The Scottish Highlands as a region is now world famous for its extraordinary landscape and its appeal for travellers as a place for fresh air, down-to-earth hospitality, and a wealth of outdoor pursuits - from hill-walking and golf to white-water rafting and mountain-biking. Inverness on the east coast, for example, is in 2010 the fastest growing city in the United Kingdom, as people flock to take advantage of the many benefits living in the Highlands has to offer.
The interest in the Highlands as a destination of choice for tourists and house-movers is a relatively recent one, however. It was not until the Victorian era, when Victoria and Albert made frequent trips to Balmoral and visits to the Highlands became fashionable among Victorian society, that the area as a whole received much attention from tourists from other parts of the UK and beyond.
The rugged landscape and geographical isolation of much of the Scottish Highlands made it a relatively inaccessible place for much of its political and cultural history. With this, however, came the evolution of its own very unique traditions, cultural life, and folklore. Click an image for further details.
The island of St Kilda, some 40 miles west of Benbecula in the Outer Hebrides, is the remotest part of the British Isles.
Its inhabitants lived extraordinarily frugal lives under conditions many would find unbearable. Until the early twentieth century, the St Kildans rented their land from a landlord from the Isle of Skye, and paid him once yearly in kind.
The physical, social, and political isolation of the St Kildans is hard to imagine by contemporary standards, although the island is not very far away, and sustained a healthy community not very long ago (the last islanders left in the 1930s).
This picture shows a St Kilda Mail Carrier. A letter would have been sealed in a tin and put in a wooden box attached to a sheep's bladder. The bladder acted as a float. The box and float were hurled into the sea on a suitably favourable current in an attempt to reach the Isle of Lewis, where its contents could then join the regular mail. The inhabitants of St Kilda had little use for the mail, it appears; the first of these 'mail-boats' was not sent until a journalist found himself stranded during a famine on the island in 1876.