Scotland has been named one of the top countries in the world to visit in 2014 by the travel guide company Lonely Planet. The country is best known for its exports (whisky, shortbread and textiles), its weather (wet and windy) and its warm welcome. But here are some other, lesser known facts about Scotland.
Scotland has over 790 islands, although only 130 are inhabited. The largest inhabited island is Lewis and Harris and the most popular island tourist destination in Scotland is Skye (‘the Misty Isle’). Many of Scotland’s islands are found in groups, such as the island groups of Orkney, Shetland and the inner and outer Hebrides.
Scotland is home to the 3rd largest whirlpool in the world, the Corryvrecken in Argyll and Bute. Its name, which originates in Scottish Gaelic, means the ‘cauldron of the speckled seas’.
The Scottish diaspora – people who have emigrated from Scotland to elsewhere in the world but kept some sense of their Scottish identity – is estimated to be between 28 and 40 million people. In other words between five and eight times the population of Scotland itself.
Scotland has a higher proportion of redheads than any other country in the world. More than one in 10 people – almost 13% of the population have red hair, and 40% carry the ‘red-hair’ gene.
Scotland’s famous Edinburgh Fringe Festival is the largest open arts festival in the world. The festival started when some acts who were not invited to perform at the official Edinburgh International Festival decided to show up anyway – hence the name. When the various different festivals are in full flow in August, the population of Edinburgh doubles in size.
It’s against the law in Scotland to be drunk and in charge of a cow, according to a clause in the (alcohol) Licensing Act of 1872. The same clause also outlaws being drunk and in charge of a horse or a steam engines.
The tallest waterfall in the UK is in Sutherland, in the Scottish Highlands. Called ‘Eas a’ Chual Aluinn’, the drop of the waterfall is 200m which is more than 3 times the water drop of Niagara Falls.
Scotland is officially the windiest place in Europe, home to a quarter of the continent’s wind power. In 2013 over 40% of Scotland’s electricity was generated from renewable sources including wind, waves and tide. The renewable energy industry in Scotland employs more than 11,500 people.
Scotland is home to the world’s oldest ‘calendar’. The lunar calendar was unearthed by archaeologists in a field at Crathes Castle, Aberdeenshire in 2013. The excavations uncovered a series of 12 pits which seem to have been built to track lunar months, possibly using wooden posts in the pits to chart the moon’s movement. The archaeology team (from the University of Birmingham), think the massive ‘calendar’ is around 10,000 years old.
The national animal of Scotland is… wait for it… the unicorn! The unicorn has also been used as a heraldic symbol in Scotland, first appearing on an early form of the coat of arms of the Scottish King, William the First. The unicorn is said to symbolise both innocence and power.
If you have been left wanting to visit Scotland after coming to the end of these fun and interesting facts then there is a variety of holiday accommodation available. Either book to stay in a hotel or rent a holiday cottage in Scotland.