Unique landscapes dating from the end of the last glacial era
Scotland offers a wide range of unique landscapes that confer this country with an unparalleled charm. The Scottish Highlands, planed and polished by ice during the hundreds of thousand years of the Pleistocene era, are home to a multitude of lakes, lochs, rivers as well as torrents rushing down the slopes and through the forests, meadows, peatland, or even bare rocks. The remarkable landscapes are the signature of this country that evokes strong emotions. The first human settlements in Scotland may go back to after the disappearance of ice. There are many remains of structures built after this era such as stone lines, raised stones and cairns, which are present in numbers in the northern part of the country and in the Hebrides islands. Two out of the four sites in Scotland have indeed been declared World Heritage Sites by UNESCO : the island of St Kilda and the Neolithic site Orkney Isles. This country with a surface area of 78,000 km2 has more than 9,000 Km of coasts and 790 islands that are mainly scattered in its western part! Scotland is located 30 Km away from Ireland and about 300 Km from Norway and exchanges between the peoples have been taking place since the distant past.
Temperate oceanic climate
The climate of Scotland is tempered by the presence of the ocean that surrounds the country and by the Gulf Stream sea current that comes close to the west coast. The temperature is relatively mild between May and August with an average of some 15°C, against an average of 5°C in winter, between December and February. Rainfall is relatively low between May and August. Snow cover is present during several months in the mountains where a number of ski resorts welcome skiers during that period. The wind can be strong during the passage of low pressure systems, particularly along the west and north coasts and in the islands.
On the cutting edge of new renewable marine technologies
The country has chosen to take advantage of the natural elements, which are traditionally regarded as hostile but which ultimately prove to be valuable allies in the context of the new environmental concerns. Winds, currents and tides are some of the natural sources of energy that Scotland has decided to use through highly innovative and promising projects currently under development. The geographical location of Scotland is a considerable advantage as the country enjoys ideal exposure to winds. While in other parts of Europe, the average performance of the equipment compared with their maximum capacity is around, it reaches 40% in Scotland and even exceeds 50% at some wind farms! Wind power developments are planned both on land and offshore. Electricity produced from wind energy amounted to 3.5GW in 2009, including 2GW from land-based facilities. Nonetheless, ambitious goals have been set and it is forecast that 80% of the alternative energy produced in 2020 would be generated from wind power. Production was on schedule in 2011 and it should be noted that with only 8% of the inhabitants of the UK, Scotland produces 37% of the State’s ‘clean’ energy. Scottish Renewables also claims that the production of electricity from wind power has contributed to avoiding the emission of 4 million tonnes of CO2 in 2010. According to Renewable Energy, the eleven sites identified should generate 10GW of electricity in 2020.
The boom of wind energy in Scotland
The geographical location of Scotland is a considerable advantage as the country enjoys ideal exposure to winds. While in other parts of Europe, the average performance of the equipment compared with their maximum capacity is around, it reaches 40% in Scotland and even exceeds 50% at some wind farms! Wind power developments are planned both on land and offshore. Electricity produced from wind energy amounted to 3.5GW in 2009, including 2GW from land-based facilities. Nonetheless, ambitious goals have been set and it is forecast that 80% of the alternative energy produced in 2020 would be generated from wind power. Production was on schedule in 2011 and it should be noted that with only 8% of the inhabitants of the UK, Scotland produces 37% of the State’s ‘clean’ energy. Scottish Renewables also claims that the production of electricity from wind power has contributed to avoiding the emission of 4 million tonnes of CO2 in 2010. According to Renewable Energy, the eleven sites identified should generate 10GW of electricity in 2020.
Genuine concern for the sustainable management of natural resources
Scotland has a vast maritime domain that it seeks to exploit in a sustainable manner. Various public and private organisations are responsible for its management in the best interest of the population and taking into account its economy.
The crucial role of Scottish Nature Heritage
Throughout their stay, visitors feel informed and accompanied in the discovery of the natural heritage thanks to Scottish Nature Heritage (SNH), a key organisation in the management of the environment of Scotland, in charge amongst others of making recommendations to the government. Among its multiple areas of intervention, the organisation is in charge of managing ecosystems, outdoor activities, landscapes and sustainable development. The coastal and marine domains managed generate revenue of over £2.2billion and thus represent a key sector of the economy of Scotland. A decree, the Marine Act of 2010, outlines the basis of the administration of oceans and related activities such as fishing, aquaculture and seaweed harvesting in a spirit of sustainable development in order to ensure healthy marine ecosystems.
Development of special areas for the protection of sea mammals
As early as 1980, different marine areas have been developed such as Marine Consultation Areas (MCAs) aimed at containing the pressure generated by economic development. There are today nearly 240 Special Areas of Conservation (SACs) protecting 2.4 million acres of sea and coasts in Scotland. SACs help in protecting various ecosystems such as sandbanks, reefs, islets, estuaries and marine caves, as well as various marine species such as bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops Truncatus), whose observation by tourists is becoming a major economic issue locally, common seals (Phoca Vitulina) and grey seals (Halichoerus Grypus), which are the focus of particular attention. Since 2009, 31 extensions have been added to the SACs in the marine domains of Scotland in order to protect in their breeding areas various species of birds in Scotland such as Northern gannets in St Kilda, great skuas and turrs along the coasts of the Hebrides. It is also to be noted that Scotland has adopted the recommendations of the Joint Nature Conservation Committee for the preservation of various species such as blue whales, killer whales, humpback whales, Minke whales, Risso’s dolphins, bottlenose dolphins, cods, herrings, maerl and freshwater mussels. The government of Scotland is seriously considering the setting up of vast protected marine areas in order to protect sea mammals in a marine area stretching between the northwestern coast and the string of islands of the Hebrides.
Several boating activities all around Scotland
Various attractive nautical events are held in Scotland. Below are three important events.
The West Highland Yachting Week
The West Highland Yachting Week Sixty-five years after its launch, this regatta is an immense success. Up to a thousand boats can be brought to participate in races on a vast stretch of water with Oban and Tobermory as the epicentres. This regatta takes place towards end July/early August each year. Its special characteristic is that it moves from marina to marina as the race progresses. The boats coming from the south of Scotland gather at Gigha Island before racing each other towards Craobh, while other leave Oban to reach the marina of Craobh. Ultimately, everyone meets in Oban, then in Tobermory. Registration is made on a class basis. Besides the Spinnaker category where real competitors can race each other, there are four other classes which allow less experienced navigators to enjoy the fantastic landscapes and the friendly atmosphere. Young children – accompanied, of course – are also allowed to go onboard during the regattas. The race counts two IRC classes and the handicap system of the Clyde Yacht Club is applied.
The Portsoy Traditional Boats Festival
The Portsoy Traditional Boats Festival is held every year in June. The boats gather at this port, which was the first one to be built on the coast from the Moray to Aberdeen towards 1550. It is still possible to admire the remains of the first reconstruction works undertaken in 1692, which add a special charm to the place. The charming village is as interesting with several buildings from the same period and beautiful, narrow lanes leading to the port. It is an excellent opportunity to renew in a festive way the maritime tradition of Scotland and to fill up with remarkable images. Traditional craft initiation sessions are also organised, amongst others shipbuilding, weaving and embroidery, while various traditional music bands provide entertainment in the streets and the pubs.
The Brewin Dolphin Scottish Series
The Brewin Dolphin Scottish Series is a regatta launched in 1974 and remains one of the biggest nautical events in Scotland. The race takes place over 4 days in May, starting from the port of Tarbert, on the bank of Loch Fine. This is a major event for this small town, with a temporary doubling of its population. Tarbert is located 95 miles to the west of Glasgow. Not less than 100 boats take place in the race held under IRC regulations. The show on the waters of the loch are worth it, both for the competitors and for the spectators, who are welcomed with open arms for this colourful and vibrant event.
A rich maritime history that may date back to the Atlantic Bronze Age
The land of Gaels, Scotia in Latin, originally referred to neighbouring Ireland, before the Gael people came to settle down in what is now the west of Scotland (History of Ireland by Stephen Gwynn). Between 1300 and 700 BC, Scotland took part in trade between the different neighbouring regions, including the British Isles, Brittany in France, Galicia and Andalucía. This period named the Atlantic Bronze Age is evidenced by the discovery of metal objects with similar workmanship in these different Celtic regions.
A very ancient command of navigation
In his work, « Atlantic SeaWays », Barry Cunliffe suggests that sea trade among the different countries on the edge of the Atlantic may date back to 3000 BC. It is a certain fact that the numerous voyages undertaken in the sixth century AD by monks between Ireland, Wales and Brittany confirm a great command of navigation. A journey in the high seas recounted in many stories is indeed said to have lasted 14 days without any evidence on land of the journey undertaken! As was found in the case of other civilisations such as the Maohi in the Pacific, the level of understanding and knowledge acquired by these ancient peoples through observing nature and the stars is totally underestimated. The remains of a curragh dating from the first century AD found in Broighter, in Ireland, shows that a vessel propelled by 9 oars and a square sail could travel long distances. In fact, the seal of the Maritime Abbey of Beauporzh in Brittany bears the stamp of a curragh that symbolises this type of craft.
A long-standing pioneering spirit
The Education Act of 1496 placed Scotland, after Sparta in Greece, among the first countries to make public education generally available. The Treaty of Union became effective in 1707, making official the political union between Scotland and England and thus forming the United Kingdom. The country enjoyed exceptional growth in the 18th century. Its intellectual and economic influence was then felt throughout Europe and in the world. The abolition of taxes on trade with England generated unprecedented growth. Trade developed mainly with the American New World. It was during that period that Glasgow became the largest commercial port in the world based on the import of tobacco from Virginia aboard clippers. The intellectual influence of Scotland was undeniable with the advent of philosophers, economists, researchers and intellectuals such as Adam Smith, Robert Burns, Adam Ferguson and James Hutton. More than two centuries later, the country continues to demonstrate exceptional economic dynamism. The nation seems to stand up to the challenges and shows great ability in adapting to the fast pace of the modern world. Scotland remains, with Edinburgh, a major global financial marketplace and is becoming a leader in sustainable economic development through investment in renewable energies, despite being richly endowed in natural resources with oil from the North Sea.
The influence of the Vikings in Scotland
The influence of the Vikings – who undertook a large number of expeditions to Europe, including the Mediterranean, from Sweden, Norway and Denmark on board their famous drakkars (longships) – remains strong in Scotland. Their first major invasion of Scotland took place in 839 on the Tay and Earn rivers. Towards the year 850, the Shetland, Orkney and Hebrides Islands were under the sway of Nordic people. The influence of this long period of occupation was certainly greater than what is usually mentioned. As was the case regarding all the previous people of the sea, they settled down in regions close to all the mouths of rivers on the edge of the Atlantic, in the Channel and in the North Sea which allowed vessels with low draught to travel up-river over long distances. These strategic positions enable the Vikings to exercise their influence on a large part of the populations concentrated around the major communication routes that these rivers represented. The northwestern coast of Scotland, which is patterned with many deep-water lochs, was not spared. Just like the surroundings of Gairloch, whose sheltered bay provided safe mooring for the drakkars, there a various sites with names of Nordic origin like Horrisdale and Thorndale.
The predominance of the Vikings in naval architecture
The signing of the Treaty of Perth in 1266 occurred after the Danish King Haakon, who died shortly after, lost the Battle of Largs. His son returned all the possessions to King Alexander III. This decision meant the end of the presence of the Vikings in Scotland. If there was one area where the Nordic peoples have exercised an influence which lasted long after they left, it would be naval architecture. The boats of the Nordic peoples, whose hull planking was assembled by clincher for greater robustness, were particularly well suited for the needs of sea transportation at the time. While expedition boats were long and narrow for maximum speed, those devoted to trade were broader in order to load large quantities of goods. The influence of the Vikings in the design of boats remained visible for centuries in Scotland and elsewhere. This influence pops up, for example, in the skiffs constructed in Orkney Isles. Similarly, traces of gristles of coalfish, white ling, cod and haddock as well as specimens of hooks and lines were discovered around Viking camps. These bait fishing techniques were also used for centuries.