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About Scotland
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a thematic guide to Britain

Discover the attractions and sights of Scotland, its cities, its life, its traditons, its highlands and islands
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A short introduction to Scotland

Index  Scotland and its people Areas of Scotland
Main cities of Scotland Scottish specialities Major tourist attractions

Scotland and its people

Scotland forms the most northerly of the countries that currently make up the United Kingdom. It has been part of the United Kingdom since the signing of the Act of Union in the year 1707. It covers the northern part of Great Britain, and occupies 32% of the surface area of the United Kingdom: however its population of 5.5 million is only 8.4%, of the population of Britain, and has grown only marginally over the last forty years.

Population density

   With just 68 people per sq. km. (compared to over 400 per in England), Scotland is one of the least densely-populated countries in the European Union. In the Scottish Highlands and Islands, the population density falls to just 9 people per sq. km, making this one of the most sparsely populated areas of Europe, comparable only to northern Scandinavia.

Scotland has voted to remain part of the United Kingdom. Scots voters delivered a clear message, with 55% of voters rejecting the plan for Scottish independence. In fact, 28 out of 32 Scottish regions rejected independence, with only four urban areas in Dundee and around Glasgow coming out in favour of secession. Perhaps more significant than the overall result was the fact that in 9 of the 32 regions, less than 40% of voters wanted independence for their country.

In the Scottish highlands
In the Scottish highlands

Areas of Scotland

   In geographical and economic terms, Scotland can be divided into four areas:
  • the Borders, being the hill country of the southern part of Scotland. Increasingly forested hills and valleys with a number of small towns, and some famous salmon fishing rivers
  • the Central Lowlands, the valleys of the Forth and Clyde, including the cities of Edinburgh Glasgow and Stirling. This area is home to the majority of the population of Scotland, and comprises a mix of urban and rural areas.
  • the Eastern Lowlands, from the Tay to the Moray Firth, including the cities of Dundee and Aberdeen. This area includes much rich and fertile agricultural land, notably between the river Tay and the Grampian mountains
  • the Highlands and Islands -  beginning just north of Glasgow, Stirling and Dundee, the Highlands are a much larger area than the eponymous administrative area. They include several of the highest peaks in Britain, notably the highest point, the summit of Ben Nevis at 1,344 m (4,409 ft). 
    These are not administrative areas. For administration and tourism, Scotland is today divided into 32 areas of very different sizes, including cities, ancient counties, and larger diverse areas.

Scotland's cities

Scotland has four large cities.
  • Edinburgh, on the Firth of Forth (a firth is etymologically the same word as fijord) , is the historic, cultural and administrative capital of Scotland. With its castle, art galleries, historic "New Town" (a UNESCO world heritage site), and fine shopping streets, It is arguably the most attractive large city in the British Isles, and a very popular tourist destination.
  • Glasgow, to the west, on the Firth of Clyde, is the industrial capital of Scotland, and its largest city. Glasgow also has a strong cultural heritage and some major museums, and is close to a very attractive area called the Trossachs.
  • Dundee, once famed for "Jute, Journals and Jam" is a former industrial city on the Firth of Tay, which has developed more modern high-tech specialisations in Video games and Life Sciences.
  • Aberdeen north of Dundee on the east coast, is called the "Dallas" of  Scotland, being the main shore base and centre for the UK North Sea oil industry, which has brought considerable wealth to the area.

Scottish specialities - the spirit and taste and sounds of Scotland

Scotland is a country with a remarkably strong cultural identity; and there are five items that  are strongly associated with Scotland and Scottish life, the world over.
  • Whisky - probably the best know spirit in the world, whisky (not whiskey) from Scotland, also known as Scotch, is a product that is intimately connected with the country. Scotch whisky comes in two main types - grain whisky and malt whisky. Most grain whisky is blended whisky, and this forms the majority of the production of Scotch whisky. Malt whisky, most often seen as Single malt whisky, is whisky produced from a single distilling in a single distillery. Single malts are the most prestigious and most expensive of Scotch whiskies. There are Highland malts, from the Scottish mainland, and Island malts, produced in the western Isles; the best-known Island whiskies are distilled on the islands of Islay, Skye and Jura.  
  • Shortbread - Famous Scottish butter biscuits
  • Haggis - a historic Scots dish, made of minced spiced sheep's liver, lung and heart, with oats, chopped onion, and suet. And it is really tasty.
  • The Kilt - traditional Scottish garment, worn by men instead of trousers, and also by women. A form of skirt, made from wool, and traditionally patterened in the wearer's clan tartan. It is formal dress for men, and for Scottish soldiers.
  • Bagpipes. The unmistakable sound of Scotland, bagpipes are an ancient reed instrument, actually used in many parts of Europe. The Scottish version, with a chanter and one or two drones, is more complex and melodious than those found in many other parts. 
Scotland's main tourist sites: see Tourist attractions

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Travel and stay in Scotland

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Above: Iconic among the historic monuments of Scotland, the Wallace Monument, at Stirling in the heart of Scotland, is a celebration of national identity

Royal Mile
Edinburgh's historic Royal Mile

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Prehistoric standing stone at Stenness

Copyright  : Texts and photos © 2014  except where otherwise indicated.

Eilean Donan castle - creative commons photo by D Connor.

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