The immediate hinterland of the Firth is home to over 250,000 people, with the majority of the population living around the Cromarty and Inner Moray Firths. The settlements include 1 city, 12 small towns, over 120 villages and numerous smaller hamlets, crofting townships, scattered farms and dwellings.
The City of Inverness, the regional centre for the Highland area, is reputed to be the second fastest growing city in Europe, with a current population of over 70,000. The other major settlements include local market and administrative centres and ports. Many coastal communities were developed or expanded as a result of the herring fishing boom in the early 19th century.