Lay of the Land
Culturally and historically, the Highlands are tantamount to Gaelic-speaking Scotland. Geographically, they are a vast and lonely sweep of crags, bogs, lochs and glens that reach northwest from the rugged Grampian Mountains, comprising one of the most sparsely populated territories in all of Europe. Though the region’s eastern periphery resists orderly delineation, Highlands and Lowlands are theoretically divided by the Highland Boundary Fault, which bisects Scotland on a diagonal, running from the Isle of Arran to Aberdeen.
Somewhat confusingly, while “Highland” is the name of one of Scotland’s thirty-two administrative subdivisions, the “Scottish Highlands” traditionally span a larger area, spilling over into the subdivisions of Moray, Perth and Kinross, Stirling, Argyll and Bute and Na h’-Eileanan Siar (as the still predominantly Gaelic-speaking Western Isles are known). Thus the Highlands extend west from the whisky distilleries and salmon fisheries of Speyside to the baronial estates of the Great Glen to the abandoned crofters’ cottages of the Outer Hebrides – emerging as one great green wilderness flecked with drowsy flocks of flaxen sheep.