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Scotland Cruises

The Highlands (Invergordon), Scotland

About Scotland

Verdant, picturesque and sophisticated, Scotland is graced by magnificent natural beauty and a celebrated heritage.

Outside of prehistory, Scotland can trace its roots back to the early Roman Empire. Vikings, too, had a presence here, on the remote Orkney and Shetland Islands. After a number of wars between rival groups within its modern-day mainland borders, the Kingdom of Scotland was formed in the 9th century. Following the death of the last in a line of kings destined to wear the Scottish crown, England began a series of conquests, which launched the Wars of Scottish Independence.

Ultimately, Scotland emerged from these wars as sovereign, and remained so until 1707’s Act of Union, which merged England and Scotland into the Kingdom of Great Britain. Later, Great Britain and the neighboring nation of Ireland were united, resulting in the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland.

Today, Scotland is a stunning nation of cultured cities, rugged highlands, historic castles and tranquil remote islands. It is a uniquely rewarding destination where legends live large, from the shores of Loch Ness to the Viking ruins at Jarlshof in the Shetlands.

Scotland Lifestyle and Culture

While the majority of Scots belong to the national Church of Scotland, the country is home to people of diverse religious dominations. Folklore also plays an important role in Scottish culture, buoyed by the many myths that have arisen over the nation’s long and storied past. Scottish mythology places a large focus on goddesses, and folkloric narratives are used to explain creation and the forces of nature.

Traditional and modern music are substantial elements in national identity. Accordions, bagpipes, fiddles, guitars and harps are all closely associated with the country, and have been throughout Scotland’s history. Bagpipes are central to Scotland’s character, as evidenced by the nation’s bagpipe competitions. Musicians travel from as far as Australia to compete in solo piping contests, and an alternative community thrives around the instrument.

As is true in many cultures, food contributes greatly to Scotland’s character. With the region’s temperate climate and abundance of game and natural resources, Scots have enjoyed a bountiful, wide variety of food for thousands of years. Haggis, shortbread and porridge are all staples of the Scottish diet. Starchy dishes such as these were used by ancient Scots to help keep their stomachs full and bodies filled with energy. And, of course, a dram of Scottish whisky is never out of place, whether at a pub or around an elegant dinner table.

Scotland Sights and Landmarks

The Shetland and Orkney Islands, located north of Scotland in the North Sea, have been home to civilizations that date back at least 3,000 years. Vikings were among the many whose ancient settlements thrived here. Fishing villages, medieval castles, seal-dotted beaches and ancient brochs (stone roundhouses) dot the intriguing landscape of these enticing isles.

The sleepy seaside towns of Invergordon and Ullapool are gateways to the legendary Scottish Highlands, a breathtaking region of mammoth mountain ranges and pristine lochs, or lakes. These valleys and glens were once home to Scotland’s legendary tribal clans, until the Highland way of life was outlawed in the 18th century and mass migrations gave the terrain back to nature. The Highlands are home to another iconic legend: “Nessie,” the fabled monster said to lurk in Loch Ness.

Medieval Edinburgh has been Scotland’s capital since the 15th century, set on green rocky hillocks with splendid views of the sea. As the country’s cultural center, the city is home to numerous festivals, museums, galleries and libraries. The mighty Edinburgh Castle, home of the Scottish Crown Jewels and countless medieval treasures, overlooks the city from Castle Rock; and the Royal Mile unfurls Edinburgh’s architectural gems in all their finery, from the Canongate to St. Giles Cathedral to the Palace of Holyroodhouse, the Scottish residence of British royalty.