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Scotland is my home country, it's where I was born and where I did most of my growing up. The name Ross is typically Scottish these days (meaning "from the peninsula") but it developed from a French name, Rosce. Or so I'm told. Physically Scotland is a small country of around thirty thousand square miles, yet due to the rugged nature of its shape it has over seven thousand miles of coastline to explore. There are quiet glens and high mountains, while most of the population is concentrated in cities around the central belt between the rivers Forth and Clyde.

Scotland was first settled by Pictish people around 6000 years ago, people who may have come from Ireland. The Romans attempted to invade Caledonia, as they called Scotland, but came to no avail as the Picts and Celts kept driving them out. Perhaps it was just too cold for them, and they liked the weather in Rome better! The first King of Scotland according to tradition was King Kenneth MacAlpin, who was crowned in the year 843.

In the late 13th century Scotland took the opportunity during the Anglo-French war to ally with France as part of their struggle to reclaim their rule from England, which had recently also claimed the throne of Scotland. Leaders of the revolt were William Wallace and Robert the Bruce who was crowned king in 1306. He recaptured castles and raided across the English border, finally defeating the English king Edward II at Bannockburn in 1314.

Today, Scotland once again has its own Parliament and First Minister, but it is no longer a monarchy, being part of the United Kingdom since the union of the crowns in 1603, and the union of the parliaments in 1707. The main industries are oil, centred around Aberdeen (Europe's oil capital), electronics, tourism, fishing and production of whisky, Scotland's most widespread export.

Crathes Castle

Crathes Castle near Aberdeen was completed in 1596, played host to James Brown in summer 2001, and has a great adventure playground!

Camping in the highlands, in Wester Ross. There's nothing like the great outdoors!

Camping in the highlands

Colonel's Bed

Whilst out for a walk in the Highlands one day we came across a deep narrow gorge, the Colonel's Bed near Inverey. A point like this in the river where it passes through a narrow channel is called a Linn.

Braemar claims to be Scotland's best tourist village, it is set in Royal Deeside to the west of Aberdeen and is the place to go for some of the best hiking in the Cairngorms and skiing at Glenshee. I have been here countless times, it's a great place to go to get out in the country away from it all, and it has good pubs too.

The wonderful land of Mar

The Discovery, Dundee

The Discovery was the ship used by Captain Scott and his crew for their race against Norwiegan Amundsen to be the first to the South Pole. Built in Dundee, the ship carried her crew safely to Antarctica, but Scott and his team were beaten by Amundsen, and died in their tent on their return journey. The ship now stands as a museum and memorial to their efforts.

Here I am on my way up Ben Nevis, the tallest mountain in Britain at 4,406 feet. The mountains in Scotland are mightily old, and worn down through the last ice age to get less steep as you near the top. This creates "false summits" as you climb, which can be very disheartening.

Northeast face of Ben Nevis

Burns' Cottage

This is the cottage where Robert Burns, one of Scotland's most famous historical figures was born, in Alloway, South Ayrshire. Burns is Scotland's national poet and lived in the 18th century, yet his birthday is still celebrated all over the world on January 25th. Some of his more well-known works include "My Love is Like a Red Red Rose" and of course, "Auld Lang Syne".

Here is Dunnotar Castle near Stonehaven on the East coast of Scotland. The castle is more than a thousand years old and is showing its age, but some parts have been recently restored. It is surrounded by water on three sides, with only a narrow neck of land available for mounting a siege, making it very well positioned for defence. It was used for exterior shots in Mel Gibson's adaptation of "Hamlet" in the 1990s.

Royal Castle of Elsinore, Denmark

Dunure Castle

Another very dramatic castle sits on the west coast south of Ayr, at the village of Dunure. The castle is flanked by a doocot to the left, where the castle occupants would have kept pigeons.

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