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10 interesting facts about Scotland

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Scotland is such a fascinating country – our history, legendary tales and delicious food and drink. But even those of us lucky enough to live here can still find something new to learn with these fun facts about Scotland.

So, settle down and let’s look at some interesting facts about Scotland from our language and heritage to our award-winning spots. It should be just enough about Scotland to keep you entertained while we can’t travel right now. But don’t worry, we’re ready to welcome you back just as soon as it’s safe to explore again.

Gin

Gin bottles on the bar at 56 North in Edinburgh

Gin bottles on the bar at 56 North in Edinburgh

We all know Scotland is famous for its whisky – but did you know it’s also got a very healthy gin obsession as well? Between 70 and 80% of the UK’s gin is produced in Scotland. Gin is quicker and easier to make and the Scots have always been innovative. There are over 100 gins to choose from, including the world-famous Hendrick’s and Islay’s only dry gin, The Botanist.

Find out more about gin in Scotland.

Islands

Looking down on the sand and water of Bannaminn Beach, Shetland

Bannaminn Beach, Shetland

Skye is probably one of the most well-known Scottish islands – but did you know we’ve actually got almost 800 in total? Not all of them are filled with friendly Scots – we’ve got 130 inhabited islands out of about 790. Our “busiest” islands are Lewis and Harris, Mainland Shetland and Mainland Orkney, while our quietest, hold just a handful of people.

Explore Scotland’s islands.

Island hopping

A view of North Uist from the window on the plane ride to Barra, Outer Hebrides

A view of North Uist from the window on the plane ride to Barra, Outer Hebrides

You have to plan ahead to visit our islands – by ferry or by plane. But did you know Orkney is home to the world’s shortest commercial passenger flight? Catch a plane between Westray and Papa Westray and you’ll be in the air for just two minutes. Only in Scotland can you experience that one! We’re also home to one of the world’s last beach runways in Barra too.

See more alternative ways to travel around Scotland.

Languages

We are definitely a chatty bunch, so maybe it’s not a surprise we’ve got four official languages to do it in – English, Scots, British Sign Language and Scottish Gaelic are all recognised. Scottish Gaelic is an ancient Celtic language that evolved from Old Irish – you can learn all about it in the Scottish Gaelic: Explained video.

Find out more about Scottish Gaelic.

World records

Scotland holds the world record for the longest echo in a man-made structure – after breaking our own record! The original figure of 15 seconds was set in 1970 at the Hamilton Mausoleum in South Lanarkshire. But in 2014 a new world record was set inside the Inchindown tunnels near Invergordon when a shot from a pistol took 112 seconds for the echo to end.

Read more about our record-breaking echoes.

Capital city

Looking down the narrow alleyway and up the steps at Advocate's Close, Royal Mile

Advocate’s Close, Royal Mile

We all know and love Edinburgh as a city, but there is so much to learn about her history. Edinburgh was built on seven hills – just like Rome – and has more listed buildings than anywhere in the world. The Royal Mile of Edinburgh’s Old Town is said to have been home to the world’s first-ever skyscrapers – which must have been quite a sight in the 17th century! Find out more about Edinburgh’s UNESCO World Heritage Site of the contrasting Old and New Towns.

Oldest things

Skara Brae, part of the Heart of Neolithic Orkney by the Bay of Skaill

Skara Brae, part of the Heart of Neolithic Orkney by the Bay of Skaill

Now, you might have guessed that Scotland is pretty old – but did you know how much of that history still survives in some form today? We’ve got the Fortingall Yew, a heritage tree thought to be one of the oldest living things in Europe at around 3,000 to 9,000 years old.

Then there is the Meikleour Beech Hedge, also in Perthshire, which was planted in 1745 and stands at a whopping 100 ft (30 m) high and 530 m long. It’s recognised by the Guinness Book of World Records as the highest hedge in the world.

The world-famous Calanais Standing Stones in the Outer Hebrides form one of the most complete stone circles in Britain and Europe – they’re believed to have been erected around 2900 BC.

And then there’s the Heart of Neolithic Orkney, another UNESCO World Heritage Site – which is made up of the Ring of Brodgar and the Stones of Stenness (two standing stone circles), Skara Brae (an ancient Neolithic settlement) and Maeshowe (a Neolithic chambered tomb). It provides an amazing look at a now-gone 5,000-year-old culture.

UNESCO sites

Looking across the houses to the Forth Bridge from North Queensferry

Forth Bridge from North Queensferry

Talking of UNESCO sites, did you know Scotland is home to multiple UNESCO designations, from World Heritage Sites to Cities of Design and Music? There’s the island of St Kilda, the Galloway and Southern Ayrshire Biosphere, New Lanark, the Forth Bridge, Dundee, Glasgow and Edinburgh (twice!).

Find out more about all of Scotland’s award winners.

Myths & legends

The unicorn beside the Abbot House, Dunfermline

The unicorn beside the Abbot House, Dunfermline

Scotland is a land filled with stories of myths and legends – we all know our most famous monster, Nessie, though none of us have seen her! But did you know our national animal is the mythical unicorn? It was first used on a Scottish coat of arms in the 12th century and is thought to represent purity, innocence, power and chivalry.

You can still spot some unicorns in Scottish towns and cities sitting atop a Mercat Cross – this is the Scottish name for a market cross, which gave the town the right to hold a regular market or fair. It was a symbol of authority, and there are still over 100 dotted around the country.

Find out more about the unicorn.

Sustainability

Canisp, Cul Mor and Cul Beag seen from Stac Pollaidh, Highlands

Canisp, Cul Mor and Cul Beag seen from Stac Pollaidh, Highlands

With such a beautiful country, it’s no surprise we’re keen to look after Scotland and make sure she stays at her best.  We were the first country in the world to sign up to Tourism Declares a Climate Emergency – an initiative to encourage the tourism sector to reduce carbon emissions.

Find out more about visiting Scotland responsibly.

Do you know any interesting facts about Scotland? Share your best stories in the comments below or head over to our iKnow Scotland community to discuss!

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