The Great Glen is a long, steep-sided valley that divides the Highlands in two. In places, the glen is filled with long narrow lochs such as the one in which we are currently standing. Loch Ness is 39 kilometres (24 kilometres) long and a little more than 15 kilometres (1 mile) wide, and it descends for 24 kilometres in some places (80oft). It is possible that the wind, driving down the funnel-like glen, is responsible for the strange patterns of foam that appear on the surface of Loch Ness, and that this is the source of the Loch Ness Monster legends. The Monster, whether he is real or imagined, draws a large number of visitors to this beautiful wooded location.... As part of the Great Glen Navigation, one of the few important working canals in the country runs down the valley, connecting the east coast to the west coast and saving ships the long journey around the Pentland Firth and through the islands on the west coast.
The Highlands of Scotland are one of two large mountainous areas in Great Britain, the other being the Lake District. The other is in the country of Wales. Located to the east of the Great Glen is a region known as the Grampian Highlands, which is comprised of rounded hills and moorland, with villages and farms clustered together in the sheltered land on the floors of the glens. The Grampian Highlands are a part of Scotland's Highlands and Islands region. Occasionally, the mountains will soar to dizzying heights above the clouds. Located in the Cairngorm Mountains, which reach their highest point at 1,309m (4,296 ft) on Ben Macdui, the Cairngorms offer excellent climbing terrain and are quickly becoming a popular skiing destination as a result of the construction of a large, modern skiing centre in Aviemore. Ben Nevis, the highest mountain in the United Kingdom at 1,343 metres, is located to the west (4,406 ft). The mountains of Glen Coe are much steeper and craggier than those of the surrounding area, and they hang darkly over the glen, which is a popular destination for rock climbers.
It is in the northern part of the Grampians that whisky is produced, and the drink is still a significant export, particularly to the United States. Many of the ports have fishing fleets, with the herring being the primary catch of the fleets. The terrain to the west of the Great Glen is rougher, and it is even more difficult to make a living from the land here, with the exception of a few lowland areas that are particularly favoured. As a result, both here and on the islands, the population of rural communities has been steadily declining as young people have been unable to find employment. Several new industries have been introduced to the area, including the Dounreay atomic-power plant, and the distillery at Invergordon; whisky is one of Scotland's most important exports, with a large proportion of its exports going to Japan.
If this part of the Highlands is not to be reduced to being the home of deer, grouse, and the occasional shepherd with his flock, much more needs to be done to preserve its natural beauty. Many of the Hebridean Islands have developed specialisations in their respective fields of employment. It is the production of tweed on the islands of Harris and Lewis in the Outer Hebrides, which is generally referred to as 'Harris' tweed, despite the fact that it is produced on both sides of the island. It is well-known for its warmth as well as its long-lasting durability. In Stornoway, fishing boats leave for the islands' offshore waters, and sheep are kept on the hills as they are elsewhere in Scotland, but much of the land cannot be farmed because it is covered with a thick layer of peat. The peat is dug up in small slabs, much like turf, by the islanders. After being dried, it burns slowly and warmly over an open flame.
The people of Islay, in the Inner Hebrides, are known for their whisky production, and Skye is the most visited of the islands by tourists. The Shetland Islands are the most northerly county in Scotland; there are over one hundred islands and islets that cover an area of approximately 1,400 square kilometres (550 sq. miles). Lerwick is the largest town in the region. Although the climate is damp and mild, agriculture is restricted by strong winds, which account for approximately one-third of the land area. The Shetlands are well-known for their ponies and sheep, and the wool from these animals has given rise to a thriving cottage industry that produces woven and knitted woollens. The population, on the other hand, is dwindling. The Orkney Islands, a group of over 70 islands separated from mainland Scotland by the Pentland Firth, are intensively farmed, exporting large quantities of eggs and cultivating barley for distillery production. It is widely acknowledged that the discovery and development of large oilfields in the North Sea, off the coasts of Scotland and north-east England, have been among the most significant recent events in Great Britain. Initially, oil was brought ashore in 1975, and it is hoped that, eventually, enough oil will be pumped ashore to provide a significant economic boost and allow Britain to reduce its reliance on imported oil.
The southern Uplands are comprised of a number of small groups of hills that are interconnected. The Lammermuir Hills, which are located south of Edinburgh, the Pentland Hills, which are located in Lanarkshire, the Rhinns of Kells, which are located in Kirkcudbrightshire, and the Cheviot Hills, which run along the border with England, are all located in East Lothian and Berwickshire. Farmers will find that the conditions are much better in this area, and there is some excellent farming country to be found both in the glens and in the lowlands along the coast. The Tweed, a world-famous salmon river, is the main cast-flowing river in the area. Because of the excellent pasture for sheep on the hills and the abundance of water in the Tweed's tributaries, this region is the home of significant woollen industries, with Hawick serving as the trade's focal point. In terms of appearance and way of life, this region is more similar to the counties of England than it is to the Highlands, and this is reflected in the following ways: It was colonised by the Celts who occupied Wales and by the Anglo-Saxons who conquered England in the sixth century, according to historical records.
However, the Highlanders are descended from the Picts, who were the first people to live in Scotland, the Celts, who arrived in the Bronze Age, and the Scots, a Celtic tribe who came from the north of Ireland. The Picts were the earliest inhabitants of Scotland. The narrow strip of lowland Scotland that stretches from Glasgow to Edinburgh and the Firth of Tay is the industrial and economic heartland of Scotland, serving as the country's transportation and communications hub. There are over a million people living in Glasgow, which is located on the River Clyde. The city's port, as well as its satellite towns along the Clyde's estuary, form one of the world's most important commercial and trading areas. Other than for being a port, Glasgow is well-known for its shipbuilding industry, and it is possible to launch very large ships into the Clyde estuary from the city. Even though Edinburgh is a much smaller city than Glasgow (with a population of less than half a million people), it serves as the Kingdom's business centre and a university town.
A large portion of the city's central area was redesigned and rebuilt in the Georgian style towards the end of the eighteenth century, and much of it has survived to the present day. In the old part of the city, close to the castle, some of the original sixteenth-century buildings still stand. The Palace of Holyrood, located below the castle at the foot of the 'Royal Mile,' as it is known, was the residence of Mary Queen of Scots for a period of time. Scotland is also a significant cultural centre, with a permanent opera company based in Glasgow as well as a national ballet company. Each summer, the city of Edinburgh hosts the internationally renowned Festival of the Arts, which attracts visitors from all over the world.