Scotland is an amazing country. Despite having only just over five million inhabitants and a relatively small land area, you will discover a diversity of landscapes that will blow you away and a rich history and culture going back thousands of years.
Scotland is the northernmost part of the island of Great Britain, bounded to the west and north by the Atlantic Ocean, to the east by the North Sea and to the south by England. The country lies at between approximately 55º and 60º North, making it roughly as far north as Moscow, St Petersburg and Churchill in Canada, but is kept much warmer than these other high latitude cities due to the Gulf Stream bringing warm waters up from the Gulf of Mexico to the west of the UK. Scotland covers 30,297 sq miles and is comprised of a Mainland and approximately 700 islands, most of which are uninhabited. The islands are grouped into three main archipelagos: The Shetland Islands, which are nearer to Norway than Scotland; The Orkneys, lying of the far northeast coast; and the Hebrides, an arc of islands stretching along the west coast.
The Mainland is made up of three distinct areas: The Highlands – a mountainous area covering nearly half of the country, notable for its fjord like west coast, deep lochs, ancient forests and wild uninhabited moors and plateaus. The area boasts the 54 highest hills in the British Isles, including Ben Nevis, the highest peak at 4409ft; The Central Lowlands – the middle part of the country stretching like a belt from Ayr in the southwest to Stonehaven in the northeast. This area is the flattest, most fertile and heaviest populated part of Scotland; The Southern Uplands – This upland area of rolling hills and forest separates the Central Lowlands from England, and includes the Galloway Hills in the far southwest and the hills of the Tweed valley.
Scotland receives a high level of rainfall, although it does not fall equally across the country, with the west coast receiving several times as much per-annum as the southeast, and in the winter the Highlands often receives high snowfall.
All this water feeds Scotland’s main rivers, principal among them are: The River Tay, the River Clyde, the River Tweed, the River Forth, the River Dee, the River Spey and the River Don.
The Kingdom of Scotland is one of the four constituent parts of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, and is governed as a Constitutional Monarchy. The Head of State is Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II (since 1952), although in Scotland she is more frequently referred to as Elizabeth, Queen of Scots, in recognition of her Scottish lineage. As part of the UK Scotland is administered from the Palace of Westminster in London by the Labour Government led by Prime Minister Tony Blair (since 1997), but since 1999 a devolved Scottish Parliament in Edinburgh has been responsible for administering the domestic issues of Scotland.
In 2004 HM the Queen opened Scotland’s new Parliament building. Scotland has her own legal system different from English law, and whose integrity is guaranteed by the Treaty of Union (1707). Scots law is a feudal statute legal system based on Roman law. Like the rest of the UK, Scotland has no written constitution, but is governed by a series of checks and balances on the authority and prerogatives of the Crown of Scotland, and contained within fundamental documents such as the Claim of Right (1689) and the Declaration of Arbroath (1320).