County townInverness
 • Total4,211 sq mi (10,906 km2)
 Ranked 1st of 34
Chapman code

Inverness-shire (Scottish Gaelic: Siorrachd Inbhir Nis) or the County of Inverness is a historic county, registration county and lieutenancy area of Scotland (the latter of which though only goes by the name Inverness). Covering much of the Highlands and Outer Hebrides, it is Scotland's largest county, though one of the smallest in population, with 67,733 people or 1.34% of the Scottish population.[1]


The extent of the lieutenancy area was defined in 1975 as covering the districts of Inverness, Badenoch & Strathspey, and Lochaber.[citation needed] Thus it differs from the county in that it includes parts of what was once Moray and Argyll but does not include any of the Outer Hebrides which were given their own lieutenancy area — the Western Isles.[citation needed]


Loch Quoich
Ben Nevis, Britain's tallest mountain

Inverness-shire is Scotland's largest county and the second largest in the UK as a whole after Yorkshire. It borders Ross-shire to the north, Nairnshire, Moray, Banffshire and Aberdeenshire to the east, and Perthshire and Argyllshire to the south.

Its mainland section covers a large area of the Highlands, bordering the Sea of the Hebrides to the west and Beauly Firth and Moray Firth to the east which provide access to the North Sea. It is split into two by the Great Glen, a roughly 60-mile geological fault which runs south-west to north-east and divides the Northwest Highlands to the west from the Grampian Mountains (including the Monadhliath Mountains) to the east. The glen contains the notable lochs of Loch Ness (Scotland's second largest), Loch Oich, and Loch Lochy, which are connected by the Caledonian Canal; it opens into the south-west into the sea loch Loch Linnhe. Ben Nevis, the tallest peak in Britain, is located to the east of Fort William. The west coast consists of a number of large peninsulas divided by long loch inlets; north-to-south these are Glenelg (shared with Ross-shire), Loch Hourn, Knoydart, Loch Nevis, North and South Morar/Arisaig, Loch nan Uamh, Ardnish, Loch Ailort, Moidart and Loch Moidart. This area was traditionally referred to as the Rough Bounds due to its remoteness and inaccessibility and it remains wild and sparsely populated today. The terrain in Inverness-shire is generally mountainous, with numerous lochs scattered throughout the county, the largest of these being: Loch Ashie, Loch Mhor, Loch Knockie, Loch Duntelchaig, Loch Ruthven, Loch Moy, Loch Alvie, Loch Insh, Loch an Eilean, Loch Killin, Loch Crunachdan, Loch Morlich, Loch Garten, Loch Einich, Loch an t-Seilich, Loch na Cuaich, Loch Coaldair, the Blackwater Reservoir, Loch Treig, Loch Ossian, Loch Laggan, Loch Spean, Loch Ericht, Loch Gulbin, Lochan na h-Earba, Loch Pattack, Loch Eilde Mòr, Loch a' Bhealaich Bheithe, Loch a' Bhealaich Leamhain, Lochan Lùnn Dà-Bhrà, Loch Bruicaich, Loch Meiklie, Loch ma Stac, Loch a' Chràthaich, Loch na Beinne Baine, Loch Lundie, Loch Garry, Loch Beannacharan, Loch Beinn a Mheadhoin, Loch Monar, Loch Mullardoch, Loch Affric, Loch Cluanie, Loch Loyne, Loch Quoich, Loch an Dubh-Lochain, Loch Arkaig, Loch Morar, Loch Beoriad, Loch Dhoire a' Ghearrain and Loch Shiel.

Inverness-shire contains numerous small islands off its west coast which form part of the Inner Hebrides. The largest of these is Skye, separated from the Inverness-shire mainland by the Sound of Sleat; popular with tourists, it is a huge, sprawling island - the second biggest in Scotland - containing numerous peninsulas and offshore islands. The small isle of Eigg is also within Inverness-shire, despite the other Small Isles being in Argyllshire. To the west, across the Little Minch, most of the Outer Hebrides fall within the county, with the notable exception of Lewis which is in Ross-shire. Further west still lie the remote islands of St Kilda, which have been uninhabited since 1930. Much further west, 230 miles from the Outer Hebrides, lies the extremely remote, uninhabitable island of Rockall, which is subject to a territorial dispute with Ireland.


Inner Hebrides

Outer Hebrides

St Kilda and Rockall

Coat of arms

Arms of the former county council

Inverness-shire's coat of arms is blazoned:

Azure, in sinister chief a stag's head and in dexter chief a bull's head both erased and in base a galley, sails furled, oars in action and flagged, all Or. Beneath the shield is an escrol bearing this motto: Air son Math na Siorrachd.

The galley represents Clan Chattan, who aligned themselves under the banner of Somerled, Lord of the Isles. The stag's head comes from the crest of the Frasers of Lovat, while the bull's head comes from the crest of the MacLeods of that Ilk. The motto is in Gaelic and means "For the Good of the County".

Local government


The former headquarters of Inverness County Council completed in 1963

Inverness-shire acquired a county council in 1890, under the Local Government (Scotland) Act 1889, and, under the same legislation, boundaries were altered to make the county a single contiguous area, transferring several exclaves of other counties to Inverness-shire.

Although the new boundaries were supposed to be valid for all purposes (unlike earlier boundaries, which really defaulted boundaries and not necessarily those used for any particular purpose), the burghs of Inverness, Fort William, Kingussie, which had their own town councils, retained autonomous status and were for some purposes beyond the writ of the new county council. The town of Inverness had been established as a royal burgh since the mid-12th century, Fort William, originally a Fort of that name built by the Government to keep the Highlanders in their place, around which grew up a village became in turn Gordonsburgh, Maryburgh, Duncansburgh and latterly the town/burgh of Fort William which had been established as a burgh of barony since 1618 and Kingussie had been established as a burgh of barony since 1464. Also, the use of the new boundaries for parliamentary elections was specifically excluded.

Inverness-shire County Council was originally based at Inverness Castle but moved to new offices in Ardross Street in 1963.[2][3]


The old county councils were abolished by the Local Government (Scotland) Act 1973 and Scotland was instead governed by a two-tier system of regions and districts. Mainland Inverness-shire was split amongst four districts of the Highland region, whilst the county's territory in the Outer Hebrides was transferred to the Western Isles council area.

Within the Highland region, local government functions were divided between the regional and district councils. For example, education was a regional responsibility, and housing was a district responsibility.


In 1996, under the Local Government, etc (Scotland) Act 1994, the two-tier system was abolished and the Highland region became a unitary council area.

The new unitary Highland Council adopted the areas of the former districts as management areas. Each management area was represented, initially, by area committees consisting of councillors elected from areas (groups of local government wards) corresponding to the management areas, but changes to ward boundaries in 1999 created a mismatch between committee areas and management areas.

In 2007, at the time of further changes to ward boundaries, which created 22 multi-member wards instead of 80 single-member wards, the council created a new management structure, with three new corporate management areas and 16 new ward-level management areas. Also, four of the ward-level management areas, covering the seven wards, were grouped to form an Inverness city (or Inverness and Area) management area.

The total number of Highland councillors is 80, elected by the single transferable vote system of the election, which is designed to produce a form of proportional representation. Wards in the Inverness city area elect 26 of the 34 council members elected from the Inverness, Nairn and Badenoch and Strathspey corporate management area.

The city area has the Nairn ward-level management area to the east, the Badenoch and Strathspey ward-level management area to the east and south, the Ross, Skye and Lochaber corporate management area to the south, west and north, and the Moray Firth to the north.

The city area is similar but not identical to the former district of Inverness.

Ward[4] Description Seats Ward-level management area
Aird and Loch Ness Includes Loch Ness, the town of Beauly, and the village of Fort Augustus
Aird is a former district of the county of Inverness
4 City area 1, covering the Aird and Loch Ness ward and a southern portion of the Inverness South ward
Culloden and Ardersier Includes the villages of Culloden, Ardersier and Smithton 4 City area 4, covering the Culloden and Ardersier ward and a northern portion of the Inverness South ward
Inverness Central Includes Dalneigh, Glebe, Haugh, Merkinch and South Kessock areas of urban Inverness 4 City area 3, covering the two wards of Inverness Central and Inverness Millburn
Inverness Millburn Includes Millburn, Culcabock, Longman and Raigmore areas of urban Inverness 3 City area 3, covering the two wards of Inverness Central and Inverness Millburn
Inverness Ness-side Includes Drummond, Hilton and Lochardil areas of Inverness, and a more rural area, east of the River Ness 4 City area 2, covering the two wards of Inverness Ness-side and Inverness West
Inverness South Includes Cradlehall, Inshes and Westhill areas in or near urban Inverness, and the village of Tomatin, on the River Findhorn 4 Divided between city area 1, covering the Aird and Loch Ness ward and a southern portion of the Inverness South ward, and city area 4, covering the Culloden and Ardersier ward and a northern portion of the Inverness South ward
Inverness West Includes Kinmylies and Scorguie areas of urban Inverness, and a more rural area, west of the River Ness 3 City area 2, covering the two wards of Inverness Ness-side and Inverness West

Civil parishes

Map of Inverness-shire

Civil parishes are still used for some statistical purposes, and separate census figures are published for them. As their areas have been largely unchanged since the 19th century this allows for comparison of population figures over an extended period.

In 1854 in Inverness-shire there were 29 civil parishes; 7 part civil parishes; and 5 parliamentary parishes.[5]

Many changes have taken place since the Reformation period:


The Skye Bridge, opened 1995
Barra's unique beach airport runway

The Highland Main Line connects Inverness by rail to Perth to the south, Kyle of Lochalsh to the west, and Thurso/Wick to the north. The West Highland Line connects Fort William to Mallaig. The Inverness to Aberdeen main line also serves Nairn within the Highland Council's area.

The Isle of Skye is connected to the mainland by a bridge from Kyle of Lochalsh in Ross-shire.

Various bus companies serve the larger towns of the county, such as Stagecoach Group and Scottish Citylink. Shiel Buses operate local buses in the Fort William area. Stagecoach operates several bus routes on the Isle of Skye.[24]

Numerous ferries connect the islands of the Outer Hebrides, the Inner Hebrides, and the Scottish Mainland.

There are three airports in the county: Inverness, Benbecula, and Barra. All three operate flights within Scotland, with Inverness also providing flights to other cities in the UK as well as some destinations in Europe. Barra Airport is famous within aviation circles as it is the only airport in the world where scheduled flights use a beach as the runway.[25]




Parliamentary constituencies

Main articles: Scottish Westminster constituencies and Scottish Parliament constituencies and regions

There was an Inverness-shire constituency of the Parliament of Great Britain (Westminster) from 1708 to 1801 and of the Parliament of the United Kingdom (also at Westminster) from 1801 to 1918. The constituency represented, nominally, the county of Inverness minus the parliamentary burgh of Inverness, which was represented as a component of the Inverness District of Burghs constituency.

In 1918 the county constituency was divided between two new constituencies, the Inverness constituency and the Western Isles constituency. The Inverness constituency included the burgh of Inverness, other components of the district of burghs being divided between the Moray and Nairn constituency and the Ross and Cromarty constituency.

In 1983, eight years after the local government county of Inverness had been divided between the Highland region and the Western Isles council area, three new constituencies were created to cover the Highland region. The region, until 1996, and the unitary Highland council area, 1996 to present, have been covered by three constituencies since then but there were changes to boundaries and names in 1997 and 2005.

In 1999 the areas of the Westminster constituencies became also constituencies of the Scottish Parliament (Holyrood). The boundaries of Scottish Parliament constituencies have not altered since then. The Holyrood constituencies are within the Highlands and Islands electoral region.

Since 1983, Inverness has appeared in the names of Westminster and Holyrood constituencies as tabled below.

Westminster constituencies

Period Constituency or constituencies
1983 to 1997 Inverness, Nairn and Lochaber
1997 to 2005 Ross, Skye and Inverness West
Inverness East, Nairn and Lochaber
2005 to present Inverness, Nairn, Badenoch and Strathspey

Holyrood constituencies

Period Constituencies
1999 to present Ross, Skye and Inverness West Inverness East, Nairn and Lochaber
2011 to present Inverness and Nairn Skye, Lochaber and Badenoch

See also


  1. ^ "The Area of Invernesshire". British Towns and Villages Network. 28 September 2014. Archived from the original on 30 December 2014. Retrieved 29 December 2014.
  2. ^ Historic Environment Scotland. "Ardross Street, Highland Regional Council Buildings (LB35144)". Retrieved 18 July 2021.
  3. ^ "Highland Council Headquarters". Gazetteer for Scotland. Retrieved 18 July 2021.
  4. ^ "Your Ward". Highland Council website. Retrieved 8 April 2008.
  5. ^ Revd John Marius Wilson, ed. (1854). The Imperial gazetteer of Scotland. Vol. 2 (Gordon – Zetland). Edinburgh: A. Fullarton. p. 137. OL 14014352M.
  6. ^ "Abertarff House, Church Street, Inverness". Archived from the original on 20 January 2013.
  7. ^ a b "List of parishes" (PDF). Scottish Place-Name Society.
  8. ^ GENUKI. "Genuki: Croy, Inverness-shire". Retrieved 31 January 2021.
  9. ^ "History - Kiltarlity Church". Kiltarlity and Kirkhill Church. Retrieved 31 January 2021.
  10. ^ "Urquhart & Glenmoriston, Inverness-shire, Scotland Genealogy". FamilySearch Wiki. Retrieved 31 January 2021.
  11. ^ "Petty, Inverness-shire, Scotland Genealogy". FamilySearch Wiki. Retrieved 31 January 2021.
  12. ^ "Boleskine". Retrieved 31 January 2021.
  13. ^ "Antiquarian Notes, Historical, Genealogical and Social on Inverness shire". Retrieved 31 January 2021.
  14. ^ GENUKI. "Genuki: Daviot, Inverness-shire". Retrieved 31 January 2021.
  15. ^ "Kirkhill, Inverness-shire, Scotland Genealogy". FamilySearch Wiki. Retrieved 31 January 2021.
  16. ^ "Duthil & Rothiemurcas, Inverness-shire, Scotland Genealogy". FamilySearch Wiki. Retrieved 31 January 2021.
  17. ^ "Small Isles, Inverness-shire, Scotland Genealogy". FamilySearch Wiki. Retrieved 31 January 2021.
  18. ^ "Eigg, Kildonnan, St Donnan's Church And Burial-ground | Canmore". Retrieved 1 February 2021.
  19. ^ "Canna, A' Chill, St Columba's Chapel | Canmore". Retrieved 1 February 2021.
  20. ^ "Saints in Scottish Place-Names - Eilean Fhianain, former parish, Arisaig & Moidart". Retrieved 1 February 2021.
  21. ^ "Parish of Portree from The Gazetteer for Scotland". Retrieved 1 February 2021.
  22. ^ "Saints in Scottish Place-Names - St Conan's Church, Uig, Snizort (Skye)". Retrieved 1 February 2021.
  23. ^ "Saints in Scottish Place-Names - Raasay, former parish, (aka Kilmaluoc) Portree". Retrieved 1 February 2021.
  24. ^ "Stagecoach North Scotland - Isle of Skye". Retrieved 23 June 2019.
  25. ^ "Barra Airport". Highlands and Islands Airports Limited. Archived from the original on 22 March 2009. Retrieved 6 April 2009.