From dramatically rugged landscapes to world-class cities, traditional foods and a rich history, Scotland has a strong sense of national identity of which it is fiercely proud.
A country of staggering natural beauty and a prime destination when taking a vacation UK bound, Scotland is renowned for its atmospheric glens, arresting mountain ranges and swathes of isolated wilderness. With two national parks, Britain’s highest peak (Ben Nevis) and some famous lochs, Scotland might be small but it certainly packs a punch. And it’s not just the scenery that makes Scotland unique. Impressive castles evoke the country’s rousing past, often marked by bloodshed, English invasion and divergent views on whether an independent or united Scotland was better – a debate that continues, albeit less savagely, today.
It is possible that the Scots’ strong sense of national identity has to do with a desire to protect their culture from outside influence. Whatever the reason, from eccentric Highland Games to kilts, bagpipes, tartan and haggis, emblems of a bygone Scotland are very much alive. These national hallmarks might be exaggerated for the benefit of tourists, but you can still find authentic Scottish experiences – a local Highland Games or a village ceilidh – by venturing off the beaten track.
A nation heralded for its inventiveness, Scotland has given the world penicillin and the telephone, as well as a disproportionate amount of intellectual thinkers. Perhaps most noteworthy are its native writers, who include Walter Scott, Robert Louis Stevenson and Robert Burns – for whom Burns Night is celebrated every year on 25th January. Robert (or ‘Rabbie’) Burns wrote poems and lyrics in the Scots language, English and also a Scottish dialect.
Today less than 2 percent of Scots ‘speak the Gaelic’, but the very fact it survives and flourishes is a sign that from Shetland to the Borders, the Scots are proud of their regional differences, and are staunchly protective of their national identity. Visitors may struggle to pronounce the name of a Scottish mountain, a Hebridean road sign, or toast friends with the words ‘Slàinte mhath’ over a fine malt, but you’ll be admired for trying. Welcome to Scotland!