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SCOTLAND: A Beginner's Guide
Scotland in general
Member Name: proxam
Scotland in general
Date: 19/04/03, updated on 19/04/03 (123 review reads)
Advantages: Too many to list
Disadvantages: Too few to worry about
Don't think that Scotland is a northerly region of England. Although we share the same monarch, government and currency, Scotland is a completely different country with a completely different history.
Scotland is one of the least densely populated countries in Europe. It is a little smaller in area than England but only has a tenth of the population and the vast majority of them live in the densely populated central belt, which leaves around 75% of the country relatively unspoiled.
There are three distinct regions; The Southern Uplands, self explanatory really. This area is characterised by hills and forests and is quite rural with generally small market towns and farming villages.
The many castles and fortified houses of the region are a reminder of the centuries of border warfare that has dominated the history of this region.
The most poignant reminders of that era are the great border abbeys of Melrose, Jedburgh, Kelso and Dryburgh.These were all destroyed by the English, but substantial ruins remain and are still quite impressive.
The Central Lowlands is the main industrial heartland of the country. This is where most people live and work. The firths, (river estuaries), of the Tay, Forth and Clyde narrow the land of central Scotland to as little as 30 miles in some places.
The world's first major ironworks, the first major use of steam engines and the world's biggest shipbuilding industry
were all based here.
Most of the industries of this area were based on heavy engineering with coal mining, steel mills and shipbuilding etc. These are all pretty much gone now and the emphasis is much more inclined towards new technology.
The Highlands occupy the largest area of Scotland and the northwest in particular is one of the last wildernesses of Europe. The air is clean and the scenery is fantastic with rugged mountains, magical glens and deep, dark lochs.
There are hundreds of islands surrounding the country. The Hebrides, lying off the west coast, are like another country. This is Gaelic Scotland and each island has it's own distinctive character.
Off the north coast lie The Orkney and Shetland Isles which were part of Norway until the 15th century.
Many people here feel more inclined towards Norway than they do to Scotland. It's not surprising as Bergen is closer than Edinburgh.
There can't be many cities that make as big an impression on the visitor as Edinburgh. One of the things that strikes you is the fact that the urban areas are interspersed with not only parks and gardens, but also cliffs, massive rocks, hills and even an extinct volcano. The sea to the north and the Pentland hills, to the south, provide the perfect frame for some of the most unique architecture in Europe.
Every year the city holds the world's largest arts festival when over a million tourists descend. There are also several other festivals taking place at any given time. If that is not enough, the New year's eve party is the biggest in Europe.
Fifty miles to the west is Scotland's largest city, Glasgow. Whilst not as pretty as it's eastern neighbour, Glasgow nevertheless has much to attract visitors. The Scottish ballet and opera has it's home here and some of the finest art collections in Britain can be viewed at The Burrell
Glasgow shopping is second only to London in the UK and the nightlife is legendary.
Aberdeen, Dundee, Perth and Inverness are well worth visiting too, as are several historic towns, including Stirling and Dunfermline.
Some of the best attractions are for those of us who like to get away from it all. There are many long distance footpaths which wind through some of the most scenic and wild countryside. Climbing is popular, as is mountain biking, and there are many ski-ing resorts.
Hunting and fishing are well catered for especially on the big highland estates. As for golf, well as you would expect there are hundreds of courses including some of the finest, if not the finest in the world.
Some useful sites;
WHEN TO GO
High season is from May to September and therefore this is when most visitors come, it's also when prices are higher. This is when the weather is best and the days are longest. It only gets dark for a few short hours in June.
This is the best time for the rural parts but anytime is suitable for the cities and in fact it is much better value to visit in the low season when there are some good deals available.
The climate is unpredictable to say the least especially in the west. The west coast has twice as much rain as the east at around 80 inches a year, but in the winter it is much milder in the west.
The north, and especially the highlands, can experience harsh winters and large areas can be cut off due to impassable roads. The lowlands, however, can sometimes escape snow completely.
May to September are the "warmest" months with highs of 18-19 C although it can be warmer. This is also the driest period but it can rain
The best advice is to come prepared.
*TIP* If you can't see the top of a hill - it's raining.
If you can see the top of a hill - it's going to rain!
Bus and rail services are excellent between and in the major population centres but a hired car is probably best for anything more.
*TIP* Don't even think about driving in Edinburgh -it is the most car unfriendly place on earth.
So you thought dealing with the pound was hard? Think again.
The British currency is the pound sterling which is divided into 100 pence. Coins come in denominations of 1p, 2p, 5p, 10p, 20p, 50p, 1 pound and 2 pounds.
Notes are 5(blue), 10 (brown), 20 (pink) and 50 (green) pounds. Easy isn't it?
This of course is Bank of England money. In Scotland, the Bank of Scotland, the Royal Bank of Scotland and the Clydesdale bank all print their own money as well so we have the same coins but 4 different versions of notes. We also have the green 1 pound note and the red 100 pound note.
Probably best to use a credit card!
*TIP* If you are travelling from Scotland to England, try not to take too many Scottish banknotes as sometimes they will not be accepted. They are of course legal tender but it can be more bother than it is worth.
Scotland can be expensive, especially in Edinburgh and the remote areas of the highlands, but there are always cheaper options available and many activities and attractions are free.
Petrol (gas) is expensive in the UK and it gets even more expensive the further north you go. This is ironic as Scotland is a major oil producing nation.
Opening hours for shops are generally Mon - Sat 0900-1800. In the towns and cities many shops are open Sunday and late night Thursday and Friday. Out of town shopping complexes and large supermarkets will be open t
ill 2000 or lat
er, 7 days a week.
In the highlands and islands very few shops will be open on a Sunday and many rural areas have an early closing day (1300), usually a Wednesday.
Banks are usually open Mon - Fri 0930-1700 although they can vary. ATM machines are abundant.
Most bank holidays in Scotland are not general holidays, just days when the banks are closed. Christmas day, Boxing day and January 1& 2 are the only national public holidays.
There are several local public holidays and dates vary from place to place.
For more information check out this site, it has 100's of links to all things Scottish:
Thanks for reading
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