Country number: 6
When? Prehistoric times
Who?With Don and Chez, with Neil, visiting friends, some work in Edinburgh
‘There are two seasons in Scotland: June and Winter.’
- Scotland is stunning. I was captivated on my first trip (midges notwithstanding) from the moment I crossed into the rolling hills of border country. No passports required here (yet), but a kilted piper lilting a welcome. I was lured in by Stirling (and its castle), Bannockburn (Robert the Bruce), Loch Lomond, (singing the song), the impossibly picturesque Trossachs and Callander (Dr Finlay’s Tannochbrae), Inverness and Loch Ness (no sign of the monster, just a startled stag), the Cairngorms (a little snow on top) and peaceful Loch Tummel.
- The capital of Scotland, Edinburgh, is only its second largest city, after Glasgow, but it’s a great city to wander, with the Royal Mile, Holyrood Palace, the castle on its volcanic stack, atmospheric Victorian pubs and upmarket glass plated restaurants, all framed by Arthur’s Seat. Fascinating trivia: Edinburgh was the first city in the world which had its own fire brigade and like Rome, Edinburgh (so they say) was built on seven hills. Its multitude of dark smoky stone boasts more listed buildings than anywhere in the world. A must see is the statue of Skye terrier Grey Friar’s Bobby, immortalised in book and (weepy) film, for sitting on the grave of his dead owner for 14 years.
- On further journeys a much renovated Glasgow over recent years became a favourite, especially for the Rennie Mackintosh architecture and tea room (though sadly the art school was badly damaged by fire for the second time recently). You still have to navigate the dialect (have you read Swing, Hammer Swing?), but it’s a bustling and friendly place.
- I love the scenery up the west coast, starting with brooding Glencoe. This is historically renowned as the scene of the gruesome battle between the Campbells and the MacDonalds, but for me also uncomfortably recalled as the scene of a very unfortunate skiing trip. I had to walk miles carrying my skis up to the snowline and then got knocked out almost as soon as I arrived when I fell off the chairlift, unweighted by the skis I was hefting. Through Fort William (Ben Nevis is the exciting backdrop) and then the awesome Road to the Isles, past Loch Duig and Eilean Donan castle-, an absolutely perfect photo stop. The dishes of little lobster tails served up in the pubs on Skye. Utterly delicious.
- It’s the scenery beyond here that is my very favourite.The stark beauty of the north west is just breath-taking, beautiful white beaches, islets, puffins, wild loch scenery (Torridon is wonderful) and Suilven raising its bleak brown head to crown it all.
Scotland is the second largest country in the UK, after England. The total population is around 5.2 million, around 8.5 per cent of the UK’s population.
Scotland has approximately 790 islands, (130 of which are inhabited), more than 600 square miles of freshwater lakes, including the infamous Loch Ness (the very first recorded appearance of the elusive Loch Ness Monster occurred in 565 AD) and many mountains. The highest point in Scotland is Ben Nevis, at 4,406ft .
Scotland has three officially recognised languages: English, Scots and Scottish Gaelic, with just one per cent of the population using the last.
Part of Scotland was occupied by the Romans who withdrew from Pict savagery and constructed Hadrian’s Wall. Scotland was first united by one king (Kenneth) in the nnth centrury. It was conquered by English King Edward 1 in the thirteenth century, but gained independence in 1314, after the Battle of Bannockburn. Scotland then had its own monarch until 1603, when Elizabeth I died and James VI of Scotland also became James I of England, ruling both countries. Scotland remained an independent state until 1 May 1707, when the Acts of Union joined it with England, in the United Kingdom of Great Britain. Since July 1, 1999, Scotland has had its own parliament.
Most of Scotland’s most cultural icons – were actually developed elsewhere: kilts – Ireland, tartans -found in Bronze Age central Europe, bagpipes – ancient central Asia, whisky – China, then Irish monks, haggis, probably Greek
Scotland has the highest proportion of redheads in the world. Around 13 per cent of the population has red hair, with 40 per cent carrying the recessive gene.
The shortest scheduled flight in the world is one-and-a-half miles long from Westray to Papa Westray in the Orkney Islands of Scotland. The journey takes 1 minute 14 seconds to complete.
To see more of my photos of Scotland, visit this page.