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council area in northern Scotland, forming the northernmost extension of the Scottish mainland between the Atlantic Ocean in the west and the North Sea in the east. It extends from the northern Grampian Mountains in the south to the Pentland Firth (which separates it from the Orkney Islands) in the north, and it includes several islands of the Inner Hebrides, including Skye and the Small Islands. It encompasses the historic counties of Caithness, Sutherland, and Nairnshire, the historic region of Ross and Cromarty, the historic county of Inverness-shire (except for the parts of Ross and Cromarty and Inverness-shire that lie in the Outer Hebrides), and parts of the historic counties of Moray and Argyllshire. The Highland council area comprises the northern portion of the Scottish Highlands. Highland, the largest administrative unit in the United Kingdom, covers nearly one-third of Scotland's total area, but, with less than one-twentieth of Scotland's population, it has the lowest population density in the United Kingdom. Inverness is the council area's administrative centre