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mountain region in the northern extremity of Scotland. It consists roughly of the Scottish area north of the imaginary line from Dumbarton to Stonehaven excluding the Orkneys, the Shetlands, the northeastern tip of the Highland council area (the former county of Caithness), and the lower coastal area of the northern mainland. The HebridesHebrides, the
, Western Isles,
or Western Islands,
group of more than 50 islands, W and NW Scotland. Less than a fifth of the islands are inhabited. The Outer Hebrides
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 are usually included.

Famous for its rugged beauty, the land is unsuitable for farming and since the 18th cent. has suffered from a steady decline of population—partly caused, initially, by the failure of the JacobiteJacobites
, adherents of the exiled branch of the house of Stuart who sought to restore James II and his descendants to the English and Scottish thrones after the Glorious Revolution of 1688. They take their name from the Latin form (Jacobus) of the name James.
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 rebellions. Crofting, fishing, and distilling are the main occupations; in recent years the tourist trade has been an important source of income. Since World War II the British government has sponsored the forestry industry and hydroelectric developments in the Highlands as part of a comprehensive effort to stem the flow of emigration and to relieve poverty and chronic depression.

The early history of the region is not well known. By the 11th cent. the Scottish monarchy was centered in the Lowlands, and except when raids of Highland marauders in the Lowlands spurred punitive expeditions by the king, the Highland lairds were left to run their own affairs. Until its decline in the 19th cent., the Scottish Gaelic language was the core of Highland culture. The distinctive marks of the Highlands, the dress (including the kilt, tartan, sporran, tam, and dirk) and the clan system, were products of the late Middle Ages.

The dress was outlawed by the British government in the 18th cent., when it became alarmed at the area's continued interest in the Jacobites—the Highlands had furnished the backbone of the Jacobite uprisings of 1715 and 1745. The British government set out systematically—and successfully—to crush the clans that had led the revolts. In the 19th cent., as the language and sectional feeling declined, the government allowed the revival of clan dress and the use of bagpipes, long the national musical instrument of Scotland. In the remote areas, old customs survived more than anywhere else in the British Isles, and many of the Highlanders remained Roman Catholic despite the vigor of the Scottish Reformation. The persistence of old ways along with the magnificent scenery made the Highlands popular in literature.


See L. G. Pine, The Highland Clans (1972); W. C. MacKenzie, The Highlands and Isles of Scotland: A Historical Survey (1977).



a region of raised and mountainous lands in Scotland; separated from the Southern Uplands by the Central Lowlands. Area, approximately 40,000 sq km. The Highlands have elevations to 1,343 m (Ben Nevis) and are composed of gneisses, granites, schists, quartzites, red-colored sandstones, and igneous rocks. They are dissected by tectonic depressions (the largest is Glen More) into a number of plateaus and ranges with ancient glacial relief forms. The mountain slopes are dissected by gorges and, in the west, by fjords. The Highlands have many rivers, lakes, including Loch Lomond and Loch Ness, and swamps. There are heaths, meadows, and sections of birch and pine forests. Livestock is raised.


a. the part of Scotland that lies to the northwest of the great fault that runs from Dumbarton to Stonehaven
b. a smaller area consisting of the mountainous north of Scotland: distinguished by Gaelic culture
2. the highland region of any country
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