The Scottish Highlands is a historical region of northern Scotland - generally, it is used to refer to the area north and west of the Highland Boundary Fault although the exact boundaries are not defined. Scotland is often split into the Highland and the Lowlands - the vast bulk of the Scottish population lives in the Lowlands with the Highlands being dominated by mountains, glens, and lochs.
If one really wants to come and explore the best of the Scottish countryside, then the Scottish Highlands is an indefensible part of one's itinerary. Many of the hidden gems in Scotland are in the Highlands even though it has only one city of about 50,000.
Definition of The Highlands And How they Differ From The Lowlands
There is no set definition of the Highlands some will include many Scottish isles like the Orkney Isles, Outer Hebrides, and the Isle of Islay and the surrounding peninsulas while others won't. Population estimates for the Highlands range from 234,000 to 600,000 reflecting on the lack of consensus on what exactly is the Highlands. Wikipedia has the larger definition, while Scotland.org has the narrower one.
- Major Scottish Regions: Highlands and Lowlands
Go do Scotland and one will find the divide between the Highlands and the Lowlands is a real thing. In the broadest sense, the Lowlands are the southern half of Scotland - with the coastal city of Aberdeen not really fitting into either half. In the Lowlands, the Borders (close to the border with England) is often also spoken of as a different region.
- Highland Population: 234,000 - 600,000 (Depending on the Definition of The Highlands)
- Lowland Population: 5 Million
The Highlands and the Lowlands culturally diverged from each other in the later Middle Ages into the modern period. It was when Lowland Scots (English) replaced Scottish Gaelic throughout most of the Lowlands.
Through the "clearances" much of the population was forced out of the Highlands in search of work and many emigrated. The massive imbalance in population between the Highlands and the Lowlands was not always so stark.
The Highlands Today
Today the Highlands are very sparsely populated and are dominated by many mountain ranges. It was here that Mel Gibson's take on the history of Scotland in the movie Braveheart was filmed.
- Harry Potter: Parts of The Harry Potter Movies Were Filmed in The Highlands
The Highlands are home to the highest mountain in the British Isles (Ben Nevis) and most of the offshore islands (depending on the definition of "Highlands"). It's the Highlands where some of the most famous whiskey distilleries in Scotland are found today.
- Distilleries: There Are Around 47 Distilleries Spread Across the Region
Of the 47 distilleries found in this region, 30 are on the mainland and 17 on the Islands sub-region.
The main city in the Highlands is the northerly city of Inverness (population around 50,000).
The Scottish Highlands is also the only part of the British Isles to feature a taiga biome as it has a concentration of Scots pine forests. The weather is cold and wet in the winter (and just most of the time) so plan to come in the summer months.
The Highlands is also on the isles of the Highlands where the Scots still speak Scottish Gaelic. It is said at three languages are spoken in the Highlands - English, Scots, and Gaelic (although that depends if one considered Scots to be an English dialect or another language).
Why Visit the Highlands?
While much of the Lowlands is more cosmopolitan, the Scottish Highlands is much more the Scotland of many people's imagination. Here one will find hospitable people, mind-blowing landscapes, and the aforementioned distilleries on the isles.
In the Lowlands, one will find the major city of Glasgow and the stunning and historic city of Edinborough. But the Highlands are mostly without cities and one goes for the outdoors and the small rural communities there.
In the Highlands, one will find the most famous of Scottish lakes - Loch Ness as well as Britain's largest National Park.
- Loch Ness Monster: The Loch Ness Monster is a Highlander
- Loch Ness: The Lake (aka "Loch") Holds More Fresh Water than All The lakes In England and Wales Combined
The Highlands indisputably has some of the UK's most stunning scenery. One will be spoilt with wonderful walks in the summer and ice climbing, skiing, and snowboarding in the winter.
Isle of Skye: The Isle of Skye is famous the world over and is teeming with incredible outdoor spots to explore. See the "fairy pools", the Cuillin mountain ranges, and the "Old Man of Storr". See why people flock from far and while to see this most stunning of Scotland's isles.
- Visit: Be Sure To Visit The Isle of Skye
The Isle of Skye is one of Scotland's most famous destinations and is the largest and northernmost of the major islands in the Inner Hebrides.