Cities in SCOTLAND


Popular destinations UNITED KINGDOM

EnglandNorthern irelandScotland

Geography and Landscape


Scotland (English: Scotland; German: Schottland; French: L'Écosse) is the northern part of the island of Great Britain, located in northwestern Europe. The total land area of Scotland, including the many islands, is 77,213 km2 (including inland waterways 78,764 km2). The mainland measures a maximum of 440 km from north to south and 248 km from east to west.

Scotland by SatellitePhoto:Public domain

Because the 10,000 km long coast is generally deeply cut, few places are more than 100 km from the sea.
The area includes the former Kingdom of Scotland and is part of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. Scotland borders the Atlantic Ocean to the north and west, the North Sea to the east and England to the south.


Landscape is generally divided into three areas: The Southern Uplands, the Central Lowlands or Midland Valley and the Highlands, the Scottish Highlands.

Southern Uplands ScotlandPhoto:charlie kennedy Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic no changes made

The mountains of the Southern Uplands are rounder and not as high as the mountains of northern Scotland. Endless green hills, wooded valleys and fish-rich rivers characterize the landscape. The higher parts consist of flattened "moors".

The hills in the border area between England and Scotland, the Borders and the Galloway hills are mostly no higher than 800 meters. The hills or barren covered or barren hills in the Borders are intersected by valleys of rivers, such as the fish-rich Tweed.

In the southwest are the Galloway Hills where mountains such as the Merrick (843 m), the Criffel (569 m) and the Cairnsmore or Fleet stand out prominently. Galloway also has forests and moors and a rugged coastline.

The River Clyde at Carmyle ScotlandPhoto:James Denham Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic no changes made

Near the Lowther Hills, rivers Clyde and Tweed have their source. The Nith, the Annan and the Esk flow into the Solway Firth. Further east are the Moorfoot Hills and the Lammermuir Hills, which define the Southern Upland Vault fault line. South of this is the Tweed basin. Originating in the Tweedsmuir Hills and ending in England - with part of the lower reaches forming the boundary - the Tweed is the third longest river in Scotland, after the Tay and the Clyde. The main tributaries are the Yarrow, the Ettrick, the Gaia, the Leader and the Teviot.

Trossachs National Park ScotlandPhoto:Alexey Komarov Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International no changes

The relatively flat Central Lowlands are surrounded by the Southern Upland Fault and the Highland Boundary Fault. The valleys and deltas of the Clyde, Forth and Tray rivers form a fertile strip between the Atlantic Ocean and the North Sea. In most places, the Central Lowlands do not rise above 122 meters, with the exception of mountain ranges such as the Campsie Fells, the Kilpatrick Hills, the Ochil Hills and the Sidlaw Hills. The Lothian Plains are only interrupted by the Pentland Hills, near Edinburgh.

The lowlands extend further from the River Forth and through to the River Tay. Hills like Bass Rock and North Berwick Law are of volcanic origin.

The Trossachs is an area with beautiful "lochs" and "lochans" (inner lakes), "glens" (valleys) and "bens" (mountains). Here is also Scotland's only "lake", the Lake of Menteith, which was given an English name for unknown reasons in the late 19th century.

Ben Nevis, highest mountain in Scotland and Great BritainPhoto:Thincat in thepublic domain

The major part of the Highlands or Scottish Highlands is above 900 meters and consists mainly of deserted peat and heather plateaus. Elongated valleys, deep lochs (lakes) and jagged granite tops alternate. The mountain peaks ("cairns") are often completely isolated and consist mainly of quartz rocks.
The Great Glen Fault fault line runs from the Loch Linnhe estuary to the Moray Firth and separates the Grampian Mountains from the North West Highlands. The Great Glen is a 150-kilometer crack in the Earth's crust and largely filled with lakes. The famous Loch Ness, Loch Lochy and Loch Linnhe lie like a ribbon here in the straight valley.

The Cairngorms cover a vast area above 1067 meters, with peaks such as the Cairn Gorm (1245 m), the Ben Macdui (1309 m) and the Braeriach (1295 m). In the area of the Monadhliath Mountains there are a number of high peaks, such as the Ben Lawers (1214 m) and especially the Ben Nevis (1344 m), the highest mountain in all of Great Britain.

Also here are the freshwater lakes of Loch Lomond (71 km2, the largest inland waterway in Britain), Loch Katrine, Loch Awe and Loch Tay, and Scotland's largest rivers, the Spey, the Tay, the Dee and the Don.

The rugged highlands north and west of the Great Glen Fault have an average elevation of 610 meters, punctuated by some spectacular peaks such as the Suilven (731 m), the Canisp (846 m), the Quinag (808 m), the Ben Hope (927 m) and Ben Loyal (764 m).


Scotland includes 186 inhabited islands and approximately 600 uninhabited, most of which are off the northern and western coasts.

Outer Hebrides ScotlandPhoto:Ben Coulson Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-SA 2.0) no changes made

The very jagged west coast has numerous peninsulas and sea arms, and a long way off the coast are the Inner Hebrides and the Outer Hebrides. The Outer Hebrides is an archipelago 64 kilometers west of mainland Scotland known locally as the "Long Islands". They extend in a 208-kilometer, narrow arc from the headland of Butt of Lewis in the north to Cape Barra Head in the south. The northernmost islands of Harris and the larger Lewis actually form one island. Lewis is mostly flat, but Harris gradually rises to high rocky mountains to the north, with the peak of the 799-meter Clisham as its highest point. Other well-known islands include Barra, Vatersay, Saint Kilda and the Uist islands of North Uist, Benbecula and South Uist.

The islands closest to the mainland are called the Inner Hebrides ("Inner Hebrides"). The Inner Hebrides include islands such as Skye, Mull, Iona and Islay.

Island of Skye ScotlandPhoto:Colin Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International no changes made

The often fog-shrouded island of Skye (Gaelic: Eilean A'Ceo 'misty island') lies off the northwest coast of Scotland and is one of the most beautiful of the Scottish islands, boasting impressive estuaries, rocky peaks and stunning views. It is therefore one of Scotland's most popular tourist destinations. The sea arms cut so deep into the landmass that although Skye is only eighty kilometers long and fifty kilometers wide, not one part of the island is more than eight kilometers from the sea.

The northern part of the Isle of Arran is dominated by mountains of around 800 meters; the southern part of Arran is less mountainous, maximum 450-500 meters. The ridge to the south, the Cuillins, is over 1,000 meters high and extends from Loch Brittle in the west to Broadford in the east. The highest peak is the Sgúrr Alasdair (1085 m).

The Isle of Mull consists of a contrasting combination of high mountains, desolate moors, multiform lakes, elongated valleys, deep coves, smooth sandy beaches and stark rock formations. The highest peak on Mull is the Ben More (968 meters).

Iona was the cradle of Christianity in Scotland. In 563, the Irish missionary Columba landed here from Ireland, and with his twelve followers founded a monastery on Iona, from where they started Christianization of Scotland, England, and later the rest of Europe.

Staffa is known for its columnar basalt formations and large caves, which penetrate deep into it. One of the largest caves is Fingal's Cave (22 meters and 76 meters deep).

Shetland Islands ScotlandPhoto:Joe deSousa in the public domain

To the north, above the Pentland Firth, there are two major archipelagos, the Orkney Islands with ninety islands and the Shetland Islands with about a hundred islands (approx. 1426 km2).

The landscape of the Shetland Islands consists mainly of treeless, sparse moor and peat areas, intersected by numerous small lochs. The coast is alternately formed by wild rocks and cliffs or by long sandy beaches. The Shetland Islands are located about 160 km north-northeast of the Scottish mainland, about the same distance as from Norway and only six degrees south of the Arctic Circle. The main islands are Mainland, Yell and Unst.

The Orkney Islands cover a total area of 3,100 km2. Just twelve kilometers separate the northeastern coast from the seventy islands, about a third of which are inhabited. The southernmost island of Orkney is separated from the mainland by the Pentland Firth, which is only 10 kilometers wide. Fair Isle, St. Kilda and Rockall are separate, isolated islands.

The Orkney Islands are mostly sandstone; the barren landscape consists of 85% hilly, fertile agricultural land.

Rain over Beinn Eich, Luss Hills, ScotlandPhoto:Michal Klajban Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International no changes made

Due to the direction in which the Scottish mountains lie, the climate, in addition to the strong southwestern winds, is strongly influenced by the Atlantic Ocean. In winter, this ensures relatively mild temperatures in the lower parts. It gets colder in winter on the high plains, in the mountains and on the northern coasts. In January, the average temperature is between 3-5 °C and freezing at night, and the higher mountains remain covered with snow for months. Summers are generally quite cool: the average temperature in the month of July is 13-15 °C, but in the afternoon it often rises above 20 °C. It rarely gets warmer than 24 °C.

Most of the rain falls in the western mountainous regions, where the southwesterly winds carry very moist air from the Atlantic Ocean. The average falls around 2500 mm per year.Particularly the Outer Hebrides or "Western Isles" are often plagued by depressions with gale force winds and numerous rain showers. On the east coast it rains considerably less, especially in the months of May and June. It is remarkable that the capital Edinburgh has less rain every year than De Bilt (676 mm against 763 mm). The wettest months are July through November, and January is also usually wet.

The gardens at Brodick Castle, Isle of Arran, Scotlandphoto:Magnus Hagdorn Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic no changes made

Located west of the Isle of Mull in the open Atlantic Ocean, Coll and Tiree are known as Britain's sunniest islands. All kinds of differences can also occur on one island. For example, in the western part of Rhum, one of the islands of the Inner Hebrides, there is an average of 110 mm of rainfall every month, while in Kinloch, just 8 kilometers to the east, it falls as much as 230 mm per year. Due to the gulf current, the climate of the island of Arran is quite mild and even palm trees grow here and there.


In Scotland there are some vegetation types that are characteristic of the Atlantic climate.

Forests in ScotlandPhoto:Mathieu Bouchard Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0) no changes made

The forests in Scotland are generally deciduous forests. Beech forests are found on the poorer soils and the evergreen yew, holly and rowan are also found here. In the more humid forests we find an undergrowth of wood anemone, bingel herb, bilberry and bracken.

Ash groves are located in western Scotland along the Nevis River and on the mountain slopes. The undergrowth here is much more varied, including hazel, clematis, hawthorn, red dogwood. Forget-me-not, sweet woodruff and the mountain night orchid grow on the bottom.

Birch forests grow in Scotland from sea level to an altitude of 600 meters. The trees are quite far apart.

Coniferous forests are not naturally found in Scotland, so most conifers are planted.

A large part of the Highlands consists of sparse, treeless high plains. About 4,000 years ago, the landscape looked very different; the land was largely covered with native pine trees (Scots pine). These original forests have almost disappeared and instead a four-meter thick layer of bog and peat was created. Natural Scots Pine forests are only found in the central and eastern Highlands. These so-called Caledonian pine forests are often accompanied by mountain ash, downy birch and aspen poplar. The bottom is covered by juniper, common heather, cowberry and tormentil.

Scotland is known for its vast moors, which are maintained by grazing, cutting or burning down the moor. There are different types of heather.
The dry type is found in East Scotland and has fairly enclosed vegetation with heather, red heather, crow heather, bearberry, bilberry and cowberry. The bottom here is covered with mosses and lichens.

A grouse on the moorland, Scotlandphoto:Peter Aikman Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic no changes made

Wet heather is created in nutrient-poor areas, especially in Western Scotland, with heather in particular and some willow, pipe sprout, gale, peat fluff and peat rush.

In areas of wet heather, bogs can easily develop. Where the humus layer gets thicker every year, bedspreads or blanket bogs are created, a thin layer of peat that covers the tops and slopes of hills like a blanket. Among other things, heather leaves, leg break, sphagnum moss, pipe sprout, bud piping, grease leaf and round sundew grow here.
Lens valleys or raised bogs can develop in valleys, with peat bog, cranberry, heather and common heather as the main vegetation. Small pools of herb, water lobelia and water trilium grow in the pools present. Laagveen develops independently of rainwater and arises in valleys.

Scotland's mild climate makes for semi-natural grasslands. The richest grasslands mainly occur in the river valleys, where the soil is neutral and quite moist. The higher the grazing and manure content of cows and sheep, the fewer species there are. These species-poor meadows mainly include: English ryegrass, brassica, rough meadow grass and herbs such as white clover, dandelion, field horn flower and sharp buttercup.

Yew of Fortingall ScotlandPhoto:Mogens Engelund Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported no changes made

On the green slope of Mount Ben Lawers in Pertshire at the exit of the Glen Ogle valley is Fortingall Yew, the "yew of Fortingall". The 3000-year-old tree is perhaps the oldest in all of Europe.

The flora of the Scottish Highlands is very varied: over 900 of the 1700 plant species identified in Great Britain are found here. The thistle, the symbol of Scotland and Primula scotia (Scottish primrose) are the best known. Plants have been used to denote the different clans since the Middle Ages. Around 1470, the Scottish kings first chose the thistle as a royal symbol. The pink blooming primrose is only found in Northern Scotland and the Orkney Islands and nowhere else in the world. In areas where snow remains for a long time, only specially adapted flora can survive, such as lady's mantle, sibbaldia and liverwort.

The yellow saxifrage is common in the Arctic, but can also be seen regularly in the Scottish moors.

In the hamlet of Meikleour is a giant beech hedge, which is the highest in the world at about 27 meters. It was planted in 1747 and is still growing.
The small pink Primula scotia is still found on some cliffs of the Orkney Islands.


Golden Eagle ScotlandPhoto:Paul Wordingham Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic no changes made

Birds of prey
The most impressive appearance, and also a national symbol, is the golden eagle, which is still found on the island of Skye, the Outer Hebrides and the northwestern highlands. In 1985 the white-tailed eagle was released and the osprey and harrier again build nests in Scotland. The peregrine falcon is still common in the Highlands.

In 1770 the capercaillie was released in Scotland, the largest specimen in the family of the shag fowl. The Scottish ptarmigan lives mainly on open heathlands, the black grouse on the heath as well as on the edge of the forest. The Alpine ptarmigan lives high in the mountains.

The Scottish cliffs and islands provide a good habitat for a large number of seabird species, including puffins, guillemots, kittiwakes, razorbills, Northern petrels and gannets.

Roe deer are still abundant in the forests, as are foxes, hares and rabbits. Badgers and otters are much less common, while wild cats ("Scottish tiger") and martens can only be found in remote peat and woodlands and ermines only in the north of Scotland. Red squirrels occur in the Highlands, gray squirrels in the Lowlands. Semi-wild animals include Scottish highlanders, Shetland ponies and many sheep species. The snow hare lives on the moors.

Only on the islands of Colonsay and Islay are very rare Alpine crows with striking red legs and red beaks.

In the peat bogs of Flow Country in the northern counties of Sutherland and Caithness, rare waders such as the green-legged horseman, merlin, pearl diver and other lapwing, redshank, variegated sandpiper, curlew, diving bird. These animals are threatened by the construction of huge pine and spruce forests.

Red Deer Scotlandphoto:Mehmet Karatay Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported no changes made

The Scottish Highlands is home to some of Scotland's symbols, the golden eagle and the red deer, of which over 300,000 live in the Highlands. Special birds in this area are the capercaillie, corncrake and the endangered marsh ptarmigan. In the mountains and on the 'moors' you will also encounter plenty of fallow deer, roe deer, wild goats, forest cats, weasels, badgers, foxes, hares, rabbits, squirrels and seals and cone seals, dolphins, porpoises, otters and on the coast single whale.

There are about 3,000 pine martens in Britain, all in Scotland.

Until the 12th century there were still plenty of reindeer in Scotland. Mainly due to hunting, they became extinct, but recently a number of herds have been released on the slopes of the Cairngorms.

As for birds, the golden eagle, buzzard, kestrel, sparrow hawk, morel plover, snow bunting and raven are found in the mountains. On the moors we find the peregrine falcon, hen harrier, squeaker, skylark and black grouse. In the coniferous forests you can find many seed eaters such as crossbill, finch and redpoll; gray flycatcher and collared redstart live on insects from the forest. On the coast, waterfowl are strongly represented, including guillemots, razorbills, petrels, kittiwakes, crested cormorants, puffins and arctic terns. Different types of geese, swans and ducks are among the overwinterers. Scotland still has a number of fairly clean salmon rivers.

Shedland Pony HerdPhoto:Paul Buckingham Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-SA 2.0) no changes made

The Shetland Islands are home to eight times as many sheep as humans, but the islands are best known for their Shetland ponies. Because the islands have few forests, there are no more than fifty nesting species of birds, such as gannets, herring gulls, black guillemots, great skua or "bonxies", northern petrels and puffins. On a boat trip around the islands there is a great chance to encounter seals, dolphins and porpoises.

More than 200 species of algae have been found around the Orkney Islands, including microscopic algae; sea cucumber is one of them and furthermore worth mentioning the snail blue gibulla, brittle star, large North sea crab, swimming crab, cockle and blue lobster. A lot of fish swim between and above the undersea seaweeds: herring, salmon, cod, mackerel, sandeel, goby, flatfish and red gurnard. Otters and seals are quite common, especially the gray seal. The most common large whale on Orkney is the pilot whale. With a bit of luck you can also encounter killer whales, common whales and minke whales. The white-beaked dolphin is the most common dolphin-like; the gray dolphin (also called Risso's dolphin) and the white-sided dolphin can also be seen regularly. The bottlenose dolphin and common dolphin are rare.

The national 'animal' of Scotland is the mythical unicorn.

Prehistory and Antiquity

Knapp of Howar, a house from 3500 B.CFoto:unknown Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported no changes made

Approx. 8500 BC, after the last ice age, people must have lived in Scotland. Given the archaeological finds that have been made, they probably came from Spain or France. For example, a burial chamber was found in the Orkney Islands that closely resembled finds in the Iberian Peninsula. Stone axes indicate the arrival of trading Irish. At the time, the strip of land between France and England had not yet been completely flooded by the Channel. Hence, these prehistoric nomads were able to penetrate freely into "English" territory.

Around 3000 BC. immigrants came from the Low Countries and Rhineland, the 'Beaker People' (Beaker People). These immigrants later mixed with the already existing Picts. Very little is known about the Picts. This people, enemies of the Romans, were first reported in AD 297. When the Roman Empire in 409 AD. fell into disrepair, the southeastern Picts were driven out by the Celtic Scotii. In the 10th century, there was nothing left of the Picts and the Pictish culture.

Scotland's famous megalithic monuments were erected between 2000 and 1500 BC. by a people believed to be from the Mediterranean.

At the beginning of the Iron Age, c. 800 years BC. Celtic speaking tribes moved from Central Europe to Scotland.

Roman "domination"

Pictish symbolic stone ScotlandPhoto: Catfish Jim and the soapdish at English Wikipedia Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported no changes made

The Romans tried from 43 AD. to get the British archipelago (Latin: Britannia) under control, and as far as England and parts of Wales were concerned, this had already been successful in 78. Scotland (Latin: Caledonia) was a very different story, however, as the inaccessible Highlands were an impregnable fortress and plans for the conquest of Scotland were soon abandoned.

The Romans were so afraid of raids from the north by the Caledonians that Emperor Hadrian (117-138) had a 110-kilometer long defense wall (Hadrian's Wall) built in 122 along the border ("limes"). Further north, Antoninus Pius (138-161) built a second defensive wall in 140, "Antonine's Wall". The Romans would rule the UK until the early 5th century, but from 368 they no longer had any power in Scotland. Around 400 AD. the Romans left their northern outposts and Scotland was divided into four nations, each with their own ruler. The Picts and the Scots are the two most important. In 407, the last Romans left England, fleeing the rising uprisings.

Middle Ages

Kenneth I MacAlpin, King of Scotland (843-63)Photo:public domain

Thus, after the Romans, four nations settled in the area that was to become Scotland, including the rival Picts and Scots. The Scots were originally from Northern Ireland, then called Scotia. They crossed to the mainland in the 5th century and called their kingdom "Dalriada", which meant "Kingdom of the Scots". The name Scotland only came into fashion in the 10th century. An important date was the year 563 when the Irish monk Saint Columbanus settled on the island of Iona and from there began to spread Christianity across northwestern Europe.

In 843, Picts and Scots united under Kenneth I MacAlpin, who became king of Alba, the later kingdom of Scotia. Both peoples had now converted to Christianity, and Gaelic, the language of the Scots, gradually became the national language. Remarkably, the culture of the once mighty Picts would disappear completely.

Meanwhile, the Germanic Angels had also migrated from the area around the mouth of the Elbe to Northern England (Northumbria) and settled in what is now Lothian. Furthermore, the Lowlands were home to Breton, and from 890, raids of the Vikings, which occupied the Western Isles for 370 years, and the Shetland and Orkney Islands began for nearly 600 years.

The Kingdom of Scotland

The seat of government in the United Kingdom of Scotia was established by King Kenneth I in Scone, where almost all of his successors would also be crowned. The kings were seated on the sacred "Stone of Scone" (Stone of Destiny).
Under Malcolm II, Scotia expanded to the present southern border of Scotland. Edinburgh was brought under the influence of the Scottish monarch in 962, and the Angels were subdued in 1018.

Duncan I King of Scotland (1034-1040)Photo:public domain

In 1034, Duncan I became the first king of a unified Scotland, including Lothian. Only the areas where the Vikings lived were excluded from this.

Duncan I was murdered in 1040 by Macbeth (Shakespeare), who was defeated again in 1057 by Duncan's son, Malcolm III "Ceann Mor" (Grand Head).

In 1066 (Battle of Hastings) England was conquered by William the Conqueror, the Duke of Normandy. A few months later he was crowned King William I of England in London and English as the official language was even replaced by French. Modern English would later emerge from this mixture of two languages. During this time, the power of the Church also increased enormously. The kings made great donations to the Church in exchange for support against potential enemies.

Marriages between English and Scottish nobility led to widespread conflicts of interest, resulting in many conflicts and unrest. David I, son of Malcolm III, conquered almost all of Northumbria, what is now Northern England. His grandson William the Lion first performed the standing red Scottish lion on his banner. Until 1286, Scotland entered a somewhat calmer waters and the economy and culture flourished under the kings Alexander II and Alexander III.

War of independence (1297-1328)

Statue Robert the Bruce Scotlandphoto:Aaron Bradley Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-SA 2.0) no changes made

Alexander III's death in 1286 sparked a succession crisis and a long, bloody struggle for Scottish independence.

Alexander had no successor, and when he died his three-year-old granddaughter Margaret, daughter of the King of Norway, became Queen of Scotland in 1286. However, in 1290 she died unexpectedly and a power vacuum was created.

No fewer than thirteen pretenders to the throne claimed the throne, but Edward I of England appointed the great-grandson of David I, John Baillol, as king of Scotland in 1292. Much to Edward's chagrin, this Baillol made an alliance with France in 1295 (The Auld Alliance). Edward responded by sending troops, conquering part of Scotland and taking the famous "Stone of Scone" with him.

The next Scottish leader, William Wallace, would become a Scottish hero. He defeated the English at Stirling (1297), but eventually had to lose in 1298 at Falkirk. In 1305 he was captured by the British and sentenced, hanged and quartered in London.

In 1306 a new Scottish hero was crowned king, Robert I "The Bruce". He attempted to retake the Lowlands from King Edward II of England and on June 24, 1314, defeated a large English army at Bannockburn, near Stirling.

The "Declaration of Arbroath" in 1320 declared the independence of Scotland by the nobles of Robert Bruce, but it was not until 1328 that the English King Edward III recognized the sovereign status of Scotland by the Treaty of Northampton. Robert The Bruce did not enjoy this for long, he died in 1329.

The House of Stewart (later Stuart)

James IV of ScotlandPhoto:public domain

In 1326, Robert Bruce made an alliance with France, and the main beneficiaries were members of the Stewart (or Stuart) family. They took their name from their position of "High Stewarets" (chamber servants) of the king and descended from the Fitzalans, Normans, who came to England in 1066 with William the Conqueror.

In 1371 the first king of the house of Stewart came to power, Robert II. The 15th century was dominated by continuous conflicts with the English, but internally there was also much conflict and disagreement. Remarkably, in the 15th and 16th centuries, almost all Scottish kings came to the throne as children. The Stuart princes James I, II and III, who ruled successively between 1406 and 1488, came to the throne as a child and all ended violently. This gave the nobility the opportunity to secure almost royal privileges, greatly diminishing the power of the central government.

In 1503, King James IV married Margaret Tudor, daughter of Henry VII of England, and their descendants were allowed to claim the English throne again. James IV re-established ties with France, and thus went to war with Henry VIII of England. In 1513 the Scottish army was defeated at the Battle of Flodden Hill and James IV was also killed.

James V then decided to strengthen the ties with the French even more and in 1537 even married a daughter of François I and later the French princess Marie de Guise.

Especially Catholic Scotland fell under the spell of the Reformation in the 16th century. Protestants led by John Knox sought support from already reformed England.

Era Mary Stuart (1542-1567)

Mary Queen of ScotsPhoto:public domain

James V died in 1542 and was succeeded by his daughter and sole heir, the later Mary Stuart, Queen of Scots. She was only nine months old when she was crowned Queen of Scotland, and was also the first daughter of the English Henry VII to become the English throne. Her mother, Marie de Guise, held the regency from 1554 and had Mary brought up at the French court. It was therefore not surprising that she married the French crown prince François II in 1558.

Also in 1558 Elizabeth I became Queen of England, but she was not recognized as such by France. She was a daughter from an illegitimate marriage, hence. When the King of France died in 1559, the then 16-year-old Mary came to the French throne with her husband and later proclaimed herself Queen of England.

When Mary was eighteen years old, she returned to Scotland as the widow of the French crown prince. In 1565, she married her cousin Henry Stewart, Lord Darnley, who was murdered in 1567. On June 19, 1566, Mary gave birth to a son, James VI of Scotland, later James I of England. In 1567, she married James Hepburn, Earl of Bothwell, who was suspected of having been involved in the murder of Darnley. This sparked a true rebellion and Protestant nobles committed another coup the same year and imprisoned Mary. She was forced to resign and appoint a regency board for her son. In June 1567, James VI was crowned Protestant King of Scotland, but was under the regency of Mary's half-brother James Stewart, Earl of Moray, and English-minded lords.

In 1568, Mary escaped from her prison and fled to England to seek help from her cousin Elizabeth I. Her claims to the English throne did not make her very friendly, on the contrary, she was held in exile on Fotheringhay for 19 years. Castle and beheaded on February 8, 1587.

Seventeenth century

King Charles I od ScotlandPhoto:public domain

Mary's son, James VI of Scotland (the last Stuart king), succeeded his cousin Elizabeth I in 1603 and became James I of England. Desperate for power, he tried to link his son Charles to the Catholic Henriette Marie of France. This Charles succeeded his father James VI in 1625 and wanted to change the Calvinist Church in Scotland to an Anglican model. This led to a Scottish uprising in 1639 and after great problems with the English parliament, he fled to northern England, which was still well-disposed to him.

Eventually a civil war followed in 1642, won by Oliver Cromwell and his New Model Army. In January 1649, Charles was convicted and beheaded on January 30. Cromwell did not grow out of it and abolished the monarchy and proclaimed the republic, and England, Ireland and Scotland were united into a commonwealth. However, this did not work and after Cromwell's death in 1660, Charles II came to the throne, who ruled Scotland from England.

Childless Charles was succeeded by his brother, James VII of Scotland (also James II of England). James was a Catholic and was deposed in 1688 in favor of his daughter Mary, who was married in Holland to the Protestant prince William of Orange (William of Orange). Both the English and the Scots found a Catholic king unacceptable and at the request of the English parliament Willem landed on English soil on November 5, 1688. In 1689, William and Mary were crowned King William III and Queen Mary II and James VII fled to France ("The Glorious Revolution").

Some Scots, most Highlanders, remained loyal to James. These so-called Jacobites rebelled and on July 27, 1689, an army of William was defeated at the pass of Killiecrankie. Queen Anne succeeded Willem in 1702, but the English Parliament was determined to keep the thrones of England and Scotland further out of the Stuarts' hands. They turned to Elector Sophie of Hanover, a granddaughter of James VI. The Scots were promised that if they accepted the succession by the Hanoverian house, they would be given many important trade concessions. However, there was one very important condition: England and Scotland had to unite under one parliament!

In 1690, another law was passed that definitively recognized the Presbyterian Church of Scotland as a state church.

Scotland and England together

Bonnie Prince Charle ScotlamdPhoto :public domain

Rebellions broke out in Edinburgh and elsewhere, but the opposition was severely divided and on May 1, 1707, the Treaty of the Union (Act of the Union) was signed by Scotland and England, which lifted the Scottish Parliament and left Scotland as a state and Britain was a fact.

Economically it was a good thing for Scotland because England had grown into a world economic power. It was interesting for England because a potential enemy at the northern border had been lost.

Still, not everyone was charmed by the agreement with the English, and several supporters of the house of Stuart could still be found. One was Charles Edward Stuart, grandson of James II, who fled to France. He was also called "young pretender" or "Bonnie prince Charlie" and he attempted to overthrow the English king George II in 1745 in order to get his father James Edward Stuart (James VIII) on the British throne. In the valley of Glenfinnan he raised the standard of the House of Stuart on August 19, 1745 and proclaimed his father King James VIII of Scotland (also James III of England) and regent himself.

However, on April 16, 1746, the Jacobites were defeated at the Battle of Culloden by English troops led by the Duke of Cumberland. Bonnie Prince Charlie eventually escaped to Italy and Cumberland eliminated all Scottish foci of resistance.

After the Battle of Culloden, strict measures were announced for the Scottish Highlands. It was now forbidden by law to wear tartan, play bagpipes and carry weapons. The ties between clan and clan chief were broken and would never be restored.

Scotland 1745 – 1850

Robert Burns Poet ScotlandPhoto:public domain

After the defeat, life in the Highlands of Scotland changed radically. The significance of the clans declined and they switched from traditional livestock farming to sheep farming. The main food for the poor farmers was potatoes, and after a failed harvest, thousands of Scots emigrated to Canada, Australia and the United States. Many Highlanders also left for the major cities of Edinburgh and Glasgow, where new industries opened up employment. This period of depopulation is called the Highland Clearances, which lasted roughly from 1780 to 1820. This was also the time of the so-called Scottish Enlightenment, an intellectual, scientific and commercial boom. In the second half of the eighteenth century, Scotland experienced industrialization and a boom in activity in many industries. As a result, in the 18th century Scotland changed from one of the poorest countries in Europe to a state of reasonable prosperity.

Finally, Robert Burns' poetry and even more the historical novels by Sir Walter Scott contributed to preserving awareness of national identity and traditions in Scotland.

Scotland 1850-2000

Statue Donald Dewar ScotlandPhoto:douglas sheehan Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported no changes made

The Scottish Labor Party was founded in 1888 and the National Party of Scotland in 1928, also a left-wing party that wanted to separate itself completely from England. This went too far for many Scots at the time and in response to this the moderate Scottish National Party was established in 1934, which pursued self-government within the Commonwealth. The Labor Party has been the largest party in Scotland since 1945. The leader of this party, Donald Dewar, became Prime Minister of Scotland's new semi-autonomous administration after the elections of 6 May 1999.

This good result for Scotland came after a long time of "devolution" (decentralization) and the pursuit of "home rule". In 1707, the Scottish Parliament was merged with the English. In the 20th century, however, many powers were again transferred to The Scottish Office, the United Kingdom Department in charge of Scottish affairs. The relevant minister was still accountable to the London parliament.

In the sixties of the last century, there was again much talk about the question of whether another Scottish parliament should be established. At the end of the 1970s, an attempt at privatization was undertaken by the Labor government, but it failed completely. Scotland then suffered a strike wave and Labor lost the election and only came back to power in 1997. Labor won by promising, among other things, that decentralization of power to Scotland would be central to the new policy. In 1996, the Scottish coronation stone, the Stone of Scone, was returned to Scotland with much ceremony after more than 700 years.

On July 24, 1997, the British government released a book entitled Scotland's Parliament. This book proposed the establishment of a Scottish Parliament that would have legislative powers and the right to levy taxes. A referendum was held in Scotland on 11 September 1997 and nearly three-quarters of the Scots voted to establish a parliament. On December 17, 1997, all bills (Scotland Bill) which became an Act in November 1998 following royal approval.

Scotland 21th century

Scottish Parliament buildingPhoto:Kim Traynor Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported no changes made

The first elections to a Scottish Parliament were held on 6 May 1999; the Labor Party received 56 out of 129 seats in parliament, the Scottish National Party (SNP) 35. Labor formed a coalition with the moderate Liberal Democrats, who finished fourth with 17 seats. The Conservatives won 18 seats. Parliament first met in Edinburgh on July 1 of that year.

It is not yet entirely clear whether one strives for complete independence, but the devolution goal (self-government and decentralization - yes, secession of Great Britain - no) from the 18th century has now become a reality.

The Scottish Parliament has 129 seats, with the following parties:

Scottish National Party (separatist social democrats)
Scottish Labor Party (federalist social democrats)
Scottish Conservative and Unionist Party (Unionist Conservatives)
Scottish Liberal Democrats (federalist liberals)
Scottish Green Party (separatist greens)

Nicola Syurgeon ScotlandPhoto:Kenneth Halley Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International no changes made

Since the 2011 elections, Alex Salmond of the Scottish National Party heads a majority cabinet. In September 2014, the Scottish people voted in a referendum that Scotland will remain within the United Kingdom. In 2016, the call for independence will again become stronger. The Scots want to stay within the EU and the UK has decided by referendum to move beyond the EU. Meanwhile, Nicola Sturgeon has taken over from Alex Salmond since 2014. She does particularly well in elections to the UK Parliament. In the last elections of 2019, her SNP took 48 seats out of the 59 seats available for Scotland. The SNP and most Scots are pro EU.

See also the history of England on Landenweb.


Since 1901 (4,472,000 inhabitants; currently (2017) approximately 5.3 million), the population of Scotland has increased only moderately. This slight increase in population was caused by a departure surplus; it is estimated that more than 20 million Scots and descendants of them live all over the world.

Scotland is one of the least populated areas in Europe with about 65 inhabitants per km2. Most of the population (approx. 80%) lives in the central lowland ("Central Belt"), in the industrial triangle of Dundee, Edinburgh, Glasgow. The rest of the country, apart from the northeast, is sparsely populated. The four largest cities are: Glasgow (600,000 inhabitants), Edinburgh (500,000), Dundee (141,000) and Aberdeen (211,000). The Southern Lowlands have about a quarter of a million inhabitants, the Highlands and Islands about one million.

Highland games ScotlandPhoto:Jon Sullivan in the public domain

From an ethnic point of view, Scotland is a melting pot of peoples, which in successive waves hit the British Isles between 1000 BC. and 1100 AD. flooded. Characteristics of the Norwegian race predominate on Shetland, Orkney and some islands of the Hebrides; in the Highlands of the Celtic and in the Lowlands of the Anglo-Saxon race. The peoples of which the Scots are composed include, first of all, the Picts, then Celts, Scoti, Angels and Saxons, Vikings and Normans.
Furthermore, only tens of thousands of ethnic minorities live in Scotland, mainly Indians, Pakistanis and Chinese, but also Irish, Italians, Jews and Poles.


Gaelic RBS LogoPhoto:Chandres Creative Commons-licentie Naamsvermelding-Gelijk delen 3.0 Unportedno changes

The official language is dominated by its own form of Standard English, also known as Standard Scots. Nevertheless, Scotland historically belongs to four language spheres:

a. (Scottish) Gaelic (Ghàidhlig, English: Gaelic or Erse), is one of the Celtic languages and is still spoken and used as a church language in the Highlands and the Hebrides. Scottish Gaelic (gallic), akin to Irish, is one of the oldest languages in Europe. Gaelic is still spoken by about 80,000 Scots, but also by overseas Scots. It is a branch of the Indo-European language family, which includes Irish, Manx (the language of the Isle of Man), Welsh, Cornish (the language of Cornwall) and Breton.

Scottish Gaelic came to Scotland in the 3rd century from Northern Ireland (then: Scotia) with the Scots. In the 11th century it was spoken almost everywhere in what is now Scotland, but ceased to exist as the language of the Scottish court around that time. In the following centuries, Gaelic was spoken by fewer and fewer people in Scotland and gradually supplanted by English.

Gaelic even became a language of extinction, but now more and more young Scots are choosing to learn the language of their ancestors. Gaelic is also taught at many primary schools. In Argyll, on the Isle of Skye and on the Hebrides, all public designations are bilingual, and on Skye, Gaelic vocational training is provided.

b. (Lowland) Scottish, up to about 1600 the national language, of which spoken forms (Broad Scots, Lallans) still live on as dialects, also used literary from the 18th century, in the 20th century also as a lexically mixed poet language. Even in its purest form, Lowland Scots are very similar to Standard English in grammar, but in terms of vocabulary and pronunciation, the two languages are very different. The Lowland Scots used to be spoken in the south and east, currently only in the northeast of Scotland. The most famous Scottish writer was the poet Robert Burns (1759-1796).

c. Norn, a Norwegian dialect in Caithness and on the Orkney and Shetland Islands, died out in the 18th century.
In Shetland, by the way, a mixture of Old Norse, English and Scottish is spoken, moreover, laced with German and Dutch terms.

d. English or "Inglis", emerged as a writing, gradually as a spoken and spoken language, mainly as a result of the Reformation (1560), the departure of king and nobility to London (1603) and the political union with England (1707).
Scottish English is a strong, locally different dialect, in which not only the "r" rolls and the "g" is not pronounced "k" in England, but also many words derived from Gaelic.

Some Gaelic words and expressions:

Good morning = madainn mhath
Good night = Oidhche mhath
Thank you = tapadh leat
Cheese = càise
Meat = feòil
Vegetable = glasraich
Beer = leann
Whiskey = uisge beatha

Many towns and villages have both an English and a Gaelic name:

Benbecula = Beinn Na Faoghla
Butt of Lewis = Rubha Robhanais
Castlebay = Bagh a’Chaisteil
Flodigarry = Flodaigearraidh
Harris = Na Hearadh
Kilmuir = Cille Mhoire
Leverburgh = An t-Ob
Stornoway = Steornabhagh
Tarbert = An Tairbeart


Dunblane Cathedral ScotlandPhoto:DeFacto Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International no changes made

The Presbyterian* Church of Scotland or Scottish Church (also called "Kirk") has about 1600 congregations with about 752,000 members, the (Anglican) Episcopal Church of Scotland about 58,000; the number of Roman Catholics is approximately 745,000, living mainly in and around Glasgow, who are divided into two archdioceses and six dioceses. These Catholics are still descended from the Irish immigrants who arrived in Scotland in the 19th century. Quite a few Catholics still live in Aberdeenshire, the Eastern Highlands, the Southern Hebrides, South Uist, Eriskay and Barra Islands.

In addition, there is the Free Church of Scotland, especially on the Western Isles (Outer Hebrides on Harris, North Uist and Lewis Islands), and a number of small Orthodox Calvinist denominations, such as Methodists, Congregationalists and Unitarians. Furthermore, there are still small numbers of Jews, Muslims, Hindus and Buddhists. Glasgow has many synagogues, mosques and even a Buddhist center.

Church of Scotland logoPhoto:Matthew Ross in the public domain

The Church of Scotland is strictly democratic, and ecclesiastical congregations and elders have an important voice. For example, the elders look for a suitable minister candidate who may or may not be elected by the congregations. The leader of the Scottish Church, the "moderator", is elected for only one year.
The Church of Scotland's highest organ, the General Assembly, meets in Edinburgh every year.

*Presbyterianism (Greek: presbuteros = elder) is a name used in the English language area for what is called Reformed Protestantism elsewhere.

Presbyterianism is a strict religious movement, in which the Presbyterians worship God, their Creator, in simple houses of worship. The pulpit is central; statues, paintings and other decorations are hardly present. The pastor's sermon is very important, there is no further liturgy and no fixed forms of prayer like the Lord's Prayer. The prayers are "extempore", unprepared.

The reason for the lack of ostentation is that rituals are considered utterly insignificant; much more important is the relationship of the individual to his or her creator.

Sincerity is seen as the most important virtue and the standards that the "kirk" holds up to its believers are duty, discipline and serious concern for what is good for society.


Scotland belongs to the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, a constitutional monarchy headed by Queen Elizabeth II since 1952.

Scotland had formed a parliamentary union with England since 1707 ("Act of the Union"), but it maintained its own legal system. In the British cabinet, one minister, the Secretary of State for Scotland, is in charge of Scottish affairs. He heads the government center in Edinburgh (St. Andrew's House). This Scottish Office also has an office in London under the same name. The Secretary of State is directly accountable to Parliament for the actions of the departments that make up the Scottish Office.

Debating chamber of the Scottish ParliamentPhoto:Colin Creative Commons Naamsvermelding-GelijkDelen 4.0 Internationaal no changes made

The Blair government decentralized regional affairs, giving Scotland its own parliament for the first time in three centuries. Before that, a referendum was first held in 1997, with 74.3% voting for the formation of their own Scottish Parliament. Then, in May 1999, a parliament was elected for the first time in 300 years, which first met in January 2000.

The first First Minister of Scotland became Glasgow socialist Donald Dewar. It was striking that 48 women were elected in the 129-member parliament. Only the parliaments of Denmark and Sweden have a higher percentage of women in their ranks.

Important powers of the new parliament are the introduction of laws and certain powers in taxes. Furthermore, decisions are taken on matters such as health care, education, housing and agriculture. The Scottish Development Department has overall responsibility for local government.

Scotland has no president and is simply part of the United Kingdom, so the Queen is still officially the head of the state. For the current political situation see chapter history.

Administrative division

Since 1975 Scotland has been administratively divided into nine regions, divided into 53 districts, and three independent administrative units (so-called Island Authorities) for the administration of the Orkney Islands, Shetland Islands and Western Isles. In 1996 a new reclassification took place, in which 32 administrative units replaced the nine 'regions' and 53 districts.

AreaMain cityPopulationArea
Aberdeen CityAberdeen212.000186 km2
AberdeenshireAberdeen226.0006.313 km2
AngusForfar108.0002.182 km2
Argyll and ButeLochgilphead91.0006.909 km2
City of EdinburghEdinburgh450.000264 km2
ClackmannanshireAlloa48.000159 km2
Dumfries and GallowayDumfries148.0006.426 km2
Dundee CityDundee146.00060 km2
East AyrshireKilmarnock120.0001.262 km2
East DumbartonshireKirkintilloch108.000175 km2
East LothianHaddington90.000679 km2
East RenfrewshireGiffnock90.000174 km2
Eilean SiarWestern Steòrnabhagh27.0003.071 km2
FalkirkFalkirk145.000297 km2
FifeGlenrothes350.0001.325 km2
Glasgow CityGlasgow603.000175 km2
HighlandInverness210.00025.659 km2
InverclydeGreenock84.000160 km2
MidlothianDalkeith81.000354 km2
MorayElgin87.0002.238 km2
North AyrshireIrvine135.000885 km2
North LanarkshireMotherwell320.000470 km2
Orkney IslandsKirkwall20.000990 km2
Perth and KinrossPerth135.0005.286 km2
RenfrewshirePaisley173.000261 km2
Scottish BordersNewtown
St. Boswells
107.0004.732 km2
Shetland IslandsLerwick22.0001.466 km2
South AyrshireAyr112.0001.222 km2
South LanarkshireHamilton302.0001.772 km2
StirlingStirling86.0002.187 km2
West DumbartonshireDumbarton93.000159 km2
West LothianLivingston160.000427 km2


Scotland Street School Museum (Glasgow)Photo:Jean-Pierre Dalbera Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0) no changes made

Nursery education
Early childhood education (ages 2 to 5) is provided, usually free of charge, by central government, local government and private institutions. The government is expanding the educational options for the youngest children. Places will be offered at subsidized schools and nursery classes for all four-year-olds whose parents wish.

Primary education
Compulsory education in Scotland is divided into primary education (ages 5 to 12) and secondary education (ages 12 to 16). Primary school normally starts at the age of five and lasts seven years. This period includes three stages: P1 to P3 (early education stage), P4 and P5 (middle stage) and P6 and P7 (upper primary stage).

Education during the compulsory school age is free and the educational authorities provide the necessary educational facilities.

All students learn a foreign language during the last two years of primary education. In some schools, Gaelic is taught as a second language or used as a language of instruction. No certificate is issued at the end of primary education.

Lower secondary education
Lower secondary education is provided to comprehensive schools, which offer a mandatory four-year polyvalent training. The lower secondary education consists of two stages: after two years of general education (S1 and S2), two years (S3 and S4) follow specialized and vocational education for all students.

In addition to English, all students learn at least one other language, preferably a living European language, during the four years of compulsory secondary education.

No certificate is issued at the end of primary education. At the end of compulsory education, students take an external exam, drawn up by the Scottish Examination Board. They will receive a certificate stating the grade for each subject (from 1 to 7). Students may also obtain the Scottish Vocational Education Council (SCOTVEC) National Certificate and participate in short Scottish Examination Board courses.

Higher secondary education
Upper secondary education is offered in the last two years (S5 and S6) of the secondary school. In those last two years, students in S5 and S6 can take many courses and combine Scottish Certificate of Education (SCE) Higher Grades and, in S6, Certificate of Sixth Year Studies (CSYS) with short courses from the SCE and / or modules of the SCOTVEC National Certificate.

It is common for students to take as many as five SCE Higher Grade exams in a year and thus maintain a broad, balanced program. Universities often require students to have completed Higher Grades. In Scotland, secondary schools are free, as are the Further Education Colleges for students who are 18 years old on September 1 of the enrollment year.

Higher education

Old College of Edinburgh UniversityPhoto:Kim Traynor Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported no changes made

Since 1992, almost all higher education institutions belong to the same category. Each university is autonomous and decides itself on "degrees" (degrees) and other titles that it issues and also sets its own standards. Most universities have a wide spectrum of university and post-university courses. University vocational courses are generally offered by polytechnic universities.

To be admitted to higher education, students must have passed a number of Standard-Grade or Higher-Grade exam subjects organized by the Scottish Examination Board for the purpose of issuing a Scottish Certificate of Education.

The Ordinary Degree concludes three years of full-time study; the Honors Degree completes a more specialized and usually tougher four-year course. The first degree in arts, humanities and languages (Master of Arts - MA) from Scottish universities has been equated with the Bachelor's degree from England. More and more institutions are awarding a Bachelor's degree, especially to engineers and teachers.

Postgraduate studies are completed with postgraduate degrees after one year, or with a Master's degree after two years. Research degrees (MPhil, PhD) can be obtained at almost any higher education institution.

There are 12 universities in Scotland: Aberdeen (founded 1495), Dundee (1960), Edinburgh (1582), Glasgow (1451), Heriot-Watt (Edinburgh, 1966), St Andrews (1411), Stirling (1964), Strathclyde (Glasgow, 1963) and four polytechnic schools that received university status in 1992.

Typically Scottish


Sir Hugh Munro ScotlandPhoto:Alistair Munro in the public domain

A "Munro" is a mountain in Scotland over 3000 feet or 914 meters high. The name Munro refers to Sir Hugh Munro, the first president of the Scottish Mountaineering Club (SMC), who established a list of 277 munros in 1891.
The exact number of Munros is still not fixed after all these years and changes with every new count. The big problem is: when is it an independent top and when is it part of another Munro. It is nowadays generally agreed that there are at least 284 Munros.

In the 1920s, J. Rooke Corbett published a list of mountain peaks between 760 and 915 meters. These 221 "Corbetts" are more clearly defined than the Munros, because they can only have one top.

Mountain peaks of 610-760 meters are called "Grahams" and are on a third list. All peaks higher than 610 meters are now categorized and published.


Loch Ness ScotlandPhoto:Sam Fentress Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic no changes made

When the most famous monster in the world is "spotted" for the first time remains uncertain. An international phenomenon became "Nessie" only in the thirties of the last century.

In May 1933, the Inverness Courier reported a couple who saw a strange beast swimming around Loch Ness, Britain's deepest freshwater lake.
Soon more people appeared to have "seen" the monster and the myth was born, which continues to date. Books have been published and Inverness tourism has flourished. As yet, no hard evidence has been found and it only seems important for the local middle class to maintain the myth.
Loch Ness, 37 kilometers long and about 1.5 kilometers wide, is 213 meters deep almost everywhere, except for one part, where the saline bottom is located at 305 meters. The Loch is fed by eight rivers and about 40 streams.


Whiskey Barrels ScotlandPhoto:Chistian Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic no changes made

The earliest known reference to whisky (Celtic: uisge beatha) dates from 1494. Whisky is one of Scotland's major exports and is even among the top five British exports. Numerous distilleries are scattered all over Scotland. More than 40 distilleries are already located in the village of Moray. Hundreds of millions of bottles are exported every year, mainly to the United States, France, Japan and Spain.

Whisky is made from barley, water and yeast. There are two types: malt whisky and grain whisky. Malt whisky is made from malted barley, grain whisky from malted barley, and another grain, usually corn. A "single malt" is a real malt whisky, while a "blend" is a mixture of malt whisky and grain whisky (40-60%).


MacLachlan Tartan ScotlandPhoto:Celtus Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.5 Generic no changes made

The Celtic word tartan means cover or jacket. The precursors of the tartan were used by the Celts two thousand years ago. The number of colors used increased with the place in the hierarchy: seven colors for the king, six for the Druids (the priests), and six for the nobles Nowadays the word tartan primarily means the colors and motif, the Scottish window, of the kilt material. The windows were the mark of the old clans.

In 1746, after the Battle of Culloden, the English Parliament banned the wearing of tartans, and many family colors were lost. Only the models that were recorded in old portraits are still considered authentic. All other clans had to have new tartans made, and at the moment there are about 1300 different designs of the tartans.

The tartans are divided into different groups such as 'chief tartans' for the clan chiefs and their immediate family, 'military tartans' for the Scottish regiments, the 'district tartans' for non-clan Scots and the 'royal tartans', exclusively reserved for the royal family. Since the sixteenth century, each region in the Scottish Highlands had its own diamond pattern.


Map Clans of ScotlandPhoto:public domain

The Gaelic word "clann" means something like "children" or "family", but the clan included all who recognized the authority of the clan chief. The highland clans certainly formed complete patriarchal tribes with a clan chief or chief and a very large group of members until 1746, after the defeat at the Battle of Culloden. After the Battle of Culloden, all clan areas fell to the English Crown and the wearing of tartans was prohibited for nearly 100 years.

The clans ruled large areas and bloody mutual disputes were common. Nevertheless, the boundaries of the individual clans were generally maintained for centuries, including their own case law and their own traditional tartan (see above).

Although they only exist in name, the clans are still a source of pride for the Scots, and many people still live in their traditional clan territory.


Sean Connery in KiltPhoto:public domain

At the end of the 16th century the highlanders started to use the "breacan feile" or folded plaid. This plaid blanket, wearable by men only, is pleated around the waist and held by a belt. The dimensions are decent, 4.5 by 1.5 meters. The bottom part is the kilt, the top part is tied to the left shoulder with a cloth pin or brooch.

The breacan feile was the everyday clothing for the average highlander. The upper classes preferred to wear tight-fitting trousers, the "triubhas".

Around 1800 the smaller 'feile beag' or 'phillibeg' emerged from the large and somewhat clumsy kilt rug. This kilt is worn together with a leather bag ("sporran"), a beret ("balmoral"), a small knife in the stocking ("skean dhu") and artfully laced kilt shoes.


Bagpipe Player ScotlandPhoto:Gryphius Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic no changes made

The bagpipe or "highland pipes", the national instrument, was probably originally used in the Highlands to transmit messages over long distances. Later, the reed instrument was used for marching music when the regiments of the Highlanders went to war.

The bagpipe bag is an inflatable bellows made of sheepskin, which, clamped under the arm, pressures an airflow into four pipes. The sound is created by the vibration of a picture in the pipe. The bagpipe player blows up the bag through a reed and plays on the melody pipe, the "chanter", a flute-like pipe made of hardwood. This pipe can produce nine tones, while the other three pipes ("drones") provide the accompaniment. The two tenor pipes sound an octave lower than the "a" of the "chanter", the bass pipe an octave lower than the tenor pipes.

According to the Royal Scottish Pipe Band Association (RSPBA), there are now over 400 bagpipe bands in the UK alone and hundreds more in all parts of the world.

The bagpipe music is typically Scottish and can be divided into two major groups: the 'ceol mor', great music specially written for bagpipes, and the 'ceol beag', light music inspired by marches and folk dances (branles' and 'reels').



Head office of the Bank of Scotland, Edinburgh.Photo:Rept0n1x Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported no changes made

For centuries, the economic development of Scotland, partly due to its peripheral location, has lagged behind that of England, resulting in large-scale emigration. Exploration and exploitation of oil and gas have seen an economic upturn since the 1960s. The services sector has experienced strong growth.

Employment in the coal and steel industry, mining and shipbuilding has declined drastically, forcing it to focus on other industries and services.

Even in the mid-1960s, industry accounted for 32% of gross national product and 35% of the population worked in factories. In the mid-1990s, the percentage was only 22 and 20%, respectively. In 2017, industry will only account for around 10% of GDP. Of the ten employees, seven are now employed in the services sector.

Agriculture, livestock, forestry and fishing

Crofthouse Museum ShetlandPhoto:Dbachmann Creative-Commons-Lizenz „Namensnennung – Weitergabe unter gleichen Bedingungen 3.0 nicht portiert“ no changes made

Although large parts of the country have an agricultural character, approximately 80% of the Scottish territory is used for agricultural purposes, agriculture is not the mainstay of the economy; mainly grain (barley, wheat, oats), further potatoes, turnips and vegetables are grown, sometimes in the form of crofting*, a primitive form of agriculture, which is produced not for the market, but for own use.

*The small communities in the Highlands and on a number of islands (particularly the Shetland, Orkney Islands and the Isle of Lewis) are made up of crofting municipalities, clusters of small farms scattered around a few acres of land. The crofters (leaseholders of a divided farm) each have their own piece of rented (building) land enclosed by a wall, while they share the common land where the cattle graze.

Most dairy farms are located in the South West, while the most fertile agricultural areas are in North East Scotland.

Climate and natural conditions favor livestock farming (sheep and cattle); rough grazing (extensive livestock farming on natural, poor pastureland) covers a large part of the total agricultural area.

Remarkably, nearly 90% of rural Scotland is privately owned, spanning more than 1,500 estates. All those estates belong to several hundred people.

Reforestation has been widespread in mountainous areas since 1919, to the detriment of sheep farming but to employment.

Along the entire coast, fishing still plays a vital role in the economy (haddock, cod, herring, shellfish). In addition, salmon farming has grown enormously in recent decades. Aberdeen, Peterhead, Fraserburgh, Kinlochbervie, Lerwick and Ullapool are important places with fishing industry.

Mining Industry

National Mining Museum ScotlandPhoto:Kim Traynor Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported no changes made

The country owns, among other things, coal (in Lothian, Fife an Ayr) and iron ore (in the southwest, Strathclyde). As in other parts of Great Britain, mining is declining very sharply. Many mines have been closed in recent decades and underground mining has virtually come to an end. Coal extraction only takes place in opencast mining.

The search for oil started in 1964 and the first oil well was discovered three years later. Large fields followed, all of which were quite far out to sea. Due to the great distance to the mainland, the construction of pipelines and the construction of gigantic platforms were necessary.


Oil platform off the coast of ScotlandPhoto:Simon Johnston in the public domain

With the exception of the North East (Grampian), Scottish industry is almost entirely concentrated in the central lowlands. The western part of this, with Glasgow as its center, has developed less favorably than the eastern part, with Edinburgh as its center; it depends too much on traditional basic industries such as mining, shipbuilding, steel and textiles, and whiskey distillation.

Developments in shipbuilding since the 1980s are particularly worrying; government support and missions seek to keep as many employees in this industry as possible to work.

The center of gravity of Scottish industry has shifted from the west to the southeast and northeast, where North Sea oil and light industry have created new jobs. The Grampian region, with Aberdeen as its main city, has developed particularly favorably. It is true that traditional industries (food, paper, whiskey, mechanical engineering) have deteriorated here, but oil extraction has given new impulses here.

The most successful industry in the Scottish industry is the electrical engineering industry (including in Glasgow, Edinburgh and Dundee), mainly driven by foreign, particularly US, investments. The microelectronics industry is well developed. Stronger branches also include the chemical and pharmaceutical industries. The wood processing industry is increasing in importance.

Textile Industry

Tweed ScotlandPhoto:public domain

In the southeastern part of Scotland, the textile industry is still thriving, and the fifty million sheep provide the raw material for this industry. The Wool Trail, the Scottish Borders Woolen Trail, passes through several towns that have depended on the wool industry for centuries.

The jerseys that are made in the Shetland Islands and on Fair Isle are very popular because of their traditional model and beautiful patterns. The "tweed" is a woven wool fabric, originally in gray, blue or black. From the early 19th century, a mixed tweed fabric also came on the market, which is now the most sold.

This industry has been struggling, yet still generates around £1.5 billion and some 40,000 are still employed in the textile industry, mainly concentrated in the Borders.

Traffic and financial services

Edingurgh Airport ScotlandPhoto:Ad Meskens Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported no changes made

Scotland has a good road and rail network and four international airports: Edinburgh, Glasgow, Aberdeen and Prestwick, and several small airports, mainly for local traffic.

Edinburgh has developed into an important financial center and many major insurance companies have also established themselves in Scotland.

Holidays and Sightseeing

Tourism is an important livelihood in this country, which offers a lot of natural beauty of high and unspoilt quality. The tourist industry has now become one of the most profitable parts of the Scottish economy. With a few exceptions, there is no question of large scale.

Whiskytrail ScotlandPhoto:Peterdhere Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International no changes made

Well-known are the visits you can make to the whiskey distilleries (Malt Whisky Trail). There are more than a hundred distilleries open to visit. The taste difference in whisky can be from mild to smoky. Especially the Single Malts are popular and can be quite expensive in terms of price.

Highlands ScotlandPhoto:Brian Holsclaw Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic no changes made

The Highlands are known for the natural beauty and the beautiful walks that you can take there. It is a rugged natural area where hiking can quickly turn into rock climbing on one of the Munros or Scotland's tallest mountain Ben Nevis, which can be climbed from Fort William at the foot of the mountain. Very special is also visiting the Highland games where tough men throw logs meters away and Clans fight each other with tug of war.

Loch Ness ScotlandPhoto:Paul Hermans Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported no changes made

In Scotland there are many lakes such as the famous Loch Ness (monster) where boat trips can be made. The lake is 37 kilometers long and 1.6 kilometers at its widest. No one has ever been able to capture the monster in a photo, but locals are happy with the myth that brings a lot of money.

Jacobite Train ScotlandPhoto:96tommy Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic no changes made

A trip with the Jacobite train is also popular. This is an old steam train running on the Westhighlandline between Malliag and Fort William. It is known as one of the most beautiful train journeys you can take in the world. The fact that the train appears in Harry Potter films has boosted fame and you have to book well in advance nowadays.

Edinburgh ScotlandPhoto:Jie Yang Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported no changes made

Edinburgh is the impressive capital of Scotland. You can see all of Edinburgh from the top of Arthur's Seat, an extinct volcano, which is one of the city's major tourist attractions in every way. The image of the historic old town is defined by Edinburgh Castle with rocky battlements. The castle is built on Castle Rock. The new district is very elegant, with beautiful Georgian terrace houses. The main street is called the Royal Mile. Edinburgh is known for the large theater festival held every summer.

George Square GlasgowPhoto:Eightofjanuary Creative Commons-licentie Naamsvermelding-Gelijk delen 3.0 Unported no changes made

Glasgow is the largest city in Scotland and has a strong industrial past. The city is famous for the transformation of its riverside neighborhood, the historic city of Glasgow sees its future in the service sector, particularly in tourism and business conferences. It is one of Europe's first post-industrial cities and Glasgow has received the impressive accolade of British City of Architecture and Design. The city's architecture is certainly an attraction in itself, especially the impressive Victorian buildings and of course the unique masterpieces of one of Glasgow's most celebrated residents, architect and designer Charles Rennie Mackintosh.

Click the menu button at the top left of the screen for more information


Berkien, G. / Schotland

Berkien, G. / Schotland

Larrimore, D. / Schotland

Levy, P. / Scotland
Marshall Cavendish

Patitz, A. / Schotland
Van Reemst

Schaff, B. / Schotland
Kok Lyra



Michelin Reisuitgaven

Van Reemst

Smallman, T. / Scotland
Lonely Planet

Stoks, F.T. / Schotland

Summers, G. / Schotland
Van Reemst

Tschirner, S. / Schotland

Wamel, D. van / Schotland en Noord-Engeland
Babylon-De Geus

CIA - World Factbook

BBC - Country Profiles

Last updated September 2021
Copyright: Team Landenweb