Highlands, Islands and Festival Frolics: Summer in Scotland

By: Adam Singleton

Whilst much of England and Wales has been battered by torrential rains causing wave upon wave of flooding, Scotland - not normally renowned for great weather - has completely escaped the severe downpours and has been enjoying a notably drier summer than its Southern counterparts.

Each year between July and September, Edinburgh plays host the largest arts festival in the world, drawing crowds from all over the world to indulge in an eclectic collection of culture, music, films, books and comedy on show across various venues within the city. Commonly referred to as the Edinburgh Festival, the event it is in fact a collection of discrete festivals, which includes the Festival Fringe, the Edinburgh Film Festival and the Edinburgh Book Festival among many others. Despite the vast majority of performers at the Edinburgh Festival being amateur performers and students, some of today's biggest names on the UK comedy and theatre performance circuits attribute the Edinburgh Festival as helping them make their breakthrough into the public eye.

Scotland isn't just about festivals, however, and many visitors choose to combine a visit to the Edinburgh Festival with a Highlands and islands escape; and Scotland's rugged beauty, low population density and diverse wildlife make it very popular with outdoor enthusiasts.

Scotland's outdoor sports aren't just good - they are world class. In September 2007, the UCI Mountain Bike and Trials World Championships will come to the small town of Fort William in the Scottish Highlands, offering a fantastic opportunity to witness the big names and Olympic champions of the mountain biking world, as well as to see the rising stars of the future tearing up the mud in a beautiful setting. There will be about 750 competitors from around 50 nations; and if you fancy your chances, you can even have a go at riding the downhill and cross country competition courses yourself.

For those that like their nature a little more relaxed, Scotland's vast system of walking trails provide the ideal way to escape into the wilds and witness the beauty of the land for themselves. All lengths and difficulties of walking and mountaineering are catered for, from short strolls with the kids, to multi-day hikes into the wilderness.

Anglers and golfers flock to Scotland's clean rivers and famous courses, while water babies can take advantage of Scotland's vast coastline, with hundreds of inlets and islands perfect for exploring in a kayak. Such areas also offer a good chance of seeing Scotland's marine wildlife, which includes whales, dolphins and porpoises.

Getting north of the border is now easier than ever, with internal and international flights arriving at Glasgow, Edinburgh, Aberdeen and Dundee, as well as ferries to Scotland operating from Northern Ireland, Orkney and the Shetland Islands and Zeebrugge in Belgium.

So, from the biggest culture festival in the world to stunning lochs, ancient glens and rugged mountains, Scotland offers the best of urban buzz and serene retreats - which probably explains why it receives over 18 million tourists a year.

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