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The Best Places to Stay in the UK

Best of Scotland

Everybody knows Scotland, don't they? It's all rugged castles, brooding mountains and swishing kilts, images that are successfully peddled around the world on shortbread tins and whisky bottles. Of course, that side of the country does exist, and it's one the tourist boards are happy to endorse. But there's so much more to Scotland than a set of worn-out old cliches. It's home to more than 800 islands, has more than 10 percent of Europe’s coastline and has been voted the world’s number one mountain biking destination. It's a fabulously inventive place, which brought the world the telephone, TV, penicillin, and, er, tarmac. And it's much more of a contemporary destination than the tourist board would have you believe, with seven thrilling cities, of which Glasgow and Edinburgh can hold their own with any in Europe (let alone Britain) when it comes to sights, architecture and nightlife. Of course Scotland also boasts some of the most remote and wild landscapes in Europe. And that is just the point: Scotland is diverse, deep, and very, very hard to pin down: it's as much Trainspotting as it is Braveheart, and there are as many fine dining restaurants as there are chippies selling deep-fried Mars bars. You can't rely on the familiar old cliches. You need to come here for yourself to find out what it really has to offer.

History

With the recent referendum, Scotland’s history has perhaps never been the subject of more debate – indeed it's only in recent decades that Scottish history has seriously been studied, and even the foundation of Scotland is the subject of fierce controversy. Far more than the Romans, who famously never succeeded in subduing Scotland after over a century of trying, the relationship with England has left the greatest mark. The two countries may still be inexorably liked by 1707’s Act of Union, but the preceding centuries saw constant turmoil, with great Scottish heroes such as William Wallace and Robert the Bruce still very much celebrated today. The 19th century brought wealth, but economic times have been tougher in recent years, especially as traditional industries have failed, and the restoration of the first Scottish Parliament in 1999 has not – as Westminster hoped – quelled the desire for independence. Far from it. With a popular nationalist government in a strong position at Holyrood, Scottish independence is very much on the current agenda. Whether Scotland becomes independent again for the first time in 300 years or not the passionate debate leading up to 2014 has made global headlines, as has the Oscar winning success in 2013 of Disney-Pixar's Brave, a film that brilliantly showcased the epic scenery of one of the world's most dramatically scenic countries.

Eilean donan castle see do buildings monuments original large

The best of Scotland

Castles, clans and tartan; over 800 islands and some of Europe's most epic scenery
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