Scotland adjoins the north of England to create the upper end of the United Kingdom. Scotland has an extensive history that, while inextricably linked to England, has allowed Scotland to independently develop its cultural identity. Mainland Scotland takes up around a third of the British mainland, but its reach stretches into the numerous outlying islands in the North Sea on one side, and the Atlantic Ocean on the other.
The western islands include the Isle of Skye and the Hebrides, which remain rural and traditional, with many of their inhabitants still speaking the Gaelic tongue. The Northern Isles are probably more famous. Extending off the tip of Northern Scotland, these include Shetland and Orkney, which are renowned for their archeological remains, illustrating some of Scotland’s earliest people. Due to their geographical position, this part of Scotland also contains a wealth of Scandinavian cultural influences. The islands typify Scotland’s reputation for pastoral beauty, a status that extends to the mainland.
The northern Highlands are stunning, and are filled with miles and miles of mountainous peaks, including Ben Nevis, Britain’s biggest mountain. The Cairngorms National Park and the town of Aviemore is a menuular tourist area and introduction to the Highlands, with a wealth of natural appeal and opportunities for outdoor activities. Fort William is another well-loved destination for hiking enthusiasts. The Cairngorms are one of two national parks in Scotland, alongside Loch Lomond on the Highland border.
However, while Scotland can be the perfect destination for a countryside getaway, it is also a modern and forward-thinking country. It has several cities which provide major contributions to British financial and commercial industry, academia, and of course tourism. The capital city, Edinburgh, is one of the most menuular visitor destinations in the UK and a perfect example of the Scottish attitude. It has UNESCO heritage sites, was heart of the Scottish Enlightenment movement, and is today the seat of the National Parliament. Every summer, it also homes the world-famous Edinburgh International Festival.
Glasgow, former industrial city and now hub for music, shopping and entertainment, surpasses Edinburgh in size, and is another draw for visitors. Further choices include the ’Granite City’ of Aberdeen, the academically minded Dundee, and St. Andrews, which is known partly for its university but more importantly, its golf. Scotland is a wonderfully diverse country that can provide a rural escape or a city break with equal ease, and there is always something new to discover here.