Ardmair Bay Sunset by Fraser Ross
Ardmair Bay Sunset, a photo by Fraser Ross on Flickr.
Map by  S kitahashi   
This part of the Highlands is still quite rural, like its neighboring areas farther north, and has remained surprisingly rooted in the old ways of life despite an oil boom and the inescapable changes of modern life. 

The area of Ross and Cromarty is actually a conglomeration of two old counties: Ross-shire and Cromartyshire. Ross-shire stretches from one side of Scotland to the other, and once encompassed some of the Outer Hebrides as well, but has been downsized over the years. Cromartyshire was a strange little county made up of numerous pockets or “exclaves” sprinkled throughout County Ross. By 1890 the map was a thorough mess and was sorted out into something closer to what we see today.

glenmorangie distillery by twicepix
glenmorangie distillery, a photo by twicepix on Flickr.

One of the most tragic events in this area’s history was the Highland Clearances. This was the forced removal of rural Highlanders by the government and greedy landowners during the agricultural revolution. Many people lost their livelihoods due to these clearances, and at least one aristocrat decided to assist the unemployed. Sir Hector Munro put the people to work on a kind of folly which today is a commemoration of the clearances, the Fyrish Monument. 

More from Ross and Cromarty:

  • The Black Isle is a lovely place to visit, even if it’s a peninsula and isn’t really black. Fishing boats can still be seen floating in the harbors, and the location offers some stunning sunrises and sunsets. Isolated from the rest of the county, the Black Isle seems to be stalled in time.
  • If you’re looking for isolated, Glenuig is the place to be–with a population of about 30 it’s hard to get much smaller. This area was once densely populated, but since the Clearances the population has stayed low and the beauty of nature is probably its greatest attraction. 
  • Ross-shire is home to what might be the most iconic castle in Scotland, Eilean Donan. This magnificent structure sits aloof on a tiny peninsula that juts out into the water, making for a truly magnificent sight, and its history is fascinating. 


Stornoway,Isle of Lewis by Donald M
Stornoway,Isle of Lewis, a photo by Donald M on Flickr.

File:Na h-Eileanan Siarcouncil.PNG
Barryob [GFDL or CC-BY-SA-3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

The Western Isles, also known as the Outer Hebrides, are a sprawling collection of about 65 substantial islands, many of which remain uninhabited. The main islands are the Isle of Lewis, Isle of HarrisNorth UistBenbeculaSouth UistBarra, and St Kilda

Each island has its own particular history and character. Lewis is the largest and boasts several archaeological beauties such as the Callanish Stones and Dun Carloway Broch. Harris has beautiful white beaches and curious patches of land called “saltings.” In North Uist you can relax into the gentle rhythm of fishing in freshwater lochs, then liven it up on South Uist with Ceòlas, a celebration of Hebridean culture in music and dance. Benbecula is home to the strangely lumpy 14th century ruin of Borve Castle. Arriving at Barra by plane is a unique experience, as you skim down upon the beach between tides. St. Kilda is a misty place full of abandoned homes–haunting, really–and has the highest cliffs in Britain as well as the largest colony of guillemots in the world.

North Tolsta,Isle of Lewis by Donald M
North Tolsta,Isle of Lewis, a photo by Donald M on Flickr.

More from the Western Isles:

  • Many novels have been set in the Western Isles, probably because of the air of mystery and romance that pervades their landscape and history. Check out my Hebridean reading list to see if you’d be interested in picking up a book to keep for those long winter evenings coming our way.
  • The Western Isles are notorious for shipwrecks, and on Flannan Isle there’s a bit of a mystery concerning the lighthouse. In 1900 there were three lighthouse keepers, and after a time of heavy mist and blustering storms all of them disappeared without a trace.
  • The Hebrides have inspired all kinds of music, from Mendelssohn’s Hebrides Overture to Sir Granville Bantock’s Hebridean Symphony. Hear some of the latter here.
 From the lonely shieling of the misty island 
Mountains divide us and the mist of seas
Yet still the blood is strong, the heart is highland
And we in dreams behold the Hebrides.


“Like” Picture Britain on Facebook for exclusive links, photos, and information!

Written by Abigail Young

I've had a passion for everything British my entire life, despite being raised as a small-town girl in the American Midwest, After years of dreaming, I got the chance to live and work in England for an entire year. Now I write about my favorite country, and hopefully inspire my fellow Britophiles to get over there and experience it for themselves.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *