The Scottish kingdom was formed by the joining of several major lowland clans in the 9th and 10th centuries and the gradual absorption of the more independent- spirited Highland clans in the following centuries.
Anglo-Norman influences from the south influenced the government, language, and culture of the Lowlands from the 12th century, leading to centuries of warfare over borders and Scottish independence.
The Highland clans were not entirely subdued by the English (and indeed by the other Scots) until the middle of the 18th century, but the following century saw the rise of Scottish culture as one of the major fads in Victorian Britain.
Kilts and bagpipes and summer homes in the Highlands were seen as very fashionable in London society, aiding the Scots in their integration into the union as a whole-by the end of the 19th century a significant percentage of Britain's colonial administrators and military commanders came from Scotland.
Today, Scotland retains its own sense of heritage-Scottish legal and educational systems differ significantly from the rest of Britain-and despite the devolution of a high degree of local autonomy with the restoration of the Scottish Parliament in 1999, calls for outright independence from the UK within the EU are louder here than anywhere else.
The 5 million people who live in Scotland comprise only 8.5 percent of the total UK population.
Its land area of 30,725 square mi (78,782 square km) gives Scotland the lowest population density in the UK and one of the lowest in Europe.
Three-quarters of the population live in the central Lowlands, where Scotland's two largest cities are located: Glasgow (577,000) and Edinburgh, the capital (448,000).
Stirling is also a major city in the central Lowlands.
Scotland's three other large cities are located in the Lowland areas along the eastern coast of Scotland: Aberdeen, Inverness, and Dundee.
Scotland, like England and Wales, was traditionally divided into shire counties, particularly in the Lowlands, where English language and culture predominated.
In 1974, the country was divided politically into twelve regions: Borders, Dumfries and Galloway, Strathclyde, Lothian, Central, Fife, Tayside, Grampian, Highland, Western Isles, Orkney, and Shetland.
Since the 1990s, these have been redivided into 32 Council Areas, many returning to the names of their former county shires: Aberdeenshire (and Aberdeen City) Angus (and Dundee City) Argyll & Bute Ayrshire (East, North, and South) Clackmannanshire Dumfries & Galloway Dunbartonshire (East and West, and Glasgow City) Eilean Siar (formerly known as Western Isles, or the Outer Hebrides) Falkirk Fife Highland Inverclyde Lanarkshire (North and South) Lothian (West, Mid, and East, and the City of Edinburgh) Moray Orkney Islands Perth & Kinross Renfrewshire (and East Renfrewshire) Scottish Borders Shetland Islands Stirling The Highlands district is by far the largest of these districts, but the least populated.
Its chief town is Fort Williams, in the shadow of Scotland's (and the UK's) tallest peak, Ben Nevis (4,406 ft or 1,343 m).
The surrounding areas of Scotland have some of the oldest rocks in Europe.
The Caledonian Highlands and the islands of the Hebrides are geologically related to GREENLAND and the CANADIAN SHIELD, to which they were joined nearly 200 million years ago.
At that time, Scotland and North America were joined together, while England and Wales were joined to the European continent.
The gap between them closed only around 20 million years ago.
This tectonic activity also caused some volcanism in western Scotland, leaving behind basalt formations on some of the western isles, like Mull and Skye.
Other islands included within the broader term of Inner Hebrides are Islay, Jura, Tiree, Coll, Eigg, Canna, and the famous monastic island of Iona.
Across the channel known as The Minch lie the Outer Hebrides, consisting mainly of the Isle of Lewis, North Uist, South Uist and Barra.
The islands of Arran and Bute are also off the western coats, in the broad bay known as the Firth of Clyde.
A firth is the Scots term for a bay or fjord, while loch is the Scots term for lake.
Scotland's thousands of firths and lochs are the result of heavy glaciations during the last several periods of Ice Age.
Many of the gouges cut by glaciers and now filled by lochs are quite deep, including the deepest lake in the UK, Loch Morar (1,023 ft or 310 m).
Other lochs well known for their scenic beauty include Loch Fyne, Loch Shiel, and Loch Lomond.
Loch Ness is one of the longest lochs and is famous for its mythical sea creature but is not particularly scenic.
Scotland has three major regions of mountains: the Highlands, the Grampians (including the Cairngorm Mountains) and the Southern Uplands, which include the Cheviot Hills, a dividing line between Scotland and England.
Hadrian's Wall formally signified this border, running roughly from Solway Firth to Tynemouth.
The wall was built by the Romans in 122 C.E.
to keep out the Celtic barbarians of the north (similar to Offa's Dyke in Wales) and remains a chief tourist attraction for the region.
The Highlands are full of glens, narrow valleys between mountain peaks, known as bens.
One of the most famous of these is Glen Coe, known for its stark, barren landscape and for the massacre of most of its residents (the MacDonalds) by Clan Campbell in 1692.
Visitors come to the Highlands, mostly in summer, for extraordinary hiking and natural solitude.
Aside from tourism, the major economic activity of the Highlands is sheepherding and wool-related industries.
The Lowlands are mainly concentrated in a band across central Scotland, from the Clyde estuary to the Firth of Forth.
This is the center of much of Scottish population, as well as much of its history and nearly all of its industry.
This depression between the Highlands of the north and the Southern Uplands is possibly an ancient fault line.
The same could be true for the long narrow valley that nearly bisects the Highlands, from the Firth of Lorn and the town of Fort William in the west to the city of Inverness and the Moray Firth in the east.
This valley, known as Glen Mnr (the "Great Glen"), includes Loch Ness and is navigable from end to end via the Caledonian Canal.
The Forth & Clyde Canal similarly connects the west and east coasts in central Scotland.
Scotland's major rivers include the Clyde, the Tay and the Tweed, which forms part of the border with England.
The River Tay has the second largest discharge of any river in the UK, after the Humber, at 5,648 cubic ft (160 cubic m) per second.
Other rivers are the Ayr, the Don (which gives its name to Aberdeen), and two rivers called Dee.
Scotland's outer islands-the Hebrides, Shetlands, and Orkneys-have a bit more local authority than other local governments.
For example, Shetland controls oil development in its own waters.
The Orkneys consist of the Mainland and several smaller islands.
Shetland (or Zetland) is similarly composed of the Mainland and several smaller islands, the northernmost called Unst, with Britain's northernmost post office, Haroldswick.
About 300 mi (480 km) northwest of the Hebrides, in the North Atlantic, rises the summit of an extinct volcano, about 83 ft (25 m) wide at its base and approximately 72 ft (22 m) tall.
This is Rockall, which is currently claimed by the UK, mostly for the exclusive rights sovereignty would convey to the valuable seas around it.
Its status is disputed with Ireland, DENMARK, and ICELAND, and it has also been symbolically claimed by the environmental activist group Greenpeace (which occupied the tiny rock for a short time in 1997, renaming it Waveland) as a protest against oil exploration.


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The price for a three minute flight is 149 kuna. The shortest flight is considered to be the one between the Scottish islands, Papa Westray and Westray, which lasts only 2 minutes. "

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