A Quick Overview of the Scottish Highlands

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The Scottish Highlands are a comparatively sparsely populated area, with small shires having only recently been converted into counties and other governments.  “Scottish Highlands” are occasionally used to refer to Scotland as a whole, but it actually refers to a specific part of Scotland, mostly the islands to the west.

The Highlands are often considered the more beautiful of the two, boasting healthy soil for farming and frequent rain showers that are quick to hide behind the area’s gorgeous mountains. Castles from the past still stand tall, but they hold no lords or ladies, and are instead used in these days as popular wedding locations. With rolling hills in the background and an undeniable touch of culture, it is not hard to see why they would be selected for such as big day.

But the gorgeous geography hides a darker past. The Scottish Highlands bore witness to some rather violent clan disputes years ago. A fitting example is the massacre of Glen Coe in 1692, when the English Captain Robert Campbell and his soldiers were given shelter by the MacDonalds in Glen Coe. In response to their hospitality–and because their chieftain had not sworn allegiance to King William III–the Captain ordered his men to attack their hosts in the middle of the night, killing over 80 men, women, and children before burning their homes to the ground.

Not long after the clan wars, landowners soon realized it more profitable to tend sheep, popular for their wool, rather than fight wars. This lead to the displacement of many poor families and villages as they were pushed out of the lands preferred by the landowners. There were massive purges, pushing the poor closer and closer to the coast to make room for more farmlands, which eventually led to a mass emigration out of the Highlands. Though some returned, or made a living on the coast, many families chose to try their luck elsewhere.

Of those who did remain, before they were pushed out, the Highlands of Scotland were occupied by the Gaels, while the Lowlands mostly held the Scottish. This created a divide between Highland and Lowland culture that persists to this day. This means both areas offer unique learning experiences for the curious traveler.

In the Highlands, despite a notably low population, there is still a number of things to see and do. Jacobite’s Steam Train is a unique way to see the gorgeous geography of the Highlands, as it is an 84 mile train ride that embraces the motto of travel being about the journey, not just the destination.

Other points of interest include the Loch Ness, home to the elusive Loch Ness Monster, or Nessie. There have been over 1,000 eye witness accounts of the creature, but no definitive recording or capture of her. This has pushed Nessie between myth and reality, with many people devoting themselves to finding her within the 800ft depths of the loch. You can even read about all reported sightings–and add your own–at the Official Loch Ness Monster Sightings Register website.

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