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The landscape of Scotland consists not only of the natural landscape of the mountains and lochs, but also the cultural and spiritual landscape of the Scottish People. As you browse through these pages I hope they will give you some appreciation that Scotland is not just a beautiful place, but a landscape of the mind.

A Brief Portrait Of Scotland

Separated from continental Europe by the North Sea, Scotland occupies the northern third of the Island of Great Britain. Its nearest neighbors are Ireland to the west, the Netherlands, Germany, Denmark and Norway to the east, and England on its southern border. Scotland is a fairly isolated land made up of rugged terrain, deep coastal inlets, and many islands. The highest peak is Ben Nevis ( 4,406 ft ) The isolation and ruggedness have combined to keep Scotland's population small and its land empty, but they have also helped to make my fellow Scots an independent, proud, and determinedly self-reliant people.

The Land

The country is washed on the north and west by the Atlantic Ocean and on the east by the North Sea. Its breadth varies from 154 miles to as little as 26 miles. The country has 2,300 miles of coastline, an incredible length for the size of the mainland. Scotland is indeed a land of contrasts, from the austere majesty of the mountains to the subtle undulations of the Lowland valleys, and from the dramatic cliffs to the dense forests. The country also boasts 787 major islands; almost all lying off the northern or western coasts. Picturesque lochs and rivers are scattered throughout the whole country.

The country is a Geologists playground, with rocks displaying 3 billion years of geological time. Starting with hard granite in the Western Isles, which was formed before life itself developed on earth, the rocks tell a long story of lava flows, eras of mountain-building, numerous ice ages and even a time when the land was briefly separated from England.

Four major fault and thrust lines, running across Scotland from northeast to southwest, define the main geological zones. The U-shaped valleys in the Highlands are a legacy of the last Ice Age. The weight and movements of glaciers broke off spurs, deepening and rounding out the existing river valleys. The Basalt Columns of the Isle Of Staffa were formed 60 million years ago as a flow of lava cooled slowly, contracting and fracturing in a distinctive hexagonal pattern similar to the Giant's Causeway in Ireland. The Devonian Sandstone in the Orkney Islands has eroded the horizontally layered rock into spectacular cliffs and stacks, as with the Old Man Of Hoy.

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