Scotland: The Rough Guide (Rough Guide Travel Guides)

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9781858285085: Scotland: The Rough Guide (Rough Guide Travel Guides)
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INTRODUCTION Despite the best efforts of an unreliable climate, Scotland is, quite simply, a wonderfully rewarding and diverse country to visit, encompassing everything from the rolling countryside of the Borders to the wild and weather-beaten islands that arc around its west and north coasts. Many parts of the mainland are surprisingly accessible, with remote lochs, glens and Highland mountains lying less than two hours' travel from Edinburgh and Glasgow, two of Britain's most complex and intriguing cities.

For centuries Scotland was a divided nation, with Gaelic-speaking, cattle-raising clans concentrated to the north and west, and Lowland Scots, distinguished by their Norman-style feudal loyalties and allegiances, dominant to the south and east. These two linguistically distinct Scotlands developed along separate lines, their mutually antagonistic populations creating the first of several overlapping sources of national tension. After the Reformation, religion became another flashpoint, not just between Catholic and Protestant, but also amongst a host of reformist sects. Later still, industrialization divided the rural from the urban, generating the class-conscious, socialist-minded cities of central and eastern Scotland. Such tensions are still apparent today in the complex relationships between incomers and natives, between the landed and the stranded, and between the progressive core of the cities and the drug-ridden poverty of their fringes.

In the background lurks Scotland's problematic relationship with England. In 1707, the Act of Union united the English and Scottish parliaments, ending centuries of political strife and, shortly afterwards, in 1745, the failure of Bonnie Prince Charlie's Jacobite rebellion gave the English and their Scottish allies the chance to bring the Gaels to heel. However, the union only partly integrated the two nations, with Scotland retaining separate legal and education systems, and, to this day, its relationship with its southern neighbour remains anomalous. During the Conservative rule of the 1980s and 1990s, many Scots were left feeling disenfranchized by and resentful of the Westminster government. However, with the Labour party victory in the 1997 general election came manifesto promises of dramatic constitutional reform, endorsed in September of that year by a referendum in which Scots voted resoundingly in favour of their own parliament, with control over issues such as health! , education, law and order and the environment. Elections for the historic Parliament, the first to be convened in Scotland for nearly 300 years, were held in May 1999, and it was officially vested with power by the Queen in an inspiring ceremony in Edinburgh on July 1, 1999. As the new Scottish government begins to make its mark on the day-to-day running of the country, larger questions about the future of the United Kingdom linger. The debate remains fierce, both within the new Parliament and without, over whether this quasi-federal devolution of power or complete independence within the European Union will better serve Scotland, and while most Scots welcome the way in which recent events have heightened their sense of identity and importance, they also acknowledge the challenges inherent in converting expectation and optimism into tangible progress.

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Review:

In the last few years Scotland has undergone a political and cultural renaissance--with its new Scottish parliament, Glasgow's urban renovation and café culture, Edinburgh's impressive National Museum of Scotland (opened in 1998) and a heightened "sense of identity and importance" it's certainly hip to be Scots. This fourth edition of The Rough Guide to Scotland reflects this optimism, with up-to-date information on what to see, where to go and the festivals and events (Edinburgh Festival or Highland Games anyone?) to visit.

Coverage of the country's two major cities is lengthy, although visitors to Edinburgh may prefer to take Edinburgh: The Mini Rough Guide with them for a more pocket-sized read. Where the Scotland guide is especially useful is in its travel and accommodation listings for the highlands and islands--areas geographically not far from Glasgow and Edinburgh yet in holiday terms a world apart. From the lochs to the glens, and from the Isle of Iona to the Shetland Isles, the authors suggest places to stay off the beaten tourist track.

What the guide lacks in photographs it makes up for with its quirky contexts section containing fascinating information on Scotland's history, architecture, music and literature. The book has plenty to keep you amused during the north of the country's seemingly endless nights. Plus if you've ever wanted to know how to order a beer in Gaelic, here's your chance to learn. Mine's a leann if anyone's buying. --Anna Hornsey

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The holiday-makers' favourite guidebook series (The Sunday Times Travel Magazine)

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