Reasons to Love Scotland
Map of Scotland
Royal Scotland Flag
Anyone who has ever been lucky enough to visit Scotland knows why it is a gem. There is no one thing to love...there are a million things to love!
So first and foremost we must pay tribute to the Scots. Most others countries I've visited were not near as friendly aka France. Sorry to all the Francophiles! But agree with me or not the French are not known for their manners. The Scots are always just a joy to be around. They seem to have a sense of who they are and a good sense of humor. Course they may be having a laugh on you when you apologetically have to ask repeatedly, "Sorry what did you say?" (Don't even attempt with the glaswegian accent).
As you can tell from the map up above there is a lot of land to cover. Any direction you go, north, south, east, or west, you'll stumble upon something wonderful. The sister cities of Glasgow and Edinburgh, the far north islands of Shetland and Orkney, the west highlands and Isle of Skye, St. Andrews, or the Isle of Islay with nine single malt distilleries!
So after the Scots there should be a tribute to the Scottish castles too! Some of the few in the photos include Edinburgh Castle where Queen Mary of Scots last ruled before she had an untimely run-in with her cousin Queen Elizabeth and lost her head. Then Holyrood which is the official Edinburgh residence of Queen Elizabeth II when she is in town. She like her great- great grandmother Queen Victoria, prefers her Balmoral home in the Scottish highlands. Then Stirling castle in the fourth largest city in Scotland. (News flash to Americans make sure you say that Stirling is a city. They get quite cross if you don't). William Wallace and Andrew de Moray fought the Battle of Stirling Bridge on September 11, 1297 against King Edward Longshanks' army. It was the first battle for Scottish independence which resulted in a glorious victory for Scotland. If you need more of a visual look into Braveheart. Its not historically accurate but it's definitely a good film!
Scone Castle (Pronounced Scoon) is mainly where the Kings and Queens of Scotland were crowned upon the stone of Scone. Naturally you cannot visit Scotland without going to Urquhart Castle, nearby Inverness, that overlooks Loch Ness. Keep an eye out for Nessie! Then one of the most photographed castles in Scotland is Eileen Donan. The picture doesn't quite do it justice but it comes close!
The only way someone has never heard of Sean Connery is because they've lived under a rock. Having a scotsman play the English James Bond must have been an extreme twist of fate. But don't forget that there are many more famous Scots that are a tribute to their country and heritage. Ewan McGregor (Trainspotting, Down with Love, and Star Wars), Deborah Kerr (An Affair to Remember), Robert Burns (Scotland National Poet), Bram Stoker (author of Dracula), Sir Walter Scott (Ivanhoe), Arthur Conan Doyle (Sherlock Holmes), Tilda Swinton (The Lion, The Witch, and the Wadrobe), Robert Lewis Stevenson (Treasure Island), Robert the Bruce (Once King of Scotland), William Wallace (hero at battle of Stirling Bridge), Sir Alexander Graham Bell, Alan Cummings (Golden Eye), James McAvoy (Atonement, Last King of Scotland), Gerard Butler (The Phantom of the Opera), Susan Boyle (breakout singer) and the list goes on...
Though there are around 5 million Scots living in Scotland today, people have estimated that as many as 10 million people in the U.S. and Canada have scottish heritage. Look out the redheads are coming!!
Love those Kilts!!
St. Andrews Golf Course
Landscape and History
Queen Victoria loved Scotland so much that after her initial visit, Prince Albert bought Balmoral as their 'family' home. Indeed her visit actually brought a lot of Scottish vitality. The Scottish peerage wanted to impress the Queen so they went to work fixing up their homes and roads just for her visit. Penrith is a town that you can see the improvements made for that momentous occasion.
Take the time to see Ben Nevis the tallest peak in the United Kingdom, which stand at about 1,343m. Glencoe is another beautiful area though the place of tragedy between the Campbells and MacGregors. The landscape in the highlands is unparalleled. With about 790 islands comprising Scotland only 190 are really inhabited. It's a strange and wondrous landscape. The wind can blow quite harshly but it stirs you to explore the land before you.
Then who can forget St. Andrews? or the University? It is the home of golf in addition to the first university in Scotland. (established around the 1100s.) Alma mater of Prince William. St. Andrews is a wonderful town that has many interesting people inhabit. Mainly due to the University Students but also the golf enthusiasts. Then Glasgow University, which looks like quite a bit like Hogwarts. Alma mater to Adam Smith and Gerard Butler.
Since we can't go into the entire history of Scotland a few things will be mentioned. Macbeth was not really as bad as Shakespeare made him out to be. Truly! The Scottish court and French court created an 'auld alliance' around the 1160s due to their common enemy, England. This 'auld alliance' changed when Henry VII had his daughter Margaret marry James IV of Scotland. His granddaughter Mary, Queen of Scots tried to revive the 'auld alliance' when she married the Dauphin of France but it didn't quite work out. So in other words England had to constantly look to the North and South for attacks. Until 1603 Scotland had it's own monarchy. The cousin of Queen Elizabeth, James VI became James I, thus forever uniting the two crowns.
Beauty to behold
The wee trinkets
Just to add some other special treats about Scotland.
1) Dogs: Scottish Wolfhounds are fine but the cutest dogs are the Westies and Scotties!
2) Shortbread Biscuits
3) Haggis (Give it a try to then ask what it is)
4) Single Malt Whiskey (When you know what Haggis is put this on it and it will be delicious!!)
Kilts and Bagpipes
The is hub would not be complete without discussing two of Scotland's most famous symbols: kilts and bagpipes. Every family in Scotland has a certain tartan/plaid/kilt that symbolizes their family. It's not just a Catholic school girl trend. Originally the kilt made from sheep's wool identified you with your clan, thus providing you with a home and security. The intricate system of clans lived in certain areas. Each clan had a number of allies and enemies, example the infamous fights between the MacGregors and Campbells. Then rifts between Lowlanders and Highlanders also signified your heritage. Lowlanders being those from Dumfries, Glasgow, and Edinburgh areas. Highlanders...well do I really even need to explain that?? The kilt had many uses but the two most significant as clothes and then a blanket. Thus the beginning of Scottish frugalness.
The bagpipes are one of the hardest instruments to learn. Mainly because you must be strong. But take the time to listen and to enjoy the bagpipes. If you hear them while you look out at the mist in Edinburgh it can give you goosebumps. They are a powerful instrument that once use to call men to battle. Now they are used in parades, funerals, and tattoos. The Edinburgh Tattoo held in late summer is one of the greatest extravaganzas in Europe
Where a heart shall ever be...
In conclusion I should leave you with a poem by Robert 'Rabbie' Burns the official poet of Scotland but this poem by Charles Nicol resonates much more with why Scotland is a special place and how it steals your heart away.
Dear Auld Scotland by Charles Nicol
Scotland my native land so fair
Thy hills an' mountains I adore,
Thy scenery is grand an' rare,
An' brings to min' the days of yore.
To gaze upon the sparkling fountains
An' see the waters flowing there
Then upon the lofty mountains,
Few kingdoms can with thee compare.
Where is the country you can name,
Can boast of such warriors brave,
Who fought to gain their country fame
From the cradle to the grave.
Such men as Wallace brave an' true,
An' Bruce the hero of Bannockburn,
Aye, an' the brave Black Douglas too,
For these auld Scotland oft did mourn.
Oh, Scotland fair. Land of the free,
Where we've got the Thistle so dear,
Likewise the Lily, the Hawthorn Tree,
An' the sparkling water so clear.
An' tho' I yet may be from home,
However far that it may be,
Thro' all the places that I roam,
Scotland will still be dear to me.