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Scotland takes up one third of the territory of the British Isles. It is the most northern part of the island of Great Britain and is not far away from the Arctic Circle. The Cheviot Hills mark the boundary between England and Scotland. The flag of Scotland is a white cross from corner to corner on a blue field. The flag of Scotland is one of the oldest flags in the world, traditionally dating back to the 9th century. The Royal Coat of Arms of Scotland was the official coat of arms of the monarchs of Scotland, and were used as the official coat of arms of the Kingdom of Scotland until the Union of the Crowns in 1603. Afterwards, the arms became an integral part of the Royal Coat of Arms of the United Kingdom.
It is the national emblem of Scotland. The thistle has nothing pleasant in it, especially if you carelessly touch its thorns. Why did the Scottish people choose this thorny plant as the national emblem of their country? The answer can be found in the history. The thistle saved their land from foreign invaders many years ago. People say that during a surprise night by the invaders, the Scottish soldiers were awakened by their shouts as their bare feet touched the thorns of the thistles in the field they were crossing.
Scotland includes the Hebrides off the west coast, and the Orkney and Shetland Islands off the north coast. It is bounded by the North Sea on the east. Scotland is divided into three regions: the Highlands which is the most northern and the most under populated area, the Lowlands, which is the most industrial region, with about three quarters of the population, and the Southern Uplands, which border on England.
Many valleys between the hills are filled with lakes, called lochs. Loch Lomond is the largest and the most beautiful of all the lochs in Scotland. The best-known is Loch Ness where some people think a large monster lives. A popular nickname for the Loch Ness Monster is Nessie.
The national dress of Scots is the kilt, which was originally worn by men. It is a skirt with a lot of folds. The kilt is a relic of the time when the clan system existed in the Highlands. The word “clan” means “family.” Everybody in the clan had the same name , like MacDonald or MacGregor ( “Mac” means “son of” ). It was really like a big family. The clan had it’s own territory and was ruled by a powerful chief . Each clan had its own tartan. There were battles between different clans but nowadays they live in peace with each other.
Royal tartan 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 , thrown over the shoulders. Each clan has its own tartan. The prevailing colours are red, yellow and blue.
Robert Burns Scotland’s national poet The 25th of January is celebrated by Scots all over he world. It is the birthday of Robert Burns, a poet who wrote in the Scottish dialect of English. The festival is called Burns Night. During the festival pipe music is played, national dress is worn, the haggis (a traditional dish) is eaten, many speeches are made. People recite poems of their favourite poet.
Hogmanay is the name the Scots give to the last day of the of the year. At midnight there are fireworks and everyone sings “Auld Lang Syne,” a song by Robert Burns. Another tradition is “ The First Foot.” If the first person to enter your house on New Year’s morning is a man with dark hair, who is carrying a piece of coal, you will have good luck in the New Year.
Scottish Highland Games attract a lot of spectators all over the world. The games open and close with colourful ceremonies. The most impressive events at the games are tossing the caber, throwing the hammer, stone put, tug of war (rope pulling). There are also competitions in bagpiping and Scottish dancing.
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