The Highlands of Scotland, together with the outlying western islands, present a region both distinct from the Lowlands and itself characterised by areas of individuali­ ty. Geologically, the Highlands are divided from the Lowlands by the Highland Boundary Fault which runs from Stonehaven on the east coast to Helensburgh on the west and divides the Precambrian rocks of the west and north from the younger Palaeozoic sedimentary rocks of the Midland Valley to the south and east. 2 To the geographer, this upland massif to the north and west is separated from the Lowlands by the 'Highland line' and represented as the 'Highland counties' - Argyll, Ross and Cromarty, Sutherland, Inverness - together with parts of northern Perthshire and western Caithness (Figure 1.1). The Highlands region as a whole is seen as one whose climate is cool and wet, whose underlying geology has determined a scanty soil cover and where the incised lochs and mountainous terrain have made communication difficult, human settlement limited, and cultivation of the land an uncertain affair. Compared to the rest of Scotland, the Highlands are ill-provided with natural resources such as coal and iron. The relief, with much of the area over 250m, has limited land use largely to rough pasture and forestry.3 Population is today thinly scattered, concentrating in several towns along the coastal margins. Even in the past when numbers and distribution were different from today, Highland Scotland was never as densely populated as the Lowlands, although shifts in balance between population and resources in the rural Highlands occasioned levels of poverty and hardship more widespread and severe there than in the Lowlands.