Despite regionalisation in 1974 and later changes in local government to form the present 'Councils', people still refer to the historic counties. This is particularly true of the five mainland 'Crofter Counties' - Argyll, Inverness-shire, Ross & Cromarty, Sutherland and Caithness.
The most southerly, Argyll, includes the ancient seat of the Scots, Dalriada. In later times it was to become the heartland of the Clan Campbell, though Islay remained in the hands of the Lord of the Isles. A mountainous county stretching from the Mull of Kintyre to Glencoe, it includes many islands - Islay, Jura, Mull, Coll and Tiree among them. Its economy depends on agriculture, forestry and fishing.
The largest county is Inverness-shire and includes the areas of Badenoch, Lochaber, Skye and Lochalsh (until 1974, Lochalsh was part of Ross-shire). It contains the Highland capital Inverness - elevated to city status in 2000 - as well as Loch Ness and Britain's highest mountain, Ben Nevis. Harris and the Uists were also part of Inverness-shire until 1974. Britain's last battle was fought just outside Inverness at Culloden in 1746.
Ross & Cromarty
To the north lies Ross and Cromarty with the gently rolling farmlands of the Black Isle and Easter Ross. Its mountainous interior culminates in the stunning Torridon Hills to the west. The Isle of Lewis was also part of it until the local government re-organisation of the 1970s. Though Stornoway was the largest settlement, Dingwall was the county town. Other settlements include the historic town of Tain, the ferry terminal of Ullapool, and Invergordon where oil rigs are serviced and ocean liners dock.
Further to the north lies Sutherland, characterised by isolated mountains and vistas of open moorland, including the vast blanket bogs of the 'Flow Country'. It has a stark but captivating grandeur and some the country's finest salmon rivers. Hill sheep farming and fishing are the mainstays of the economy.
Caithness occupies the north east corner. It is a low-lying green windswept landscape with distinctive flagstone field boundaries. Though smaller than the others, it has two of the Highlands' largest towns - Wick and Thurso. Agriculture and fishing are important along with small scale industry. The Dounreay nuclear reactor, now decommissioned, still employs many around the area.
Other Highland counties
Perthshire, Angus, Aberdeenshire and Banffshire share part of the Highland hinterland, but their focus is largely on their lowland areas and cities.
If a book listed in the bibliography below is available from the Highland Libraries it will be indicated by a book icon -
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