Surrounded by the bracing waters of the North Sea to the east, and the North Atlantic Ocean to the west and north, Scotland is a place of rugged coastlines, of mountains and valleys, and of rolling hills and green fields. The nation encompasses close to 800 islands, mostly in groups to the west (the Inner Hebrides and the Outer Hebrides) and the north (the Orkney Islands and the Shetland Islands). It’s also a locale of incongruous numbers.
At 6,158 miles, Scotland’s coastline is inordinately long compared to similarly sized countries. But at the other end of the numbers scale, another kind of “line” threads through the land. In the wild and remote Highlands, you’ll find “single track” roads, with one lane only for both directions of traffic to use. On my recent trip there, I felt as though these single tracks alone were a big part of what made Scotland my kind of spot: this is a country where there aren’t enough cars to justify a lane each way.
That wasn’t the only highway anomaly that delighted me. The wording on posted signs was often a slight bit different than it is here in the United States. Rather than “Passing Lanes” or “Turnouts,” Scottish routes had “Passing Places.”
Another figure found on the fringe edge of the number scale is the count of historic gravestones here, which are an icon of Scotland’s rich and long-standing culture and heritage. In fact, The Scottish Association of Family History Societies lists more than 3,500 known burial grounds in Scotland. To stand in any of them is to feel a documented history that stretches back further than anything we can approximate in the U.S.
In round numbers, I found Scotland to be a land of single tracks and single malts. Of far too many domestic sheep and, hopefully, widening numbers of wild cats. It’s the realm of singular standing stones and of seal-like selkies; of peculiar Passing Places and of those who passed.
Take a few moments, now, to ponder these statistics and stellar scenes from the Scottish Highlands. Next week, I’ll bring you another number from Scotland: Part Two from this integer and astonishing adventure, Scotland’s Wild Islands.
Here’s to finding your true places and natural habitats,
A multiple award-winning author and writer specializing in nature-travel topics and environmental issues, Candice has traveled around the world, from the Arctic Circle to Antarctica, and from New Zealand to Scotland's far northern, remote regions. Her assignments have been equally diverse, from covering Alaska’s Yukon Quest dogsled race to writing a history of the Galapagos Islands to describing and photographing the national snow-sculpting competition in her home state of Wisconsin.In addition to being a five-time book author, Candice's work has also appeared in several national and international publications, such as "The Huffington Post" and "Outside Magazine Online." To read her web columns and see samples of her nature photography, visit her website at www.candiceandrews.com and like her Nature Traveler Facebook page at www.facebook.com/naturetraveler.
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