although most of the Highlands is geographically on the British
mainland, it is somewhat less accessible than the rest of Britain;
thus most UK couriers categorise it separately, alongside Northern
Ireland, the Isle of Man, and other offshore islands. They thus charge
additional fees for delivery to the Highlands, or exclude the area
entirely. Whilst the physical remoteness from the largest population
centres inevitably leads to higher transit cost, there is confusion
and consternation over the scale of the fees charged and the
effectiveness of their communication, and the use of the word
Mainland in their justification. Since the charges are often based on
postcode areas, many far less remote areas, including some which are
traditionally considered part of the lowlands, are also subject to
Royal Mail is the only delivery network bound by a
Universal Service Obligation to charge a uniform tariff across the UK.
This, however, applies only to mail items and not larger packages
which are dealt with by its
Liathach seen from Beinn Eighe. With the Munro "Top" of Stuc a' Choire
Dhuibh Bhig 915 m (3,001 ft) in the foreground and the two Munro
summits in the background.
The main ridge of the Cuillin
The Highlands lie to the north and west of the Highland Boundary
Fault, which runs from Arran to Stonehaven. This part of
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 northwest are up to 3
billion years old. The overlying rocks of the Torridon Sandstone form
mountains in the
Torridon Hills such as
Beinn Eighe in
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 the
Cuillin of Skye. A significant
exception to the above are the fossil-bearing beds of Old Red
Sandstone found principally along the
Moray Firth coast and partially
down the Highland Boundary Fault. The
Jurassic beds found in isolated
Applecross reflect the complex underlying
geology. They are the original source of much
North Sea oil. The Great
Glen is formed along a transform fault which divides the Grampian
Mountains to the southeast from the Northwest Highlands.
The entire region was covered by ice sheets during the
ages, save perhaps for a few nunataks. 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.
Places of interest
A83 road, Rest and Be Thankful stretch
Aonach Mòr (Nevis Range ski centre)
Battlefield of Culloden
Ben Cruachan hydro-electric power station
Ben Macdui (Scotland's (and the United Kingdom's) second highest
Ben Nevis (Scotland's (and the United Kingdom's) highest mountain)
Cairngorm National Park
Cairngorm Ski centre near Aviemore
Fingal's Cave (Staffa)
Glenshee Ski Centre
Glenfinnan (and its railway station and viaduct)
Highland Folk Museum- The first open-air museum in the UK.
Highland Wildlife Park
Isle of Staffa
Lecht Ski Centre
Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park
Meall a' Bhuiridh
Meall a' Bhuiridh (Glencoe Ski Centre)
Scottish Sea Life Sanctuary at
Ross and Cromarty
Stob Coire a' Chàirn
West Highland Line
West Highland Line (The most scenic railway in Britain)
West Highland Way
West Highland Way (Long distance footpath)
Glenfinnan Viaduct from below.
Loch Scavaig, Isle of Skye
The islands of
The interior of Smoo Cave, Sutherland
Cape Wrath Lighthouse in the far NW of the Highlands
The Kyle of Durness
The Quirang, Isle of Skye
Two hinds in the Highlands
Loch an Lòin
Wikimedia Commons has media related to Highlands.
Fauna of Scotland
Highland Land League
James Hunter (historian), an historian who wrote several books related
to the Scottish Highlands
List of fauna of the Scottish Highlands
List of towns and villages in the Scottish Highlands
Mountains and hills of Scotland
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Baxter, Colin, and C. J. Tabraham. The
Scottish Highlands (2008),
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Humphreys, Rob, and Donald Reid. The Rough Guide to Scottish Highlands
and Islands (3rd ed. 2004)
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Kermack, William Ramsay. The Scottish Highlands: a short history, c.
Lister, John Anthony. The
Scottish Highlands (1978)
Am Baile – Highland History & Culture in English and Gaelic
Community portal site – EU and local authority supported
National Library of Scotland: SCOTTISH SCREEN ARCHIVE (selection of
archive films relating to the Scottish Highlands)
Lairds of Battle - Warfare in the Highlands in the sixteenth and
Garnett, Thomas (1800) Observations on a tour through the Highlands
and part of the western isles and Scotland, particularly
Icolmkill, in two volumes - from the Linda Hall Library
List of topics
Early Middle Ages
High Middle Ages
Wars of Independence
Late Middle Ages
Colonisation of the Americas
1707 Acts of Union
Mountains and hills
Secretary of State
College of Justice
Bank of Scotland
North Sea oil
Royal Bank of Scotland
Inventions and discoveries
Royal National Mòd
coat of arms
World Heritage Sites
British Sign Language
Church of Scotland
Scottish Episcopal Church
List of tartans
Clans with chiefs
Fraser of Lovat
Macdonald of Clanranald
MacDonald of Keppoch
Macdonald of Sleat
MacDonell of Glengarry
Maclaine of Lochbuie
MacLeod of Lewis
Stuart of Bute
Campbell of Breadalbane
Campbell of Cawdor
Stewart of Appin
Culture and society
Court of the Lord Lyon
Battle of Culloden
Lowland Scots language
Scottish Gaelic language
Independent Highland Companies
Coordinates: 57°07′N 4°43′W / 57.12°N 4.71°W / 57.12;