Scotland is a country of the United Kingdom, and is located in the northern part of Great Britain. The country shares a border with England, and is also bordered by the Atlantic Ocean, North Sea, and Irish Sea. As well as the mainland area, Scotland’s territories also comprise nearly 800 islands, including the Hebrides and the Northern Isles, off the country’s northeast coast.
Scotland’s temperate climate is somewhat cooler than that of the rest of the UK. In the winter months the temperature dips to an average low of 0 degrees Celsius, while summer averages peak at around 15 to 17 degrees. The country’s west coast tends to be warmer, due to the influx of warm Gulf Stream currents.
While Scotland has few native animals, what it lacks is more than made up for in terms of its contribution to cryptozoology, the study of animals that have not been proven to exist. The Loch Ness monster is one of the world’s most famous cryptids, and many individuals and organisations have put forth theories as to the nature of the beast, and made attempts to locate it.
Other Scottish cryptids include the Beast of Buchan—said to resemble a leopard—and the Fairy Cat, a feline from Celtic myth that roams the Highlands and according to legend could steal the souls of corpses. What’s more, Scotland has such a strong affinity for mythological creatures that its national animal is the unicorn.
Scotland is also famous for the whisky it produces, with a large number of distilleries that employ a range of different methods. The oldest of these, Glenturret, was established in 1775. The second-oldest is Bowmore, founded in 1779, once sold one of the world’s oldest known whiskies, which was made in the mid-1800s, and brought nearly £30,000 at auction.
Scotland’s recorded history began with the Roman invasion of Great Britain, although the Romans occupied Scotland for a relatively short time—unable to effectively control people of the northern land, the Romans instead built Hadrian’s wall to keep them out. Pictish culture dominated Scotland for several hundred years, but the influence of the Norman invasion of England in the 11th century was felt in the north, too.
At the end of the 13th century, after the death of the Scottish heiress to the throne, King Edward of England bestowed the Scottish crown on John de Baliol, a move that did not sit well with the Scots. Rebellion, led by Sir William Wallace, and later Robert the Bruce, resulted in the formal recognition of Scotland’s independence from England.
Later events united Scotland and England under King James VI. The Act of Union of 1707 formally united the two countries, establishing the Kingdom of Great Britain. However, Scotland remains a separate state with its own national identity and government.
Few animals are native to Scotland: only a few species of reptiles and amphibians. These include newts, toads, the grass snake and adder, and the slow-worm, which is a lizard, but has no legs, and very much resembles a snake.
Scotland’s native flora is much more diverse, with more than 1,600 plant species, and thousands of lichens and mosses. Among the native flora are species of rare fern, flowers such as the Scottish primrose and the Shetland mouse-ear, and even a rare species of orchid, which grows only in Great Britain. The country is also home to some notable tree species, including the Fortingall Yew, which at between 2,000 and 3,000 years old is believed to be Britain’s oldest tree, and is one of the oldest trees on the European continent.
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