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Scotland


Scotland is a country in the north of Great Britain. It is a part of the United Kingdom. Scotland is divided into three natural regions: the Southern Uplands, the Central Lowlands and the highlands and islands. A lot of places in Scotland are a natural paradise, still untouched by man.

The capital of Scotland is Edinburgh, well known for its castle. Glasgow is the industrial capital of Scotland. It us the third largest city in Great Britain. The typical products of Scotland are timber, whisky, salmon. Golf is the Scottish natural sport it seems to have originated in this country.


Scottish Traditions


The thistle is the national emblem of Scotland. This is how, according to a curious legend, this plant came to be chosen as a badge, in preference to any other. Many years ago the Vikings once landed somewhere on the east coast of Scotland. The Scots assembled with their arms and took their stations behind the River Tay. As they arrived late in the day, weary and tired after a long march, they pitched their camp and rested, not expect­ing the enemy before the next day. The Vikings, however, were near: noticing that no guards were protecting the camp, they crossed the Tay, intending to take the Scots by surprise. For this purpose they took off their shoes so as to make the least possible noise. But one of them stepped on a thistle. The sudden and sharp pain he felt caused him to shriek. The alarm was given in the Scots' camp. The Vikings were put to fight, and as an acknowledgement for the timely and unexpected help from the thistle, the Scots took it as their national emblem.
The Scottish national costume (Highland dress) includes a kilt worn by men. For day wear, the kilt is worn with a tweed jacket, plain long socks, a beret and a leather sporran, that is, a pouch hanging from a narrow belt round the hips. The Scottish beret - tam-o'-shanter - is a woollen cap without a brim but with a pompon or a feather on top, traditionally worn pulled down at one side. It got its name after Tam o' Shanter, the hero of Burns's poem of that name.
The Clan

The Gaelic word "clan" means "children", and the central idea of a clan is kinship. Nowadays it refers, as a rule, only to Highland families, in Scotland. A clan is a family, and theoretically the chief is the father of it, although not every clansman can be a direct descendant of the founder.

Many people in Scotland today will be surprised to learn that those who founded the present clans were not themselves always Highlanders, but included Normans (Gordon, Eraser), Bretons (Stuart), Flemings (Murrey, Sutherland). Irish (MacNeil), and Norsemen (MacLeod), Mac meaning "son of". Concerning that early period of their settlement, which was between the eleventh and four­teenth centuries, we must not be dogmatic on the subject of nationality; the important point is that all these were "incomers" to the Highlands.

When the incomers acquired their land they virtually took over a good many people who were living on it, and who, perhaps, were already formed into a family or clan unit. Gradually the old clan came to acknowledge the protection of their new leader, and at last built up a nominal kinship with him. In course of time intermarriage made it difficult to determine how far this kinship was nominal and how far real.

Under the patriarchal system of clanship, which reached its peak in the sixteenth century, order of precedence was strictly observed. First, after the chief himself, came members of his immediate family, his younger sons and grandsons, and then the clansmen. All of them, whether connected by blood or not, owned a common heritage of loyalty as clansmen. In return for the help and support of his clansmen, the chief was their leader in war and their arbiter in peace. Even in the early days the king was, in theory at least, the "chief of chiefs", and as the royal power spread through the Highlands the chiefs were made responsible for the good conduct of their clansmen. Among the most famous clans were: Campbell, Fraser, Munro, Cameron, Stewart, Murray, MacDonald, Maclean and Mackenzie.

The great period of the clans declined by the beginning of the eighteenth century and the failure of the Jacobite Risings in 1715 and 1745 completed the destruction. But today clan societies flourish in Scotland and, perhaps more ' bravely, elsewhere in the world. These societies are acquiring land and property in their respective clan countries, financing magazines, establishing museums to preserve the relics, founding educational trusts, and - perhaps above all - keeping alive the family spirit.


The Tartan

Tartan is and has for centuries been the distinguishing mark of the Highlander. It has a long history. Evidence can be brought to show that as long as the thirteenth century, and probably earlier, Highlanders wore brightly coloured striped or checked tartan plaids, which they called "breacan". There is some controversy about clan tartans as such. Traditionalists state the Highlanders wore tartan as a badge so that they could recog­nize each other and distinguish friend from foe in battle. Like many theories, this looks well on paper, but in practice it seems to break down. Even though the old tartans were simpler than the modern ones, they could not easily be recognized at a distance.

On the other hand, various descriptions can be quoted to show that, in the Highlands, the patterns of the tartans were considered important. A district tartan is a very natural development in a country divided into small communi­ties. By the sixteenth century the particular patterns of tartan worn in a district were connected with the predominant local clan. But the study of the portraits shows that there was no uniformity of tartan even in the early eighteenth century. Members of the same family are found wearing very different tartan and, what is more surprising, many of the men are seen to wear the kilt of one tartan and a Jacket of another. The history of develop­ment of tartan was sharply broken in 1747, when wearing of Highland dress was forbidden by law after the failure of 1745.

In the early years of the nineteenth century efforts were made to collect authentic patterns of each clan tartan, but this does not seem to have been very successful. The fashion for tartan was fostered by the amazing spectacle of a kilted King George IV at holyrood in 1822, and demands for clan tartan poured into the manufactures. The wave of enthusiasm for tartan outstripped the traditional knowledge of the Highlanders, and it was at this time and in response to popular demand that a great many of familiar present-day tartans became associated with their respective clans. Some of the patterns had previously been identified by numbers only, while some were invented on the spot, as variations of the old traditional patterns.

The term "Highland dress'' has not always meant the same thing. In the seventeenth century the ki1t was not worn. Clansmen wrapped themselves in a generous length of tartan cloth some sixteen feet wide. The upper portion covered the wearer's shoulders, and it was belted at the waist, the lower portion hanging in rough folds to the knees. In the eighteenth century, this belted plaid was superseded by the kilt. Modern Highland dress consists of a day-time kilt of heavy material, sometimes in a darker tartan, worn with a tweed jacket, while for the evening finer material, possibly in a brighter "dress" tartan, can be matched with a variety of accessories.
Food and Drink

What sort of food has Scotland to offer the stranger? Scotland produces a number of dishes: Scots collops - a savoury dish popularly known as "mince", small mutton pies which must be served piping hot and the immortal haggis. And no country has a greater variety of puddings and pies, creams, jellies, and trifles.

The excellence of Scottish soups has been attributed to the early and long connection between Scotland and France, but there are some genuine soups, such as Barley Broth, Powsowdie or Sheep’s Head Broth. Hotch Potch or Harvest Broth. Baud Bree (Hare Soup) is flavoured with toasted oatmeal and Cullen Skink is made with a smoked haddock.

Plenty of ingenuity is shown, too, in the preparation of both oatmeal and milk. Porridge, properly made with home-milled meal and fresh spring water, and served with thin cream or rick milk, is food for the gods. Lastly there is the national oatcake, which is described as “a masterpiece” by the French gastronomes.

As a nation the Scots are definitely better bakers than cooks. To beat the best Edinburgh bakers one must go, it is said, all the way to Vienna. There is an endless variety of bannocks and scones: soda scones, made with buttermilk, girdle scones, potato scones, without which no Glasgow Sunday breakfast is complete. Also the pancakes, the crumpets, the shortbread that melts in the mouth, buns of every size and shape! They are on offer in every bakery.

The Scottish housewife likes to buy her meat fresh and sees that she gets it. She likes the meat off the bone and rolled, as in France, and the Scottish butcher is an artist at his trade. Most of the cuts are different from England and have different names. Sirloin, one would understand, but what is Nine Holes? Steak is steak in any language, but what is Pope's eye?

And then the puddings! The black puddings, the white puddings, the mealy puddings. And king of puddings, the haggis! I once asked a Scot: "What's in a haggis?" His answer was: "I know. But I know no reason why you should. All you need to know is that it should be served with mashed potatoes and bashed neeps (turnips), and you must drink whisky with it. You will discover that the oatmeal in the haggis absorbs the whisky, and so you can drink more of it. What else do you need to know?" "A recipe of haggis", was my answer. "Hell, well, here you are", said my friend: B ounces of sheep's liver, 4 ounces of beef suet (fat), salt and pepper, 2 onions, 1 cup of oatmeal. Boil the liver and onions in water for 40 minutes. Drain, and keep the liquid. Mince the liver finely, and chop the onions with the suet. Lightly toast the oatmeal. Combine all the ingredients, and moisten the mixture with the liquid in which the liver and onions were boiled. Turn into a sheep's stomach, cover with grease-proof paper and steam for 2 hours.

Although the Scots are not a nation of beer-drinkers in the sense that the English are, some of the best beers in the world are brewed in the Lowlands of Scotland. But however good Scots beer and ale are, it is universally known that the glory of the country is whisky. Scotch whisky was a by-product of traditional Scottish thrift. Frugal Scots farmers, rather than waste their surplus barley, mashed, fermented and distilled it, producing a drink at first called uisge beatha, Gaelic for "water of life", and now simply called whisky. No one knows when the Scots learnt the art of distilling, though it may have been before they arrived from Ireland in the fifth century AD, for in Irish legend St Patrick taught the art. The first mention in Scottish records of a spirit distilled from grain does not occur before 1494.

Today there are two kinds of Scotch whisky - the original malt whisky, made by the centuries-old pot-still process from barley that has been "mailed" or soaked and left to germinate; and grain whisky, made from maize as well as matted and unmalted barley. Most of the well-known brands of Scotch whisky are blends of many different grain and malt whiskies. The technique of blending was pioneered in Edinburgh in the 1860s, and a taste for the new, milder blended whiskies quickly spread to England and then to the rest of the world.

Barley is the raw material of the malt whisky distiller. The first process in making whisky is mailing - turning barley into malt. Mailing begins when the distiller takes delivery of the barley, usually in September or October, soon after it has been harvested. The barley is in grain form, and must be ripe and dry, otherwise it may turn mouldy and make properly controlled mailing impossible. The barley is cleaned, weighed and soaked for two or three days in tanks of water. Then it is spread on the malting floor, where it germinates for 8-12 days, secreting an enzyme which makes the starch in barley soluble and prepares it turning into sugar. The barley is regularly turned over to control its temperature and rate of germination. The warm, damp, sweet-smelling barley is passed to the kiln for drying, which stops germina­tion. It is spread on a base of perforated iron and dried in the heat of a peat fire. Distillery kilns have distinctive pagoda-shaped heads. An open ventilator at the top draws hot air from the peat fire through the barley. This gives it a smoky flavour, which is passed on to the whisky. The barley has now become malt - dry, crisp, peat-flavored, different from the original barley in all but appearance. It is ready for the next stage in the process - mashing. It is stored in bins and then it is weighed to ensure that the right amount of malt is passed to the mill below, where it is ground. The ground malt, called grist, is carried up to the grist hopper and fed in measured quantities into the mash tun. There the grist is mixed with hot water and left to infuse. This extracts the sugar content from the malt. The sugary water, called wort, is then drawn off through the bottom of the mash tun. This process is repeated three times, and each time the water is at a different temperature.

For centuries, Scotch whisky has been made from mailed barley mixed with yeast and water, then heated in pear-shaped containers called pot stills. The early Highland farmers who distilled their own whisky heated their pot stills in huge copper kettles over a peat fire. Smoke from the peat added to the whisky's flavour. Big modern distillers use basically the same technique. The vapor that rises in the still is condensed by cooling to make whisky. The shape of the still affects the vapor and so helps to give the whisky its taste. The most important single influence on the taste of Scotch whisky is probably the Scottish water. This is why distilleries are situated in narrow glens or in remote country near a tumbling stream.

The whisky comes colorless and fiery from the spirit receiver. In the spirit vat it is diluted to about 110 degrees proof before being run into oak casks to mature. Today, 100 degrees proof spirit by British standards is spirit with 37.1 per cent of alcohol by volume, and 42.9 per cent of water.

Scotch whisky cannot legally be sold for consumption until it has matured in casks for at least three years. The time a whisky takes to mature depends on the size of the casks used, the strength at which the spirit is stored and the temperature and humidity of the warehouse. A good malt whisky may have been left in the cask for 15 years, or even longer. Air enters the oak casks and evaporation takes place. Eventually, the whisky loses its coarseness and becomes smooth and mellow.

There are more than 100 distilleries in Scotland and the whisky made in each has its own distinctive character. Some distilleries bottle part of their spirit and sell it as a single whisky; but most whiskies go to a blender. As many as 40 different single whiskies may be blended to make up the whisky that is eventually sold. So specifically associated with Scotland has whisky he-come that the mere adjective SCOTCH requires no noun to be supplied in order that people should know what is meant.


Burns Night (25 January)

The anniversary of the poet's birth, is celebrated in every corner of Scotland, and indeed wherever a handful of Scots is to be found. There are hundreds of Burns Clubs scattered throughout the world, and they all endeavour to hold Burns Night celebrations to mark the birth of Scotland's greatest poet. The first club was founded at Greenock in 1802. The traditional menu at the suppers is cock-a-leekie soup (chicken broth), boiled salt herring, haggis with bashed neeps (turnips), and champit tatties (mashed potatoes) and dessert. The arrival of the haggis is usually heralded by the music of bagpipes. The haggis is carried into the dining room behind a piper wearing traditional dress. He then reads a poem written especially for the haggis! "The Immortal Memory" is toasted, and the company stand in silent remembrance. Then fellows dancing, pipe music, and selections from Burns's lyrics, the celebration concluding with the poet's famous Auld tang Syne.


Loch Ness and the Monster

Whatever it is that stirs in Loch Ness, it is no newcomer. An inscription on a fourteenth-century map of the loch tells vaguely but chillingly of "waves without wind, fish without fins, islands that float". "Monster" sightings are not limited to Loch Ness: Lochs Awe, Rannoch, Lomond and Morar have all been said to contain specimens. The Loch Ness Monster owes its great fame to the opening of a main road along the north shore of the loch in 1933. Since then, distant views of "four shining black humps", "brownish-gray humps" have kept visitors flocking to the loch. People who have seen the phenomenon more closely say that it is "slug-like" or "eel-like", with a head resembling a seal's or a gigantic snail's, while the long neck is embellished with a horse's mane. Its length has been estimated at anything between 8 and 23 metres, and its skin texture la "warty" and "slimy". Close observers, too, particularly Hr George Spicer and his wife who saw it jerking across a lochside road in 1933, have declared it "fearful".

It is not surprising that such waters, cupped in savage hills, should produce legends. Loch Ness is part of the Great Glen, a geological fault that slashes across Scotland like a sword-cut. The loch itself is 24 miles long, about a mile broad and has an average depth of 400 feet. Loch Ness has one direct outlet to the sea, the shallow River Ness, and it is fed by eight rivers and innumerable streams, each of which pours the peaty soil of the hills into the loch. Consequently, the water is dark. Divers working with powerful arc lamps 15 metres below the surface have been unable to see for more than 3 metres around them.

Over the past 40 years, sightings have been claimed by more than 1000 people. Most of the sightings were in bright sunlight conditions of flat calm, and several of the witnesses were trained observers - soldiers, doctors, seamen. Though many of the sightings were from a distance, witnesses have been convinced they were looking at a large animal, most of whose body was hidden beneath the water.

If it exists, it is most unlikely that the Loch Ness monster is a single animal. A prehistoric creature, living alone in Loch Ness, cut off from others of its kind, would have to be millions of years old. For the species to survive there must be quite a large colony. The colony theory is also supported by nearly simultaneous sightings in different parts of the loch. According to naturalists, the chances of the creature being a reptile are remote. Though Loch Ness never freezes, its temperature never rises above 6°C and this would be too cold for any known species. Also, reptiles breathe air, and would have to surface more frequently than the monster appears to. Though most zoologists deny the possibility that a large and unknown animal might be living in Loch Ness, it is remarkable that the mystery continues; and it is perhaps more exciting than any final scientific solution.
Scottish Weddings

Everybody knows about Gretna Green, the famous Scottish village just beyond the border. In the old days runaway couples escaped from England to Gretna Green to get married. The practice started in the year 1774. In that year a bill was passed in England forbidding marriages of person under eighteen without their parents’ consent. In Scotland the legal age limit was sixteen - and still is for that matter. What is more, until the year 1856 the young couple could be married at once at any place in Scotland, without having to stay there for some time.

You may ask why all those young people chose Gretna Green for their wedding. After all, there are many romantic places in Scotland. The answer is simple. Gretna Green was the nearest village across the Scottish border, only ten miles of Carlisle, on the main highway. To get there took the least time and the least money.

The blacksmith at Gretna Green was always ready to perform the marriage ceremony at a small fee. The formalities were very simple. All that was needed was a declaration made by the young couple in the presence of two witnesses. Visitors of Gretna Green can still see the old blacksmith’s shop and the famous marriage room in it.

The old tradition is still remembered. Many young couples who cannot get married in England because they are under age still think it romantic to go to Gretna Green. But today they must have enough money to stay there for three weeks.
Highland Games

Perhaps the most distinctive event at a Highland Gathering is “Tossing the Caber” - or, as the sixteenth-century writer called it, “throwing the bar”. The caber is the trunk - of a fir tree 20 feet long and ten inches (25 cm) thick at the bigger end. Its weight is about 100 kilos and it needs two or three men to lift it upright with the thick end at the top. The competitor then lakes hold of it and rests it against his shoulder. He takes two or three steps and then throws it so that it turns a complete somersault. The straightest throw, that is nearest to 12 o’clock in direction, gets the most points. If none of the competitors is able to toss the caber, a bit is sawn off the end, and then, if necessary, another bit, until at last one competitor succeeds.

Another feat of strength is throwing the hammer. This has a long handle and weighs ten kilos. The competitor is not allowed to run, he stands still and sweeps it round and round his head several times.

For all events, except races, the kilt must be worn. For highland dances, of which there are many varieties, the competitors wear full highland dress. This includes a smart jacket worn with coloured buttons and a “sporran” or purse made of fur, which hangs at the waist. The mast difficult and intricate of the dances is the sword-dance, performed over a pair of crossed swords which must not be touched by the dancer’s feet.





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