Identification and Location. The Highlands of Scotland include the lands north of a line from the town of Inverness on the northeast running south and west to a point 56° N and 5° W in Scotland, encompassing the shires of Caithness, Sutherland, Ross and Cromarty, Inverness, and Argyll, as well as the islands making up the Inner and Outer Hebrides. Geographically, this area is characterized by rolling rock-faced hills and scattered lakes and rivers, interspersed with land covered by a thin layer of peaty soil. Temperatures along the coasts are fairly consistent (4.4° to 13° C) with colder temperatures inland. In mid-June, daylight may extend to midnight; in mid-December, there is daylight for only a few hours.
Demography. The 1981 census reported a population of 200,000, an increase of 14.3 percent over the previous decade. There was also a slight increase in population from 1951 to 1971. These figures indicate a change in what had been a steady decline in population beginning in the mid-1700s. These increases are the result of gains in the number of People in the urban and burgh populations, which have offset losses in rural areas.
Linguistic Affiliation. Historically, the early settlers spoke Gaelic. English has been the official language since 1754, but there remain some local dialect variations of Gaelic spoken in a few areas of the west coast, Argyll, Sutherland, Skye, and the Western Isles. Recent attempts to renew interest in written and spoken Gaelic have been undertaken, including Gaelic programming on BBC-Scotland.