Road Holes — 14 April 2020 by Bob Sherwin
Scotland: A land of myth and mirth

It says something about Scotland when it considers the mythical unicorn as the official animal.

It means it’s a country that doesn’t take itself seriously. In fact, from cab drivers to receptionists to politicians, the Scots, known for their lively banter, are fun group. There may not be a more friendly, accommodating and hospitable nation in the world.

If you can’t get along with the people in Scotland, it’s not their fault, it’s yours.

Here’s a quick snapshot, gleamed from various sources, of the facts, figures and quirks of the Land of the Bravehearts:

    • James Bond lives part of the year in Edinburgh. Actor Sean Connery was born there and still has family and a home in Edinburgh.
    • The national flag of Scotland is known as the Saltire or St. Andrew’s Cross, dates from the 9th century, and is thus the oldest national flag still in use.
    • St. Andrew, one of the 12 Apostles and brother of St. Peter, is the patron saint of Scotland. He was believed to have died on a diagonally transversed cross which the Romans sometimes used for executions and which, therefore, came to be called St Andrews cross.
    • The capital is Edinburgh, the second largest city after Glasgow.
    • Like Rome, Edinburgh was built on seven hills and has more listed buildings than anywhere in the world.
    • Scotland is famous for whisky, haggis, kilts, tartans and bagpipes. But all them may have been invented elsewhere. China invented whisky, which was distilled by Irish monks in the 15th Century before arriving in Scotland. Haggis, sheep organs cooking inside the sheep’s stomach, may have been a Greek dish 2,500 years ago. Kilts came from Ireland, tartans from continental Europe and bagpipes from central Asia. They probably should have stayed there.
    • Scottish inventors, writers and statesmen still have had an impact on the world. John Logie Baird developed a rudimentary television in 1925, Alexander Graham Bell invented the telephone in 1876 and Alexander Fleming came up with penicillin in 1928. Sir Walter Scott, Lord Byron, Robert Lewis Stevenson and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (Sherlock Holmes) are part of a long list of literati. Other famous Scots include Captain Kidd, Lulu, David Niven, Andrew Carnegie, Susan Boyle, John Muir, Dr. Livingstone (you presume) and the raincoat inventor, Charles Macintosh. The Brits call an umbrella a ‘Mac.’
    • Seven Scotsmen were in the US 7th Cavalry with General Custer at the Battle of the Little Big Horn on 25 June, 1876.
    • There are more Scots people living in North America than in Scotland.
    • Scotland has the highest proportion of redheads in the world. Around 13 per cent of the population has red hair, with 40 per cent carrying the recessive gene.
    • Seven out of every 10 Scots have blue eyes.
    • Scotland has approximately 790 islands, 130 of which are inhabited.
    • The Hamilton Mausoleum in South Lanarckshire has the longest echo of any man-made structure in the world, 15 seconds.
    • The country has 167.4 people per square mile, 30,414 square miles with a around 5.2 million population. It’s about the same size as Maine.
    • Scotland has more than 600 square miles of freshwater lakes, including the famous Loch Ness.
    • Scotland had its own monarch until 1603. After Elizabeth I died, James VI of Scotland also became James I of England, ruling both countries henceforth.
    • William Wallace (1274 – 1305) defeated the army of Edward I at the Battle of Stirling Bridge. Shortly after Wallace’s execution, Robert The Bruce re-established Scotland’s independence.
    • Scotland gained independence in 1314, after Robert the Bruce defeated the English army at the Battle of Bannockburn. He defeated the English king Edward II. He is supposed to have been encouraged towards perseverance and eventual victory by watching a spider build a web in the cave in which he was hiding.
    • Robert The Bruce was said to be born where the front nine at Turnberry Golf Club is now located.
    • The Kingdom of Scotland remained as an independent state until 1 May 1707, when the Acts of Union joined it with England, in the United Kingdom of Great Britain.
    • Since July 1, 1999, Scotland has its own parliament, for the first time since 1707.
    • The highest point in Scotland is Ben Nevis  at 4,406 ft (1343m).
    • The motto of Scotland is “Nemo me impune lacessit”, or: “No one provokes me with impunity”. It is used by the Order of the Thistle and on later versions of the Royal coat of arms.
    • It is home to the oldest tree in Europe  a twisted yew which has stood in Fortingall for 3,000 years. According to local legend, Pontius Pilate was born in its shade and played there as a child.
    • The official religion of Scotland is Presbyterian, with churches traditionally being called “kirks”.
    • The Bank of Scotland, founded in 1695, is the oldest surviving bank in the UK.
    • Scotland has three officially recognized languages: English, Scots and Scottish Gaelic, with just one per cent of the population using the latter.
    • It is home to 19 universities and institutes of higher education, including St Andrews, where the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge met.
    • The flower of Scotland is the thistle.
    • The first official international football match was played at the West of Scotland Cricket Club in Partick in 1872, between Scotland and England.
    • The shortest scheduled flight in the world is one and a half miles long from Westray to Papa Westray in the Orkney Islands of Scotland. The journey takes 1 minute 14 seconds to complete.
    • The wildcat is the quickest Scottish animal to fend for itself after birth. It faces the world at a month old and begins hunting at the age of 3 months.
    • Golf has been played in St. Andrews, Scotland since the 15th Century.
    • Eas Coul Aulin Waterfall in the county of Sutherland, with a sheer drop of 658 ft, four times the height of Niagara Falls, is the highest waterfall in Britain.
    • The very first recorded appearance of the elusive Loch Ness Monster occurred in 565 AD, when a ‘water beast’ attacked one of St. Columba’s followers in the loch. There is an appalling lack of physical evidence that the beast exists.
    • The windiest place in Scotland is the Island of Tiree, which has the highest average gusts over 100 mph.
    • The Chapel of St. Oran on the island of lona in the Hebrides, holds the tombs of 48 kings of Scotland, 8 kings of Norway, 4 kings of Ireland and 4 kings of France.
    • The longest single place name in Scotland is Coignafeainternich in Inverness-shire.
    • A Scottish mile is 1,984 yards compared to the norm of 1,760 yards.
    • The world’s oldest rock is the “Archaen Gneiss” from Lewis at almost 3000 million years old.
    • The highest cliffs in Britain are the Conachair cliffs on St Kilda, Western Isles (425 m/1,397 ft).
    • The oldest high school in Scotland is the Royal High School in Edinburgh established in 1128.
    • There were 4.8 million people in Scotland with the first World War broke out and the country sent a half million men into combat. About 250,000 died and another 150,000 were wounded.
    • St Andrews Day is a national holiday on Nov. 26. According to ancient folklore, around midnight on Nov. 29, girls wishing to marry can throw a shoe at a door. If the toe of the shoe pointed in the direction of the exit, then she would marry and leave her parents house within a year. They also can peel a whole apple without breaking the peel and throw the peel over the shoulder. If the peel formed a letter of the alphabet, then this suggested the name of her future groom.

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About Author

Bob Sherwin

Bob grew up in Cleveland, an underdog city with perennial underdog teams, and that gave him an appreciation and an affinity for the grinders in golf, guys such as Rocco Mediate, Jhonattan Vegas and star-crossed John Daly. This is the 53rd year for Bob as a sportswriter, the first 34 working for newspapers throughout the west, Tucson (Daily Star), San Francisco (Examiner) and Seattle (Times), and the past 19 years as a freelancer. He has covered just about every sport, including golf tournaments, Tucson Open, Bing Crosby/AT&T Pro-Am, the 1998 PGA Championship, the 2010 U.S. Senior Open, the 2010 U.S. Amateur the 2015 U.S. Open and the annual Champions Tour Boeing Classic. He also writes articles for Cascade Golfer Magazine and Destination Golfer. For most of his 20 years at the Seattle Times his primary beat was the Mariners. He then picked up Washington men's basketball in the winter. He also was the beat writer for the Sonics, including 1996 when they played the Bulls for the NBA title. After a lifetime hacking on public courses, he finally gave in and joined a country club in 2011, Aldarra near Seattle. Despite (or perhaps because) of his 14 handicap, he won the 'Super Senior'' (65 and older) championship in 2017. He has a pair of aces – 37 years apart – and in 2009 came agonizingly close to his ultimate golf goal of scoring in the 70s when he finished with an even 80. He lives in Seattle.

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