Eilean Donan Castle
Photograph by Getty ImagesWidely considered Scotland's most photographed site, Eilean Donan Castle perches on an island at the meeting of three lochs in western Scotland. The island’s first castle was an early 13th-century fortification against raiding Vikings, and it's been sacked and rebuilt several times. The most recent facelift was completed in 1932.
Photograph by Jim RichardsonThe mission of the Lonach Highland & Friendly Society includes preserving Highland dress and promoting "peaceable and manly conduct." Each summer since 1823, the group has held a "gathering," a march through the towns around Strathdon in eastern Scotland, culminating in an afternoon of traditional Scottish games.
Photograph by Jim RichardsonCastle Rock, whose vertical flanks rise above the Scottish city of Edinburgh, may have first served as a strategic stronghold around 850 B.C. For the past thousand years it’s been the site of Edinburgh Castle, the thick-walled fortress at the center of nearly every major conflict in Scotland's history.
Church of Saint Mungo, Glasgow
Photograph by Christopher Nyce,This sculpture is in Glasgow’s Church of Saint Mungo, named for the city’s patron saint. The church is just down the road from the Gothic Glasgow Cathedral, nicknamed Saint Mungo's Cathedral because it's on the spot where the sixth-century bishop built his first church. It is also the site of his tomb.
Photograph by Emory KristofMore than a thousand people claim to have seen the bulbous back of an unidentified creature briefly break the glassy surface of Loch Ness, then disappear. This legendary body of water is the country's second largest loch, slightly smaller in surface area, though deeper, than Loch Lomond to its south.
Photograph by Brian Lawrence/Getty ImagesConstruction on Crathes Castle, near Aberdeen, began in 1553 and lasted 43 years. The estate's famed walled garden is divided into eight themed areas separated by Irish yew hedges, some of which are more than 300 years old.
Photograph by Romilly Lockyer/Getty ImagesTraditionally performed by men, Scottish Highland dancing today is more often performed by women. Highland dancing involves vigorous exertion, precision positioning, and meticulous arm- and footwork. Bagpipers generally accompany the dancing, playing intricate tunes composed by a single family in the 16th century.
Photograph by Jeff J. Mitchell/Getty ImagesProducing Scotch whisky is a proud national tradition. In fact, the word "whisky" comes from the Scottish Gaelic uisge beatha, an adaptation of the Latin phrase aqua vitae, meaning "water of life." Scotland has more than a hundred distilleries, and each strives to produce its own distinct flavor. Here, a taster draws a sample from a cask at the Bruichladdich distillery on the Isle of Islay.
Skara Brae, Orkney
Photograph by Paul SutherlandArchaeology received a gift from nature in 1850, when a strong storm hit the Orkney Islands, stripping away sand dunes and uncovering the remains of the Skara Brae settlement. Later excavations would reveal a complex of stone houses linked by passageways that dates to between 3200 and 2500 B.C. It’s considered the best preserved Neolithic village ever found in northern Europe and is a World Heritage site.
Isle of Lewis
Photograph by Louis deCarlo, My ShotThe western shore of the windswept Isle of Lewis in the Outer Hebrides is dominated by jagged, rocky cliffs and roiling Atlantic waves. It’s also the site of ancient stone circles. Inland are fertile lands, expansive peat moors, and in the south, hills. A low population and diverse habitats make the island one of Scotland's premier wildlife-watching sites.
Photograph by Jim RichardsonThe Scottish ceilidh (pronounced KAY-lee) began as a gathering where people shared music and told stories. These days, it tends to be more about the dancing. Ceilidhs, like American barn dances, are high-spirited social affairs with group dances and callers who help novices, like this young Scot in the Outer Hebrides' Castlebay, learn the steps.
Photograph by Allan Baxter/Getty ImagesLights brighten Scotland's capital city, Edinburgh, at twilight. Most of the country's five million people live in the lowland area where Edinburgh and Glasgow are located.
United Kingdom Facts
- London; 7,615,000
- 242,910 square kilometers (93,788 square miles)
- English, Welsh, Scottish form of Gaelic
- Anglican, Roman Catholic, other Protestant, Muslim
- British pound
- Life Expectancy:
- GDP per Capita:
- U.S. $25,500
- Literacy Percent:
United Kingdom Facts Flag
England is the most populous part of the U.K., with 49 million inhabitants. Almost one third of England's people live in the prosperous southeastern part of the country centered on London—one of the largest cities in Europe. Scotland, with one third of Britain's area, is a mountainous land with 5 million people, most of them (75 percent) concentrated in the lowland area where Glasgow and Edinburgh (Scotland's capital) are located. The Scottish nation can be traced to the Scoti, a Gaelic-speaking Celtic tribe. Wales, with 2.9 million people, is also mountainous with a Celtic culture—the country is called Cymru (pronounced CUM-ree) in the Welsh language—and its capital, Cardiff, features castles and museums highlighting Welsh culture. Since 1997 the government has been pursuing a policy of devolution, leading in 1999 to an elected Scottish parliament and Welsh assembly. In 2000 Londoners elected their first mayor and assembly.
The industrial revolution was born in Britain in the 18th century, making it the world's first industrialized nation. The British Empire, a worldwide system of dependencies, fed raw materials to British industry and spread British culture. Most dependencies gained independence in the 20th century. Part of the legacy of empire is that Britain is home to a growing multicultural population. The 2001 census counted more than 2.5 million Asians (mostly Indians and Pakistanis) and 1.1 million Blacks (from Africa and the Caribbean). Most of the remaining dependencies consist of small islands in the Atlantic and Caribbean.
- Industry: Machine tools, electric power equipment, automation equipment, railroad equipment, shipbuilding
- Agriculture: Cereals, oilseed, potatoes, vegetables; cattle; fish
- Exports: Manufactured goods, fuels, chemicals; food, beverages, tobacco