The Scots are proud of their country. See A History of Scotland for some reasons why this can be justified even though much of the past was not as glamorous as some may think it was.
Although its land acreage is relatively small, Scotland has a large coastline whilst, thanks to the Orkney & Shetland Islands, its maritime territory is quite significant. Lerwick, the main town of the Shetland Isles, is closer to Bergen in Norway than it is to Edinburgh.
Using the traditional names and boundaries suggested by The Association of British Counties, Scotland has the following 34 counties: Aberdeenshire, Angus/Forfarshire, Argyllshire, Ayrshire, Banffshire, Berwickshire, Buteshire, Cromartyshire, Caithness, Clackmannanshire, Dumfriesshire, Dunbartonshire/Dumbartonshire, East Lothian/Haddingtonshire, Fife, Inverness-shire, Kincardineshire, Kinross-shire, Kirkcudbrightshire, Lanarkshire, Midlothian/Edinburghshire, Morayshire, Nairnshire, Orkney, Peeblesshire, Perthshire, Renfrewshire, Ross-shire, Roxburghshire, Selkirkshire, Shetland, Stirlingshire, Sutherland, West Lothian/Linlithgowshire, Wigtownshire.
There is no single truly traditional and always-accepted method of dividing Scotland into smaller regions, groups of counties, but the following is not uncommon:
» Borders : Berwickshire, Roxburghshire, Selkirkshire.
» Dumfries and Galloway : Dumfriesshire, Kirkcudbrightshire, Wigtownshire.
» Lothian : East Lothian, Midlothian, West Lothian.
» Central-South : Ayrshire, Lanarkshire, Peeblesshire, Renfrewshire.
» Central-North : Dunbartonshire/Dumbartonshire, Stirlingshire.
» Argyll and Bute : Argyllshire, Buteshire.
» Perthshire, Tayside and Fife : Clackmannanshire, Fife, Kinross-shire, Perthshire.
» Grampian : Aberdeenshire, Angus/Forfarshire, Banffshire, Kincardineshire.
» Moray and Nairn : Morayshire, Nairnshire.
» The Highlands and The Western Islands : Inverness-shire, Cromartyshire, Ross-shire.
» Sutherland and Caithness : Sutherland, Caithness.
» The Northern Isles (not shown on the map opposite) : Orkney, Shetland.
The Highlands are often thought of as including parts of the neigbouring Aberdeenshire, Argyllshire, Morayshire, Nairnshire, Perthshire and Sutherland. The Hebrides are treated here as being split between Inverness-shire and Ross.
Scotland, which was often called ‘North Britain’ in the 18th & 19th centuries, is often described as being in 2 parts: The Highlands and The Lowlands. This over-simplification is primarily a Victorian development, brought about to encourage tourists from England (and later from the Scottish Diaspora), although the seeds for it were sown at the time of the Reformation. Until the early/late (depending on whom you believe) 1700s, the majority of Scots thought of their country in terms of the Mainland with its various regions (‘The Borders’ being given special focus at least as much as ‘The Highlands’) and the Western & Northern Isles. Although it varied from century to century as to how much the Highlands were thought of as extending into neighbouring counties, and although its western coastline was often controlled by the Lords of the Isles, the core of the Highlands was normally viewed as comprising only Inverness-shire and the mainland parts of what is now Ross & Cromarty. Except for security issues, the Scots leadership often ignored that Highland core because few people went there and, except on the coastline, few people lived there. Although nowadays The Highlands is marketed as the image of Scotland, that would have been thought bizarre by most pre-Victorian Scots. Nevertheless, for the Mainland of Scotland, its geography does support a divide between Highlands and Lowlands. Much of the country is covered by hills and mountains. Although none of the mountain peaks are particularly high in terms of feet/metres, they rise from sea-level and can be spectacular. However, the terrain in the Highlands is difficult and, until a number of roads were introduced in the 18th century, most of it was inaccessible to most people. For a long time, until Sir Walter Scott (1771-1832) suggested that people think more of the beauty of the hills rather than the swamps & midges (mini-mosquitoes) in the valleys, the Highlands were thought of very poorly by most Scots, including the Islanders and many of those who lived on the coastline. They are now loved by most Scots although it rankles with those who are not ignorant of their true heritage that the Highlands have been attributed a false role in Scotland’s History and image.