The County of Nairn or Nairnshire was a traditional county of Scotland, with the burgh of Nairn as the county town, until 1975, when, under the Local Government (Scotland) Act 1973, the county area became one of the eight districts of the two-tier Highland region. The original county of Nairn survived for registration purposes and, at the same time, the Nairn lieutenancy was defined as having the boundaries of the new district. In 1996, under the Local Government etc (Scotland) Act 1994, the local government district was merged into the unitary Highland council area.
Until 1891 Nairnshire had a number of exclaves in other counties, the most considerable of which was situated some distance away from the bulk of the county of Nairn, in the county of Inverness. Another sizable portion existed in the County of Ross, around the village of Urquhart, on the Black Isle. Other, smaller, detached parts existed in the county of Moray. Under the Local Government (Scotland) Act 1889, these detached parts became part of their host territories.
Although the new boundaries were supposed to be valid for all purposes (unlike earlier boundaries, which were really default boundaries and not necessarily those used for any particular purpose), the burgh of Nairn, which had its own town council, retained autonomous status and was generally beyond the writ of the new county council. Also, use of the new boundaries for parliamentary elections was specifically excluded.
In 1927 Nairnshire, along with many of Scotland's other counties, matriculated a coat of arms by the Lord Lyon King of Arms, the governor of Scotland's heraldry. The arms was as follows: Or, a chevron gules, between two water-bougets in chief and a stag's head cabossed in base sable, three mullets argent. The motto was UNITE AND BE MINDFUL.
In 1975, under the Local Government (Scotland) Act 1973, the local government council was superseded and the area (including the burgh of Nairn) became, without change of boundaries, a council district of the two-tier Highland region.
Local government council functions were divided between the regional council and the district council. For example, education was a regional responsibility, and housing was a district responsibility.
The new unitary Highland Council adopted the areas of the former council 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, following further changes to ward boundaries, the Local Government council created a new management structure, with three new corporate management areas and 16 new ward-level management areas. Therefore Nairn is now both one of the 22 wards of the Highland council area and one of the Highland Council's 16 ward-level management areas.
The Nairn ward elects four of the council's 80 members by the single transferable vote system of election, which is designed to produce a form of proportional representation. The ward is on the boundary between the Highland council area and the Moray council area, which lies to the east.
The Nairn ward is one of nine within the Highland Council's Inverness, Nairn and Badenoch and Strathspey corporate area, and the Nairn management area is one of six ward-level management areas within the corporate area.
There is significant difference between the boundaries of the new Nairn management area and those of the area abolished in 2007. The new area is smaller, part of the old area being now within the Culloden and Ardersier ward-level area and within Inverness city ward-level area 4.
The map shows Nairnshire with its detached sections that existed until 1891.
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 of time.
The county consisted of the royal burgh of Nairn (chartered in 1476), the four parishes of Ardclach, Auldearn, Dyke & Moy and Nairn; and most of the parish of Cawdor (also known as Calder), and parts of those of: Croy & Dalcross; Moy & Dalarossie; Petty; and Urquhart & Logie Wester.
Wikisource provides the Encyclopedia Britannica 1911 edition article on Nairnshire.