A General description of Scotland
Scotland is a country that is part of the United Kingdom. General characteristics of the state, its culture and traditions. The climate and terrain, common representatives of flora and fauna. Religious and social traditions of the population of Scotland.
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Scotland is a country that is part of the United Kingdom. Occupying the northern third of the island of Great Britain, it shares a border with England to the south and is bounded by the North Sea to the east, the Atlantic Ocean to the north and west, and the North Channel and Irish Sea to the southwest. Scotland includes over 790 islands.
Official language(s) - English, Gaelic, Scots
Ethnic groups 89% Scottish, 7% English, Irish, Welsh, 4% other
Demonym Scots, Scottish
Government Devolved Government within a Constitutional monarchy
Monarch Elizabeth II
First Minister (Head of Scottish Government) Alex Salmond MSP
Legislature Scottish Parliament
Area 78,772 km2
Currency Pound sterling (GBP)
The capital of Scotland is Edinburgh.
Edinburgh has been the capital since the 15th century, when its fortified castle was the centre of Scotland's resistance to its enemies. Edinburgh is an administrative, commercial and cultural centre of Scotland. It is associated with the names of Geogre Gordon Byron, Walter Scott, Robert Louis Stevenson, Robert Burns, and Arthur Conan Doyle. It is also associated with the world-famous Edinburgh Festival of Music and Drama. The Festival was first held in 1947 and has been held annually ever since. Its aim is bringing to Scotland's capital the finest performers and productions from all over the world. The Edinburgh International Festival of 1987 was devoted to Russia, the Russian musicians, dancers and singers were a great success.
At the same time as the festival, the Edinburgh military tatoo takes place every August and September, and is known throughout the world. For 90 minutes on five or six nights a week, 600 people perform under floodlights. They are surrounded on three sides by an audience of 9,000. On the fourth side is the castle itself which provides an exciting setting for the evening's performance of military music, marching and other spectacular displays. On the final night of the display the sky is filled with the bright colours of exploding fireworks.
The Kingdom of Scotland was an independent sovereign state before 1707.
Repeated glaciations, which covered the entire land-mass of modern Scotland, destroyed any traces of human habitation that may have existed before the Mesolithic period. It is believed that the first post-glacial groups of hunter-gatherers arrived in Scotland around 12,800 years ago, as the ice sheet retreated after the last glaciation.
Groups of settlers began building the first known permanent houses on Scottish soil around 9,500 years ago, and the first villages around 6,000 years ago. The well-preserved village of Skara Brae on the Mainland of Orkney dates from this period. Neolithic habitation, burial and ritual sites are particularly common and well-preserved in the Northern Isles and Western Isles, where a lack of trees led to most structures being built of local stone.
The founders of Scotland of late medieval legend, Scota with Goнdel Glas, voyaging from Egypt, as depicted in a 15th century manuscript of the Scotichronicon of Walter Bower.
A four thousand year old tomb with burial treasures was discovered at Forteviot, near Perth, the capital of a Pictish Kingdom in the eighth/ninth century AD. Unrivalled anywhere in Britain, it contains the remains of an early Bronze Age ruler laid out on white quartz pebbles and birch bark, with possessions including a bronze and gold dagger, a wooden bowl, leather bag, and plant matter, later found to be flowers. This is the first evidence that early Bronze Age people placed flowers in their graves.
Scotland may have been part of a Late Bronze Age maritime trading-networked culture called the Atlantic Bronze Age that also included the other Celtic nations, England, France, Spain and Portugal.
The written protohistory of Scotland began with the arrival of the Roman Empire in southern and central Great Britain, when the Romans occupied what is now England and Wales, administering it as a province called Britannia. Roman invasions and occupations of southern Scotland were a series of brief interludes.
Skara Brae, a neolithic settlement, located in the Bay of Skaill, Orkney.
The Kingdom of the Picts (based in Fortriu by the 6th century) was the state which eventually became known as «Alba» or «Scotland».
A replica of the Pictish Hilton of Cadboll Stone
lth-16th centuries - Constant wars between England and the quite separate Kingdom of Scotland.
1603 - James VI of Scotland became also James I of England when Queen Elizabeth I of England died without children.
1651 - Scotalnd was united with England and Wales although it kept its own parliament.
1707 - England and Scotland were joined by the Act of Union which abolished the Scottish parliament.
1715 and 1745 - Rebellions by «Jacobites» who wanted a Catholic King. The English parliament had invited the Dutch Protestant William of Orange to rule Britain. In 1745 the Jacobite hope was Prince Charles Edward Stuart, «Bonnie Prince Charlie».
1746 - Bonnie Prince Charlie was finally defeated at Culloden, near Inverness. The people of the Highlands were forced to emigrate to make room for sheep farms. Today there are twenty million «overseas Scots».
Today - Certain differences between England and Scotland remain to this day, particularly in the legal and education systems.
Although Scotland takes up one third of the territory of the British Isles, its population is not very big. It is the most northern part of the island of Great Britian and is not very far away from the Arctic Circle. That's why it is not densely populated: its population is a little over 5 million people.
The Cheviot Hills mark the boundary between England and Scotland. Apart from this land link with England, Scotland is surrounded by sea. Scotland includes the Hebrides off the west coast, and the Orkey and Shetland Islands off the north coast. It is bounded by the North Sea in the east.
Scotland is divided into three regions: the Highlands, which is the most northern and the most underpopulated area with a harsh climate; the Lowlands, which is the most industrial region, with about three quarters of the population; and the Southern Uplands, with hills, which border on England.
The Highlands of Scotland are among the oldest mountains in the world. They reach their highest point in Ben Nevis (1,343 m). Many valleys between the hills are filled with lakes, called lochs. The best-known is Loch Ness, where, as some people think, a large monster lives. The most important city here is Aberdeen which is the oil centre of Scotland. Ships and helicopters travel from Aberdeen to the North Sea oil rigs. Work on an oil rig is difficult and dangerous.
Most of the population of Scotland is concentrated in the Lowlands. Here, on the Clyde, is Glasgow, Scotland's biggest city. Shipbuilding is one of its most important industries, other industries are iron and steel, heavy and light engineering, and coal mining. It's an industrial city and an important port in the UK. It's a grim city because of the greyness of its houses many of which are not suitable for living and need repairs and rebuilding. Glasgo is also the home of two well-known football clubs, Glasgo Rangers and Celtic.
Clans and Tartans
One of the things that people associate with Scotland is the kilt. The kilt is a relic of the time when the clan system existed in the Highlands. The Gaelic word «clan» means «family» or «descendants» and the great clans of the 16th and 17th centuries were indeed very similar to enormous families, ruled by powerful chiefs. Sometimes there were fierce battles between different clans but nowadays the McDonalds and McKenzies, the Campbells and the Lindsays all live in peace with each other. It is possible to find people with these surnames in many English-speaking countries, and they all feel they share the same background.
The wearing of tartans or coloured checks was common in the Highlands before the defeat by the English in 1745. Originally, the tartan was worn as a single piece of cloth, drawn in at the waist and thrown over the shoulder. The kilt did not become popular until the beginning of the 18th century. Each clan has its own tartan, and, since the first international gathering of the clans in 1972, many people have become interested in traditional forms of Scottish dress. Tartans are now part of international fashion.
Many people in Scotland have the name McDonald or McKenzie. «Me» means «son of» and people with this name usually feel they belong to the same family or clan. Campbell or Cameron are other common surnames. Common boys' names are Angus, Donald or Duncan, and girls' names are Morag, Fiona or Jean. The names Jimmy and Jock are so common that many English people call a man from Scottland «a Jimmy» or «a Jock».
Iona Abbey an early centre of Scottish Christianity
Just over two-thirds (67%) of the Scottish population reported having a religion in 2001 with Christianity representing all but 2% of these. 28% of the population reported having no religious adherence.
Since the Scottish Reformation of 1560, the national church (the Church of Scotland, also known as The Kirk) has been Protestant and Reformed in theology. Since 1689 it has had a Presbyterian system of church government, and enjoys independence from the state. About 12% of the population are currently members of the Church of Scotland, with 40% claiming affinity. The Church operates a territorial parish structure, with every community in Scotland having a local congregation. Scotland also has a significant Roman Catholic population, 17% claiming that faith, particularly in the west.
After the Reformation, Roman Catholicism in Scotland continued in the Highlands and some western islands like Uist and Barra, and was strengthened, during the 19th century by immigration from Ireland. Other Christian denominations in Scotland include the Free Church of Scotland, various other Presbyterian offshoots, and the Scottish Episcopal Church.
Islam is the largest non-Christian religion (estimated at around 40,000, which is less than 0.9% of the population), and there are also significant Jewish, Hindu and Sikh communities, especially in Glasgow. The Samyй Ling monastery near Eskdalemuir, which celebrated its 40th anniversary in 2007, includes the largest Buddhist temple in western Europe.
Tiree, one of the sunniest locations in Scotland
The climate of Scotland is temperate and oceanic, and tends to be very changeable. It is warmed by the Gulf Stream from the Atlantic, and as such has much milder winters (but cooler, wetter summers) than areas on similar latitudes, for example Labrador, Canada, Moscow, or the Kamchatka Peninsula on the opposite side of Eurasia. However, temperatures are generally lower than in the rest of the UK, with the coldest ever UK temperature of ?27.2°C (?16.96°F) recorded at Braemar in the Grampian Mountains, on 11 February 1895. Winter maximums average 6°C (42.8°F) in the lowlands, with summer maximums averaging 18°C (64.4°F). The highest temperature recorded was 32.9°C (91.22°F) at Greycrook, Scottish Borders on 9 August 2003.
In general, the west of Scotland is usually warmer than the east, owing to the influence of Atlantic ocean currents and the colder surface temperatures of the North Sea. Tiree, in the Inner Hebrides, is one of the sunniest places in the country: it had 300 days of sunshine in 1975. Rainfall varies widely across Scotland. The western highlands of Scotland are the wettest place, with annual rainfall exceeding 3,000 mm (118.1 in). In comparison, much of lowland Scotland receives less than 800 mm (31.5 in) annually. Heavy snowfall is not common in the lowlands, but becomes more common with altitude. Braemar experiences an average of 59 snow days per year, while many coastal areas average fewer than 10 days of lying snow per annum.
Flora and fauna
Scotland's wildlife is typical of the north west of Europe, although several of the larger mammals such as the Lynx, Brown Bear, Wolf, Elk and Walrus were hunted to extinction in historic times. There are important populations of seals and internationally significant nesting grounds for a variety of seabirds such as Gannets. The Golden Eagle is something of a national icon.
Twinflower (Linnaea borealis), a species of the Strathspey pinewoods
On the high mountain tops species including Ptarmigan, Mountain Hare and Stoat can be seen in their white colour phase during winter months. Remnants of the native Scots Pine forest exist and within these areas the Scottish Crossbill, the UK's only endemic bird species and vertebrate, can be found alongside Capercaillie, Wildcat, Red Squirrel and Pine Marten. In recent years various animals have been re-introduced, including the White-tailed Sea Eagle in 1975, the Red Kite in the 1980s, and more recently there have been experimental projects involving the Beaver and Wild Boar.
The flora of the country is varied incorporating both deciduous and coniferous woodland and moorland and tundra species. However, large scale commercial tree planting and the management of upland moorland habitat for the grazing of sheep and commercial field sport activities impacts upon the distribution of indigenous plants and animals. The UK's tallest tree is the Stronardron Douglas Fir located in Argyll, and the Fortingall Yew may be 5,000 years old and is probably the oldest living thing in Europe. Although the number of native vascular plants is low by world standards, Scotland's substantial bryophyte flora is of global importance.
A Pipe Major playing the Great Highland Bagpipe
scotland culture tradition climate
Scottish music is a significant aspect of the nation's culture, with both traditional and modern influences. A famous traditional Scottish instrument is the Great Highland Bagpipe, a wind instrument consisting of three drones and a melody pipe (called the chanter), which are fed continuously by a reservoir of air in a bag. Bagpipe bands, featuring bagpipes and various types of drums, and showcasing Scottish music styles while creating new ones, have spread throughout the world. The clаrsach (harp), fiddle and accordion are also traditional Scottish instruments, the latter two heavily featured in Scottish country dance bands. Today, there are many successful Scottish bands and individual artists in varying styles.
The National Library of Scotland
Scottish literature includes text written in English, Scottish Gaelic, Scots, French, and Latin. The poet and songwriter Robert Burns wrote in the Scots language, although much of his writing is also in English and in a «light» Scots dialect which is more accessible to a wider audience. Similarly, the writings of Sir Walter Scott and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle were internationally successful during the 19th and early 20th Centuries.
J.M. Barrie introduced the movement known as the «Kailyard school» at the end of the 19th century, which brought elements of fantasy and folklore back into fashion. This tradition has been viewed as a major stumbling block for Scottish literature, as it focused on an idealised, pastoral picture of Scottish culture. Some modern novelists, such as Irvine Welsh (of Trainspotting fame), write in a distinctly Scottish English that reflects the harsher realities of contemporary life. More recently, author J.K. Rowling has become one of the most popular authors in the world (and one of the wealthiest) through her Harry Potter series, which she began writing from a coffee-shop in Edinburgh.
Scottish theatre has for many years played an important role in Scottish society, from the music hall variety of Sir Harry Lauder and his contemporaries to the more serious plays put on at the Citizens Theatre in Glasgow and many other theatres throughout Scotland.
The national broadcaster is BBC Scotland (BBC Alba in Gaelic), a constituent part of the British Broadcasting Corporation, the publicly funded broadcaster of the United Kingdom. It runs two national television stations and the national radio stations, BBC Radio Scotland and BBC Radio nan Gaidheal, amongst others. The main Scottish commercial television station is STV. National newspapers such as the Daily Record, The Herald, and The Scotsman are all produced in Scotland. Important regional dailies include the Evening News in Edinburgh 'The Courier in Dundee in the east, and The Press and Journal serving Aberdeen and the north. Scotland is represented at the Celtic Media Festival, which showcases film and television from the Celtic countries. Scottish entrants have won many awards since the festival began in 1980.
Pipers at the Festival Interceltique de Lorient
As one of the Celtic nations, Scotland and Scottish culture is represented at interceltic events at home and over the world. Scotland hosts several music festivals including Celtic Connections (Glasgow), and the Hebridean Celtic Festival (Stornoway). Festivals celebrating Celtic culture, such as Festival Interceltique de Lorient (Brittany), the Pan Celtic Festival (Ireland), and the National Celtic Festival (Portarlington, Australia), feature elements of Scottish culture such as language, music and dance.
Gilbert Scott Building, University of Glasgow
The Scottish education system has always remained distinct from education in the rest of United Kingdom, with a characteristic emphasis on a broad education. Scotland was the first country since Sparta in classical Greece to implement a system of general public education. Schooling was made compulsory for the first time in Scotland with the Education Act of 1496, then, in 1561, the Church of Scotland set out a national programme for spiritual reform, including a school in every parish. Education continued to be a matter for the church rather than the state until the Education Act (1872). The «Curriculum for Excellence» provides the curricular framework for children and young people from age 3 to 18. All 3 - and 4-year-old children in Scotland are entitled to a free nursery place. Formal primary education begins at approximately 5 years old and lasts for 7 years (P1-P7); Today, children in Scotland sit Standard Grade, or more recently Intermediate exams at between 14 and 16. The school leaving age is 16, after which students may choose to remain at school and study for Access, Intermediate or Higher Grade and Advanced Higher exams. A small number of students at certain private, independent schools may follow the English system and study towards GCSEs and A and AS-Levels instead.
There are 14 Scottish universities, some of which are amongst the oldest in the world. These include the University of St Andrews, the University of Glasgow, the University of Edinburgh, the University of Aberdeen and the University of Dundee - many of which are ranked amongst the best in the UK. The country produces 1% of the world's published research with less than 0.1% of the world's population, and higher education institutions account for nine per cent of Scotland's service sector exports.
The Highland Games
Scottish Highland Games, at which sports (including tossing the caber, putting the weight and throwing the hammer), dancing and piping competitions take place, attract large numbers of spectators from all over the world.
These meetings are held every year in different places in the Scottish Highlands. They include the clans led by their pipers, dressed in their kilts, tartan plaids, and plumed bonnets, who march round the arena.
The features common to Highland Games are bagpipes and Highland dancing competitions and the performance of heavy athletic events-some of which, such as tossing the caber, are Highland in origin. All competitors wear Highland dress, as do most of the judges. The games take place in a large roped-off arena. Several events take place at the same time: pipers and dancers perform on a platform; athletes toss the caber, put the weight, throw the hammer, and wrestle. There is also a competition for the best-dressed Highlander.
Highland dancing is performed to bagpipe music, by men and women, such as the Sword Dance and the Reel.
No one knows exactly when the men of the Highlands first gathered to wrestle, toss cabers, throw hammers, put weights, dance and play music. The Games reflected the tough life of the early Scots. Musclepower was their means of livelihood-handling timber, lifting rocks to build houses, hunting. From such activities have developed the contests of tossing the caber, putting the weight and throwing the hammer. Tossing the caber originated among woodmen who wanted to cast their logs into the deepest part of a river.
Tossing the caber is not a question of who can throw it
farthest. For a perfect throw the caber must land in the 12-o'clock position after being thrown in a vertical semicircle. The caber is a very heavy and long log.
Sport is an important element in Scottish culture, with the country hosting many of its own national sporting competitions. It enjoys independent representation at many international sporting events including the FIFA World Cup, the Rugby Union World Cup, the Rugby League World Cup, the Cricket World Cup and the Commonwealth Games, but not at the Olympic Games where Scottish athletes are part of the Great Britain team. Scotland has its own national governing bodies, such as the Scottish Football Association (the second oldest national football association in the world) and the Scottish Rugby Union. Variations of football have been played in Scotland for centuries with the earliest reference dating back to 1424. Association football is now the most popular sport and the Scottish Cup is the world's oldest national trophy.
The Old Course at St Andrews
Scotland contested the first ever international football game in 1872, a 0-0 draw against England. The match took place at Hamilton Crescent, Glasgow, home of the West of Scotland Cricket Club. Scottish clubs have been successful in European competitions with Celtic winning the European Cup in 1967, Rangers and Aberdeen winning the UEFA Cup Winners' Cup in 1972 and 1983 respectively, and Aberdeen also winning the UEFA Super Cup in 1983. Dundee United have also made it to a European final, reaching the UEFA Cup Final in 1987, but losing on aggregate 2-1 to IFK Gцteborg. The Fife town of St. Andrews is known internationally as the Home of Golf and to many golfers the Old Course, an ancient links course dating to before 1574, is considered to be a site of pilgrimage. There are many other famous golf courses in Scotland, including Carnoustie, Gleneagles, Muirfield, and Royal Troon. Other distinctive features of the national sporting culture include the Highland games, curling and Shinty, which, given its arrival with the Gaelic language and the original Scottish culture from Antrim, can claim to be Scotland's national sport. Scotland played host to the Commonwealth Games in 1970 and 1986, and will do so again in 2014 with Glasgow the host city.
Soldiers of the five regular battalions of the Royal Regiment of Scotland
Although Scotland has a long military tradition that predates the Treaty of Union with England, its armed forces now form part of the British Armed Forces, with the notable exception of the Atholl Highlanders, Europe's only legal private army. In 2006, the infantry regiments of the Scottish Division were amalgamated to form the Royal Regiment of Scotland. Other distinctively Scottish regiments in the British Army include the Scots Guards, the Royal Scots Dragoon Guards and the Scottish Transport Regiment, a Territorial Army Regiment of the Royal Logistic Corps.
Because of their topography and perceived remoteness, parts of Scotland have housed many sensitive defence establishments, with mixed public feelings. Between 1960 and 1991, the Holy Loch was a base for the U.S. fleet of Polaris ballistic missile submarines. Today, Her Majesty's Naval Base Clyde, 25 miles (40 km) west of Glasgow, is the base for the four Trident-armed Vanguard class ballistic missile submarines that comprise the UK's nuclear deterrent. Scapa Flow was the major Fleet base for the Royal Navy until 1956.
Two frontline Royal Air Force bases are also located in Scotland. These are RAF Leuchars and RAF Lossiemouth, the last of which is the most northerly air defence fighter base in the United Kingdom. A third, RAF Kinloss was closed in October 2010.
The only open-air live depleted uranium weapons test range in the British Isles is located near Dundrennan. As a result, over 7,000 radioactive munitions lie on the seabed of the Solway Firth.
The national flag of Scotland, known as the Saltire or St. Andrew's Cross, dates (at least in legend) from the 9th century, and is thus the oldest national flag still in use. Since 1606 the Saltire has also formed part of the design of the Union Flag. There are numerous other symbols and symbolic artefacts, both official and unofficial, including the thistle, the nation's floral emblem, 6 April 1320 statement of political independence the Declaration of Arbroath, the textile pattern tartan that often signifies a particular Scottish clan, and the Lion Rampant flag. Highlanders can thank James Graham, 3rd Duke of Montrose, for the repeal in 1782 of the Act of 1747 prohibiting the wearing of tartans.
The thistle, Scotland's Floral emblem.
Flower of Scotland is popularly held to be the National Anthem of Scotland, and is played at events such as football and rugby matches involving the Scotland national teams. As of 2010, Flower of Scotland is also played at the Commonwealth Games after it was voted the overwhelming favourite by participating Scottish athletes. Other less popular candidates for the National Anthem of Scotland include Scotland the Brave, Highland Cathedral, Scots Wha Hae and A Man's A Man for A' That.
St Andrew's Day, 30 November, is the national day, although Burns' Night tends to be more widely observed. Tartan Day is a recent innovation from Canada. In 2006, the Scottish Parliament passed the St. Andrew's Day Bank Holiday (Scotland) Act 2007, designating the day to be an official bank holiday.
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