Trade provided the things the Highlands could not produce. Although there were industries in bigger towns, Highland trade was primarily based on the products of land and sea. Highland merchants bartered with tradesmen from around Europe exchanging their crops, skins and fish for luxuries such as wine, fine cloth and salt.
The products of the land were very important. Drovers took the small black cattle south to be sold. Coarse woolen cloth similar to Harris Tweed went too. While oats and barley were grown to feed the people, in parts of Perthshire enough was produced to sell it outwith the Highlands. Even wild animal furs went to Europe. Timber was sold south for boat-building; it was floated down lochs and rivers to the sea and taken by boat to its destination.
Local trade too was important. Clansmen sold their produce to merchants in the towns, in order to buy the things they needed. These could be guns, pistols, swords and food when it was scarce. Even small settlements had merchants. Trees were felled for fuel and for constructing buildings and boats.
Fishing produced one of the Highlands' most sought-after goods. Once done from boats close to shore, it developed quickly and bigger boats were used to fish further from land. This led to Stornoway and Ullapool being built as fishing ports. At Badachro in Wester Ross several fishing stations were involved in drying and salting cod for export. Boats also came from Holland to fish.
Salmon netting too was important especially in Inverness. The salmon were barreled and sent south (similar to the way salmon farming works today). Seaweed was gathered to make kelp. It was dried and burned and the ashes used in the manufacture of glass and soap.
Lead mining and iron smelting provided the craftsmen in towns with metal for making farm implements, horseshoes, lead for roofing and ammunition.
Coal was mined in Sutherland and used in working metal. Slate quarrying provided another roofing material and Ballachullish and Easdale slates were sent all over Scotland.
So, while trade was limited in the Highlands, it was still a vital part of the economy.
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