Download The Rough Guide to Scotland 8 (Rough Guide Travel Guides) PDF

The Rough Guide to Scotland 8 (Rough Guide Travel Guides)
Name: The Rough Guide to Scotland 8 (Rough Guide Travel Guides)
Author: rob humphreys
Pages: 741
Year: 2008
Language: English
File Size: 36.28 MB
Downloads: 0
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6 | INTRODUCTION | WHERE TO GO | WHEN TO GO The complexity of Scotland can be hard to unravel: somewhere deep in the country"s genes a generous dose of romantic Celtic hedonism blends, somehow, with stern Calvinist prudence. There"s little more splendid here than the scenery, yet half the time it"s hidden under a pall of drizzly mist. The country"s major contribution to medieval warfare was the chaotic, blood curdling charge of the half naked Highlander, yet it"s civilized enough to have given the world steam power, the television and penicillin. Chefs from Paris to Pisa rhapsodize over Scottish langoustine and Aberdeen Angus steaks, while the locals are happily tucking into another deep fried supper of haggis and chips. It"s a country where the losers of battles (and football games) are more romanticized than the winners. Naturally, the tourist industry tends to play up the heritage, but beyond the nostalgia lies a modern, dynamic nation. Oil and nanotechnology now matter more to the Scottish economy than ?shing or Harris tweed. Edinburgh still has its medieval Royal Mile, but just as many folk are drawn Introduction to Scotland As befits the home of tartan and whisky, simple definitions don"t really suit Scotland. Clich d images of the place abound postcards of wee Highland terriers, tartan tins of shortbread, ranks of diamond patterned golf jerseys ... and they drive many Scots to apoplexy. And yet Scotland has a habit of delivering on its classic images: in some parts ruined castles really do perch on just about every hilltop, in summer the glens inevitably turn purple with heather and if you end up in a village on gala day you just might bump into a formation of bagpipers marching down the street. 00 Scotland intro 1 24.indd 62/8/08 1:05:00 PM


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7 | INTRODUCTION | WHERE TO GO | WHEN TO GO Fact file Scotland covers an area of just over 30,000 square miles, has a 2300 mile long coastline and contains over 31,460 lochs. Of its 790 islands, 130 are inhabited. The highest point is the summit of Ben Nevis (4406 ft), while the bottom of Loch Morar is 1017 feet below sea level. The capital is Edinburgh (population nearly 450,000), and the largest city is Glasgow (over 600,000). While the number of people worldwide who claim Scottish descent is estimated at over 25 million, the population of the country is just 5 million 1.3 percent of whom (roughly 66,000 people) speak Gaelic. Scotland is a constituent territory of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. The head of state is Queen Elizabeth II. It is a parlia mentary democracy whose sovereign parlia ment sits at Westminster in London, with elements of government business devolved to the separately elected Scottish Parliament which sits in Edinburgh. Whisky accounts for 13 percent of Scotland"s exports and is worth over 2 billion annually, but Scotland also manufac tures over 30 percent of Europe"s personal computers and 65 percent of Europe"s ATMs. Fishing nets by its nightclubs and modern restaurants, while out in the Hebrides, the locals are more likely to be building websites than shearing sheep. The Highland huntin" shootin" ?shin" set are these days outnum bered by mountain bikers and wide eyed whale watchers. Outdoor music festivals will draw thousands of revellers, but just as popular as the pop stars on the main stage will be the folk band rocking the ceilidh tent with accordions and an electric ?ddle. Stuck in the far northwest corner of Europe, Scotland is remote, but it"s not isolated. The inspiring emptiness of the wild northwest coast lies barely a couple of hours from Edinburgh and Glasgow, two of Britain"s most dense and intriguing urban centres. Ancient ties to Ireland, Scandinavia, France and the Netherlands mean that compared with the English at least Scots are generally enthusiastic about the European Union, which has poured money into infrastructure and cultural projects, particularly in the Highlands and Islands. By contrast, Scotland"s relation ship with the "auld enemy", England, remains as problematic as ever. Despite the new Scottish Parliament established in Edinburgh in 1999, with its new found power to shape Scottish life, many Scots still tend to view matters south of the 00 Scotland intro 1 24.indd 72/8/08 1:05:02 PM


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8 View over the Isle of Skye border with a mixture of exaggerated disdain and well hidden envy. Ask for a "full English breakfast" and you"ll quickly ?nd yourself put right. Old prejudices die hard. Where to go E ven if you"re planning a short visit, it"s still perfectly possible, and quite common, to combine a stay in either Edinburgh or Glasgow with a brief foray into the Highlands. With more time at your disposal, the opportunity to experience the variety of landscapes in Scotland increases, but there"s no escaping the fact that travel in the more remote regions of Scotland takes time, and in the case of the outer islands money. If you"re planning to spend most of your time in the countryside, it"s most rewarding to concentrate on just one or two small areas. The initial focus for many visitors to Scotland is the capital, Edinburgh, a dramatically handsome and engaging city famous for its magni?cent castle | INTRODUCTION| WHERE TO GO | WHEN TO GO Whisky The Scots like a drink. Somehow, a Scot who doesn"t like (or, worse, can"t handle) a dram of "Scotch" although whisky is rarely described as such in Scotland isn"t wholly credible. No Highland village or cobbled Edinburgh street would be complete without its cosy, convivial pub and no pub complete without its array of amber tinged bottles, the spirit within nurtured by a beguiling and well marketed mix of soft Scottish rain, glistening Highland streams, rich peaty soil and tender Scots craftsmanship. But not only is whisky the national drink, it"s often regarded as the national pastime too, lubricating any social gathering from a Highland ceilidh to a Saturday night session. And the tradition that whisky be drunk neat says far more about Scottish society"s machismo than its epicurean instincts: the truth is that a splash of water releases the whisky"s flavours. It"s no surprise, then, that the canny Scots also turn a healthy profit bottling the country"s abundant spring water and selling it around the world. 00 Scotland intro 1 24.indd 82/8/08 1:05:08 PM


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