Highlands and Islands
The Highlands and Islands of Scotland is one of the most stunning areas of natural beauty on the planet and is frequently placed in the top five most desirable places to live in the UK.
- 373,000 population
- 39,050 square kilometres of land
- 9,000 kilometres of coast
- 1000 square kilometres of inland lochs
- 90 inhabited islands
Inverness, the region’s capital, is the largest settlement with more than 55,000 people.
The wider Inverness area, the 'Moray Firth' (Nairn, Inverness, Dingwall, Alness and Invergordon), contains approximately 70,000 people.
Fort William, situated at the foot of Ben Nevis, Scotland’s highest mountain, is the second largest settlement.
Sixty one percent of Highlands and Islands residents live in rural areas or settlements of fewer than 5000 people.
The people and heritage of the modern Highlands and Islands have been influenced by different cultures over the last 2,000 years.
In the Northern Isles (Shetland and Orkney), the influence of Norse ancestors is still evident in buildings, arts and local dialect.
The Gaelic culture is evident throughout much of the Highlands mainland and the Western Isles.
In the east of the Highland and Islands, around the Moray Firth, Doric (Grampian and Aberdeenshire) culture has influenced local language.
The economic base of the Highlands and Islands is characterised by the continuing importance of primary industries such as agriculture, forestry and fishing.
Energy, particularly renewable energy, and water are important industries.
New activities in key technology industries such as medical products and pharmaceuticals, contrast with traditional sectors such as oil-related engineering and textiles.
The service sector accounts for over two thirds of employment and is characterised by the importance of tourism and public administration.
The region typically sees about 2000 start-up businesses every year.
Travelling to and from the Highlands and Islands
Transport connections to and within the region are good.
The A9 serves as the main road north from Glasgow and Edinburgh, and Inverness is about a three-hour drive from both cities.
A widespread train network runs across the region operated by Scotrail.
Inverness airport connects with Edinburgh, Glasgow, London, Manchester and Birmingham in the UK and within the region with Kirkwall (Orkney), Sumburgh (Shetland), Stornoway (Lewis) and Benbecula.
Glasgow airport operates flights to the islands of Islay, Barra and Tiree.
International flights from Inverness airport take you to Bulgaria, Croatia, Italy, Malta, Spain, Switzerland, Germany and Portugal.
There is an extensive ferry service covering the islands. The main operators are Caledonian Macbrayne (for the Hebrides) and Northlink (for Orkney and Shetland).