It can be tempting to regard western Scotland as a peripheral or marginal area for human settlement, as a cultural backwater where ideas were received rather than places where innovations occurred.
However, prior to the urbanisation of Scotland the balance of population throughout the country was more even, especially during the earlier periods of human colonisation when the range of coastal and other natural resources in the Hebrides would have made them desirable for settlement. The prehistoric societies in the islands were not only able to survive in this landscape but engaged in the construction of great monuments such has chambered tombs, stone circles and monumental houses including brochs and duns, while in the Historic period the islands occupied a pivotal place in the Norse and Medieval Kingdom of the Isles. Settlement continued to thrive in the region throughout the Late Medieval and Historic Periods culminating in the Clearances of the 18th and 19th centuries, with the depopulation of entire townships and wide tracts of land.
The Skye and Lochalsh area has a high density of archaeological sites and monuments relating to the prehistoric and historic periods, ranging from Mesolithic flint scatters and shell middens to the deserted settlements of the Clearances. The area also has a diverse range of industrial sites from the later historic period including marble quarries and diatomite workings. Recent archaeological excavations in the region have revealed a wealth of information relating to settlement in the past. In particular, the work being undertaken at High Pasture Cave in Strath has produced human and animal burials from the Late Bronze Age and Iron Age, and a wide range of artefacts relating to everyday life during this period of Prehistory.