The Wonder of Scotland

by Frank Goddard

Great Britain is a most popular tourist destination. The "United Kingdoms" are England, Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales and each country has it's own distinctive identity making each considerably different. The population of each country are, in the main, fiercely proud of their roots and happily declare their relevant nationalities while also calling themselves to be British. While most people in the UK are happy to remain part of the Union there are a large number, especially in Scotland, who would wish to become independent.

When most folk think of Scotland pictures of a tartan clad piper, or something similar, spring to mind. Much of what we see as wholly Scottish was, in fact, a Victorian creation with influential characters such as the famous novelist and poet, Sir Walter Scott, did much to promote Scotland and all things Scottish. While the majority of Scottish Highlanders did indeed wear tartan it was not until the marketing exploits of a Lowland company, William Wilson, that specific tartans were assigned to the different clans or regions. Unfortunately a great many patterns for historical tartans that were in existence before 1746 are now lost forever having been replaced with newer patterns. So what is truly Scottish, well to discover this we need to study the history of the nation and understand a little more about the different regions and cities of Scotland which can differ considerably within only short distances.

Sir Walter Scott took much of the culture of the Highlands of Scotland and recreated it into a presentable form to the English nobility. The tartans, kilts and bagpipes are essentially from the Highlands and if you visit the area today you will still see many wearing the traditional plaid. However the Highlands, and especially the islands, are heavily influenced by the Gaelic culture and as you move further north and west it becomes more prominent. As you move through the glens and arrive at places such as Inverness and Fort William you begin to notice the differences between the Highlands and the Lowlands. The Highlands of Scotland are extreme with huge mountains and massive expanses of glens and moorland. As you move further out to the West the islands such as those of the Outer Hebrides become even more dramatic and it is in the Hebrides that the Gaelic language is most common.

The capital city of Scotland is Edinburgh and it's roots can go back thousands of years. Surprisingly there are still some fine examples of old buildings to be found in this thoroughly modern city of culture. Of course the city is dominated by Edinburgh Castle but there is much, much more to entice the tourist not least the incredible number of festivals spread throughout the year from the Edinburgh Festival in the summer to the New Year's Hogmanay celebrations in the winter.

Glasgow is vastly different to Edinburgh, it is certainly larger (Glasgow is the largest city in Scotland), but the architecture is more Victorian with little any older. This is due to the fact that the city developed extremely quickly from a small village to a large town and then a city, during the industrial revolution. The Act of Union in 1707 opened up markets which had previously been closed to Scotland and the tradesmen of Glasgow took full advantage, especially the tobacco merchants who made massive fortunes in a very short space of time. Many of the merchants invested in the building of wonderful civic buildings which are still used today and can be seen throughout the city.

Obviously there are plenty of other cities in Scotland that are well worth visiting. If you enjoy castles then scotland has plenty of fine examples and one of the best is Stirling Castle in Stirling. If you enjoy sports you are spoilt for choice with plenty of opportunities to enjoy mountain biking, skiing and other sports, including, the most popular Golf and fishing.

Scotland is such a diverse country that a small article such as this can not do it justice and can only introduce you to the most basic. The country as a whole is incredibly geared towards tourism with a multitude of interesting tours available. There are typical historical tours, including ghost tours of Edinburgh, and the ever popular whisky tours. In fact Scotland is capable of providing the perfect vacation for almost anybody.

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