A Brief Portrait Of Scotland
Separated from continental Europe by the North Sea, Scotland occupies the northern third of the Island of Great Britain. Its nearest neighbors are Ireland to the west, the Netherlands, Germany, Denmark and Norway to the east. and England on its southern border. Scotland is a fairly isolated land made up of rugged terrain, deep coastal inlets, and many islands. The highest peak is Ben Nevis ( 4,406 ft ) The Land
The isolation and ruggedness have combined to keep Scotland's population small and its land empty, but they have also helped to make my fellow Scots an independent, proud, and determinedly self-reliant people.
The country is washed on the north and west by the Atlantic Ocean and on the east by the North Sea. Its breadth varies from 154 miles to as little as 26 miles. The country has 2,300 miles of coastline, an incredible length for the size of the mainland. Scotland is indeed a land of contrasts, from the austere majesty of the mountains to the subtle undulations of the Lowland valleys, and from the dramatic cliffs to the dense forests. The country also boasts 787 major islands; almost all lying off the northern or western coasts. Picturesque lochs and rivers are scattered throughout the whole country.The People Of Scotland
The country is a Geologists playground, with rocks displaying 3 billion years of geological time. Starting with hard granite in the Western Isles, which was formed before life itself developed on earth, the rocks tell a long story of lava flows, eras of mountain-building, numerous ice ages and even a time when the land was briefly separated from England.
Four major fault and thrust lines, running across Scotland from northeast to southwest, define the main geological zones. The U-shaped valleys in the Highlands are a legacy of the last Ice Age. The weight and movements of glaciers broke off spurs, deepening and rounding out the existing river valleys. The Basalt Columns of the Isle Of Staffa were formed 60 million years ago as a flow of lava cooled slowly, contracting and fracturing in a distinctive hexagonal pattern similar to the Giant's Causeway in Ireland. The Devonian Sandstone in the Orkney Islands has eroded the horizontally layered rock into spectacular cliffs and stacks, as with the Old Man Of Hoy.
Modern-day Scots are the product of an age-old ethnic blend. The original Picts mixed with successive invaders - Celts, Romans, Anglo-Saxons, Scandinavians, Normans - and each group has left its mark on the national culture. In later times, many Irish migrated to the industrial areas in the Central Lowlands. Some immigration from eastern and southern Europe also took place. The Scots cherish the differences that set them apart from the English, and cling tenaciously to the distinctions that also differentiate them region by region - their customs, dialects and the Gaelic language. I, for example, consider myself to be a " Fifer, " having been born and bred in that Kingdom. But even more than that, I consider myself to be a " Dyker, " having been raised in the fishing village of Cellardyke.Language
It is perhaps more by their differences than similarities that the Scots can be defined, but for all that, they are immensely proud of their nation and its institutions.
Scots can be dour but equally they can flash with inspiration. Most all Scots delight in self-deprecating humour and continue to honour their tradition of hospitality. Generally speaking most foreign tourists to Scotland make the mistake of moving their location every day, and thus denying themselves the opportunity to really get to know some of the locals.
Scots have long been noted for their frugality, which they have exaggerated and turned into jokes about themselves. But perhaps the best-known feature of Scottish society through the ages is that of the clans--groups of families sharing a common ancestor and the same name. Many Scots still feel strong kinship with their clan, and many Scottish traditions have their origins in that system. Scots are a gregarious people and enjoy company, whether this be in a small group in the local pub, or at a Ceilidh ( which means literally, a " visit ".) And Scots love to visit with people from other countries - if you'll give the time.
Gaelic, the old Celtic tongue of the Scots, is now spoken by little more than 75,000 people, most of them in the Highlands and the Hebrides. By their acceptance and use of the English translation of the Bible, the Scottish reformers of the 16th century in effect adopted English as the national language. But as any singer of "Auld Lang Syne" knows, the Scots have made the English they speak peculiarly their own. They have retained a high percentage of vocabulary derived from Old Norse and Anglo-Saxon, and they speak with a lilt.Religion
Scottish Presbyterians have been meeting in 'kirk sessions" ever since John Knox thundered his fiery sermons from the pulpit of St. Giles in the 1560's. Today, their denomination is the official, as well as the largest, church in the country. The Church of Scotland, as it is called, claims the adherence of nearly half the population. Roman Catholics, particularly strong in the western Highlands, make up the second-largest group of worshippers.Education
To the Scots, education is extremely important, and they start sending their children to school at 5 years of age. At 12, Scottish youngsters generally graduate from elementary to secondary schools, where they must continue until they are 16. Higher education may be pursued at eight universities and dozens of other specialized institutions. Four of the Scottish universities, those of St. Andrews, Glasgow, Aberdeen, and Edinburgh, are more than 400 years old.The Scottish Economy
About three-fourths of Scotland is used for agriculture--crop cultivation and animal husbandry. But Scotland is still deficient in food production and must rely on imports. Manufacturing has long been the mainstay of its economy. With the exploitation of the North Sea natural gas and oil deposits, the extractive industries have entered a new phase and become of major importance.Scottish Sports, Culture And The Arts
Heavy industries, such as steelmaking and ship-building, have been the backbone of the manufacturing sector since the Industrial Revolution. Glasgow is still the principal marine engineering center in the United Kingdom. But foreign competition has forced diversification of industries and spurred a movement into high technology and consumer goods. Electronics and computers are among the notable new products from Scottish plants. Scotch tweed and textiles are still in demand, and the nation's world-famous whiskey distilleries continue to flourish.
Coal used to be Scotland's chief mineral resource, but since the 1970's, coal has been eclipsed by oil. Most of Britain's offshore oil fields are in Scottish waters, and Aberdeen has evolved into head-quarters of the new oil industry. Large refineries have been established at Grangemouth and Dundee.
About half of the country's farmland, especially in the Highlands and Southern Uplands, is used for grazing sheep and cattle. Scotland is famous for its breeds of cattle--Aberdeen-Angus, -Galloway, and others--and the peculiar Scottish blackface sheep produce the wool for its tweeds. The major crops raised on the other half of the farmland, the best of which is in the Central Lowlands, are barley, oats, wheat, hay, and potatoes.
Depleted stocks and the closing of some traditional fishing grounds in the North Atlantic have created difficulties for many Scottish fishermen. Fishing, however, is still a major industry. Crabs and lobsters are taken in coastal waters, and cod, haddock, and other white fish as far away as Greenland and the White Sea. My own hometown of Anstruther used to be one of the largest Herring ports in Europe. Those days are long gone now - just as the Herring themselves disappeared one day from the fishing banks in the North Sea.
Scotland is renowned as the home of golf, but " soccer " is without doubt the national passion, and England the favourite opponent. Other popular sports include hill-walking, skiing, rugby, shinty, lawn-bowling, fishing, darts and curling. There are also great annual Highland Games held throughout the country during the summer months. In addition, almost every village in Scotland hosts an annual Fair or Fete.E-Mail Me Today
Scotland offers an excellent program of the performing arts. The Edinburgh Festival and Fringe is the largest celebration of its kind in the world, and there are literally hundreds of smaller festivals. The key to enjoying Scotland is to stay flexible and keep your eyes open for local events. Many wonderful Jumble Sales, Craft and Antique Fairs, Folk Nights, Ceilidhs and the like will only be advertised in the most local of newspapers. Or simply by a single billboard and a few posters.
The range of Music and Song emanating from Scotland is truly amazing. There is something for everybody, ranging from Opera, Gaelic Song, Bagpipes, Country, Accordion, Fiddle, Contemporary Folk, and so on. Traditional music has experienced a renaissance with influences from all over the world. With an estimated four Scots, such as myself, living abroad, for every one living in the homeland, this influence is not surprising. Bands like Macumba combine bagpipes with Brazilian percussion to wonderful effect. Groups such as Runrig and Wolfestone are famous for their brand of electric folk, whilst individuals such as Rod Stewart and Sheena Easton sing to the world in a Scottish accent.
Although my Web Site is packed with Scottish Music, it is but a small sample of what is presently available. In dance, on offer are the various delights of Scottish Country Dancing, Highland and Ceilidh Dancing, Ballet and Contemporary Dance. The Scottish Film industry is booming, following the success of Trainspotting and other movies. And of course Scotland was the setting for movies such as Braveheart and Rob Roy.
Although only a minority of Scots speak Gaelic, the language has been boosted by increased funding for Gaelic Radio and Television Programmes. Scottish Literature continues to be extremely strong, with no shortage of respected authors and poets following in the long literate tradition of Scotland.
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