Scotland the Brave, Scotland the Romantic. Scotland the home of the Loch Ness Monster, and mother to Scots around the world who, wherever they are, harbor a mystical warmth for the mother country. Climatically the place is pretty miserable. The weather seldom climbs above seventy degrees. The skies are overcast much of the year. There is more than enough rain. Yet the place reflects romance.
Part of the reason are the hills and dales, the lakes and valleys, the surrounding oceans. The place is small enough that at one time the Duke of Sutherland could travel across its northern section all the way on his own land. That possibly also says something about Scottish history and social struggles, the nurturing of heroes and martyrs.
Only as little as one-fourth of the land is suitable for the usual agriculture. But oats do grow and have constituted a staple food for which the Scots are well-known, oatmeal. (Samuel Johnson defined oats as something eaten by horses and Scots.)
The North Sea bounds Scotland on the east, the Atlantic does so on the west. Traditionally Scotland is divided into the Lowlands, in the center of the country, and the Highlands, the northern half. The Uplands are in the south. The Highlands are sparsely populated and have been since The Clearances, back in the eighteenth century when the huge landowners, the Chiefs and nobility, decided it was more profitable to raise sheep and cattle than to allow the small farmers, the crofters, to remain eking out a marginal life on relatively small plots of land. (The Clearances was one of the reasons there are more Scots living abroad than in Scotland itself.) The landowners hastened the crofters’ departure by burning their homes, neglecting sometimes to check whether anyone was still inside. Even today 80 percent of the land is owned by 7 percent of the people. Aristocrats and the wealthy keep an ample supply of lovely lochs, mountains and moors for fishing and boating.
Considered some of the most romantic of mountains, the Highlands are not really high at all as mountains go. Inverness is the northernmost town of any size in the Highlands.
The ballad which includes the line, You take the high road and I’ll take the low road and I’ll be there a fore you, tells much about the Scottish love of country. The singer who was about to be hanged on an English gallows was referring to going back to his home around Loch Lomond, traveling via the low road, the spirit world.
The Lowlands, grassy hills and dales, has the two major cities, Glasgow and Edinburgh, and the Lowlands holds two-thirds of the population and nearly all of the industry. In Scotland the bays are called firths and the lakes, lochs. Just about everyone has heard of Loch Lomond, longest of the Scottish lakes, and about an hour’s drive from Glasgow.
Loch Ness is home to Nessie, the Loch Ness Monster, which has appeared from time to time, apparitionally or otherwise, since the seventh century. The lake is deep and dark, just right for a monster that may or may not exist.