Scotland is a country in the North of Europe, which is part of the United Kingdom. It is in the northern half of the island of Great Britain, with a population of about 5.25 million. Scotland shares a border with England. Scotland has coasts on the North Sea to the east, the Atlantic Ocean to the west and the Irish Sea to the south west. In addition to the mainland, the country is made up of more than 790 islands, including Northern Isles and Hebrides. Scotland was once an independent country with its own monarch but is now in a union with England, Wales and Northern Ireland. Even though Scotland is not independent, throughout history it has had its own legal system and culture. Since 1999, Scotland has had its own parliament, but it is not as powerful as the British parliament. In 2014, a referendum took place and a majority (55%) voted to stay in the United Kingdom, though the cities of Glasgow and Dundee supported independence by a majority. The capital city of Scotland is Edinburgh, on the east coast. The biggest city is Glasgow, other large cities in Scotland include Aberdeen, Dundee, Inverness, Perth and Stirling. Scotland has a temperate and oceanic climate, the west of Scotland is usually warmer than the east. It is estimated that over 27 million Scottish – Irish descendants are living in the Unites States. The Pound or British Sterling (GBP), is the currency used in Scotland. The Scottish Highlands, are a historic region in Scotland. The region became culturally distinguishable from the Lowlands from the later Middle Ages into the modern period. The term Highlands is also used for the area north and west of the Highland Boundary Fault. The Highland area is very sparsely populated, with many mountain ranges dominating the region, and it includes the highest mountain in the British Isles, Ben Nevis. Before the 19th century the Highlands was home to a much larger population, but due to a combination of factors including the outlawing of the traditional Highland way of life following the Jacobite Rising of 1745. The infamous Highland Clearances and mass migration to urban areas during the Industrial Revolution, the area is now one of the most sparsely populated in Europe, so why not visit Scotland and see for yourself.
Scottish Gaelic or Scots Gaelic, sometimes called Gaelic, is native to Scotland. A member of the Goidelic branch of the Celtic languages, Scottish Gaelic, like modern Irish and Manx, developed out of Middle Irish. It is ultimately descended from old Irish. The 2011 census of Scotland showed that a total of 57,375 people in Scotland could speak Gaelic at that time, with the Outer Hebrides being the main stronghold of the language. Scottish Gaelic is neither an official language of the European Union nor the United Kingdom, however it is considered an indigenous language. English is spoken through out Scotland nowadays. The dialect of English spoken in Scotland is referred to as Scottish English.
The Scottish Flag
Scotland has two flags, but only one of them is recognized as Scotland’s’ official national flag – and that’s the Saltire. The national flag is also known as St. Andrew’s cross or the Saltire. Saltire refers to the X shaped cross and comes from the old French word saultoir. The actual word Saltire means a cross with diagonal bars of equal length. First hoisted in 1512, its believed to be one of the oldest flags in the world still used
today. The Saltire forms part of the ‘Union Jack’, the national flag of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, but in that instance the blue is slightly darker. The Union Jack is the United Kingdoms national flag and is Scotland’s second flag.
Scotland’s National Anthem
There is no official national anthem for Scotland, however, a number of songs are used as unofficial Scottish anthems, the most notable are, ‘Scotland the Brave‘, ‘Flower of Scotland’ and ‘Scots Wha Hae’. For most international sporting events Scotland uses, ‘ Flower of Scotland‘ as its national anthem. The song refers to the victory of the Scots in 1314. The song is sung at events such as, Scottish football matches and Scottish rugby union games. ‘Flower of Scotland‘, was written by Roy Williamson in 1965 for the popular folk group The Corries, it was first used in a sporting match in 1974 by the Scottish national rugby team. When the British song ‘God Save the Queen’ was sung before a rugby match in 1988 to represent Scotland, it was met by derision from the crowd. ‘Scotland the Brave’, a traditional melody with lyrics written by Cliff Hanley in 1950, was used as the Scottish anthem at the Commonwealth Games until 2010. It was replaced by ‘Flower of Scotland’ and is most commonly heard on the bagpipes, the Scottish national instrument. ‘Scots Wha Hae‘, the lyrics were written by Robert Burns in 1793, in the form of a speech given by Robert the Bruce before the Battle of Bannockburn in 1314, where Scotland maintained its sovereignty from the Kingdom of England.
Scotland is internationally know for its traditional music, which remained vibrant throughout the 20th century and into the 21st century when many traditional forms worldwide lost popularity to pop music. Despite lots of emigration and a well-developed connection to music imported from the rest of Europe and the United States. Scottish music has kept many of its traditional aspects and has actually influenced many forms of music. Many people associate Scottish folk music almost entirely with the Great Highland Bagpipe, which has played an important part in Scottish music. This particular form of bag-piping is developed exclusively in Scotland, but it is not the only type of Scottish bagpipe, and other bag-piping traditions remain across Europe. The earliest mention of bagpipes in Scotland dates to the 15th century although they are believed to have been introduced to Scotland as early as the 6th century by the Gaels of Ireland. The Piob Mhor, or Great Highland Bagpipe, was originally associated with both hereditary piping families and military marching. Piping clans included the Mac Arthurs, MacDonalds, McKays and especially the MacCrimmon, who were hereditary pipers to the Clan MacLeod. Scotland has a strong jazz tradition and has produced many world class musicians since the 1950s, notably Jimmy Deuchar, Bobby Wellins and Joe Temperley, The problem with Scotland was playing with international musicians, due to the lack of opportunities within Scotland. The Edinburgh Jazz and Blues Festival brings some of the best jazz musicians in the world to Scotland every year, other cities such as Glasgow and Dundee also run international jazz festivals so why not visit Scotland and check it out.
- Accordion: The accordion has long been apart of Scottish tradition. In the early 20th century, the melodeon was popular among rural folk.
- Bagpipes: Bagpipe music has strong connections to Gaelic culture and there are roughly two main styles of music played on the bagpipes, Ceol Mor and Ceol Beag. In Gaelic, this means ‘big music’ and ‘little music’. Bagpipe competitions are common in Scotland, for both solo pipers and pipe bands. Competitive solo piping is currently popular among many aspiring pipers some of whom travel from as far as Australia to attend Scottish competitions.
- Fiddle: Scottish traditional fiddling encompasses a number of regional styles, including the bagpipe inflected west Highlands, the upbeat and lively style of Norse-influenced Shetland Islands and the Strathspey and slow airs of the North-West. The Annual Scots Fiddle Festival which runs each November showcases the great fiddling tradition and talent in Scotland.
- Tin Whistle: Today the whistle is a very common instrument in recorded Scottish music. Although few well-known performers choose the tin whistle as their principal instrument, it is quite common for pipers, flute players, and other musicians to play the tin whistle as well.
- Bodhran: The bodhram is imported from Ireland but is very popular in Scottish folk music.
Scottish Food and Drink
If you visit Scotland you will surely notice that it has distinctive attributes and recipes of its own, but shares many similarities with the wider British and European cuisine styles as a result of local and foreign influences, both ancient and modern. Traditional Scottish dishes exist alongside international foodstuffs. Examples of Scottish food include; game, dairy products, fish, fruit, and vegetables. There is a high reliance on simplicity as there was a lack of spices from abroad, these were historically rare and expensive. The main nature of Scottish food is that it will not spoil. Haggis, porridge, venison, shortbread and kilt are all traditional Scottish foods. The Scottish people love their hearty soups, Cullen skink – a thick soup made of smoked haddock, potato and onion, Cock-a-leekie soup and Powsowdie are all examples of this. Scotland is a huge consumer of ale and whiskys especially; 90 shilling ale, 80 shilling ale, 70 shilling ale, Scots mist. Other popular Scottish beverages include; atholl brose, dramblue, ginger wine and het pint.
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