You’ll have heard about kilts and bagpipes, but Scotland has plenty more to offer. Scotland has a strong and proud history of university education, a thriving arts and culture scene, stunning landscapes and state of the art sporting facilities. There really is something in Scotland for everyone.
Scotland’s people are famous for the warmth of their welcome. Home to just over five million people, it is estimated that for every person living in Scotland, another five people living across the world have Scottish ancestry. With such close and extensive connections to every corner of the world, it is no wonder that overseas visitors to Scotland are made to feel like they are returning home!
English is Scotland’s main language although Gaelic is actually the country’s native language. Spoken by only one per cent of the population today, you will still find road signs in Gaelic (as well as English) throughout the Highlands and Islands of Scotland. Failte is Gaelic for welcome.
Today, as throughout its history, Scots have made their impact felt on the world including in the fields of medicine, engineering and science, politics, history, the arts and sport. Scotland’s legacy of great innovators includes the inventor of the telephone, Alexander Graham Bell, in the nineteenth century and John Logie Baird, an alumnus of Scotland’s universities, who invented the television. Today, our great innovators include Professor Higgs, who first posited the existence of the Higgs Boson particle whilst a professor at the University of Edinburgh.
Outside of academia, famous Scots can be found in sport, acting and music. Britain's most successful Olympian, Sir Chris Hoy, the six-times gold medallist is a proud Scot as is tennis-player Andy Murray, currently ranked third in the world. Other famous Scots include actor Sean Connery, Ewan McGregor, James McAvoy (who studied at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland), musicians Annie Lennox, Franz Ferdinand, Paulo Natini, Susan Boyle and violinist Nicola Benedetti.
There are seven cities in Scotland: the capital Edinburgh, Glasgow, Dundee, Stirling, Aberdeen, Inverness and Perth. The most densely populated area of Scotland is known as the ‘central belt’ which runs west to east and includes the urban areas of Glasgow and Edinburgh. Outside the central belt, the Highlands and Islands include 90 inhabited islands and the region is frequently placed in the top five most desirable places to live in the UK. Inverness, Scotland’s most northerly city is reached within three hour’s drive from Edinburgh or Glasgow. More info on Scotland's cities and regions.
Christianity is the largest religion in Scotland, with approximately 57 per cent of the population declaring themselves to be of the Christian faith. However, many other religions are represented in Scotland including Islam, Judaism, Buddhism, Sikhism and Hinduism.
Scotland has a rich and historic culture and heritage and is a country of wonderful contrasts. Scotland’s seven cosmopolitan and exciting cities have their own distinct personalities.
Scotland has a wealth of ancient monuments, castles and museums reflecting Scotland’s long and rich history. The country plays host to a dynamic annual calendar of internationally acclaimed musical and cultural festivals including the International Film, Fringe and Arts Festivals, the Military Tattoo and Melas. There are myriad theatres, museums, art galleries, cinemas and parks showcasing the traditional and current culture of Scotland. Scotland’s National galleries and museums are free of charge making it easy for students to appreciate our art and culture.
You will easily find reminders of Scotland’s heritage, including kilt-wearing bag-pipe players or ceilidh dances, during your stay in Scotland but these traditions sit comfortably alongside a more contemporary Scottish culture with the best of modern music, dance and theatre.
Scotland’s history dates back 11,000 years to a time when the retreating glaciers saw migrants including Celts from Europe, Scots, Anglo Saxons and Vikings land on Scotland’s shores.
Scotland has seen several hundred years of battle with its nearest neighbour, England, from the 13th century onwards following an invasion by the English King, Edward I in 1296. In the centuries that followed Scotland has fought to defend repeated attacks on its independence from England. Key figures in the early part of this bloody period include William Wallace and Robert the Bruce who fought in the wars of Scottish Independence.
In 1707, the Act of the Union abolished the English and Scottish Parliaments to create a single Parliament of Great Britain, which was based in London. Emigration from Scotland increased throughout the 17th century to the North of Ireland, to continental Europe and to America. This is the reason behind’s Scotland’s extensive ancestral routes throughout the world.
In the 18th Century, the Scottish enlightenment movement altered the way we understand the world. Among the influential Scottish writers, philosophers and scientists of the period were; economist Adam Smith, who wrote The Wealth of Nations and is known as the father of modern economics; scientist and geologist James Hutton who discovered Deep Time, shattering Biblical claims about the age of the earth; David Hume, one of the greatest philosophers the world has ever known. All of these figures are linked to Scotland’s universities.
Nowadays, Scotland and English live peacefully side by side, but the issue of independence is still salient. In 1997 a referendum was held on the issue of devolution for Scotland. A ‘yes’ vote led to the establishment of a new Parliament which opened in Edinburgh in 1999. Autumn 2014 will see a further referendum on the question of full independence for Scotland from the United Kingdom.
Scotland has something for everyone in terms of leisure and outdoor activities with so much to experience. With so much beautiful natural landscape in Scotland, even city dwellers don’t need to travel far to walk in Scotland hills or along its lochs and beaches.
If your interests lie in sports there are opportunities to participate in every conceivable sport with state of the art facilities – football, rugby, golf, skiing, mountain biking, hillwalking, climbing, tennis, sailing - as well as traditional Scottish sports including shinty and curling. Spectacular spectator events not to be missed include the Scottish Highland Games which are held from May to September throughout the country, the most famous being the Braemar Royal Highland Gathering.
Scotland has over 31,000 freshwater lochs to be explored and 282 munros waiting to be ‘bagged’ (Munros are mountains over 3,000 feet in height. To ‘bag’ one is to climb to the top which is a pastime for many Scots). It is also home to some world-class mountain bike trails and has its own ski season with five ski centres across the highlands and one year-round indoor ski centre in Glasgow.
Find out about entry requirements, fees, student life, getting around, and studying at a particular university on their page.
The official Scottish government website for information on Scotland, including living, working and visiting in Scotland.
Find out more about Scottish people, famous and influential Scots and Scottish inventions.