The geography of Scotland is highly varied, from rural lowlands to barren uplands, and from large cities to uninhabited islands. Located in Northern Europe, Scotland comprises the northern one third of the island of Great Britain as well as 790 surrounding islands encompassing the major archipelagoes of the Shetland Islands, Orkney Islands and the Inner and Outer Hebrides.
Scotland's only land border is with England, which runs for 96 kilometres (60 mi) in a northeasterly direction from the Solway Firth in the west to the North Sea on the east coast. Separated by the North Channel, the island of Ireland lies 30 kilometres (19 mi) from the southwest tip of the Scottish mainland. Norway is located 305 kilometres (190 mi) to the northeast of Scotland across the North Sea. The Atlantic Ocean, which fringes the coastline of western and northern Scotland and its islands, influences the temperate, maritime climate of the country.
The topography of Scotland is distinguished by the Highland Boundary Fault – a geological rock fracture – which traverses the Scottish mainland from Helensburgh to Stonehaven. The faultline separates two distinctively different physiographic regions; namely the Highlands to the north and west and the lowlands to the south and east. The more rugged Highland region contains the majority of Scotland's mountainous terrain, including the highest peak, Ben Nevis. Lowland areas, in the southern part of Scotland, are flatter and home to most of the population, especially the narrow waist of land between the Firth of Clyde and the Firth of Forth known as the Central Belt. Glasgow is the largest city in Scotland, although Edinburgh is the capital and political centre of the country.
Skye or the Isle of Skye (//; Scottish Gaelic: An t-Eilean Sgitheanach or Eilean a' Cheò) is the largest and most northerly large island in the Inner Hebrides of Scotland. The island's peninsulas radiate from a mountainous centre dominated by the Cuillins, the rocky slopes of which provide some of the most dramatic mountain scenery in the country. Although it has been suggested that the Gaelic Sgitheanach describes a winged shape there is no definitive agreement as to the name's origins.
The island has been occupied since the Mesolithic period and its history includes a time of Norse rule and a long period of domination by Clan MacLeod and Clan Donald. The 18th-century Jacobite risings led to the breaking up of the clan system and subsequent Clearances that replaced entire communities with sheep farms, some of which also involved forced emigrations to distant lands. Resident numbers declined from over 20,000 in the early 19th century to just under 9,000 by the closing decade of the 20th century. Skye's population increased by 4 per cent between 1991 and 2001. About a third of the residents were Gaelic speakers in 2001, and although their numbers are in decline this aspect of island culture remains important.