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Every self-respecting Scot comes over all proprietorial when introducing the glories of their country to a friend or loved one for the first time. So much so, you’d think they’d designed the whole place themselves. As if the jaw-dropping scenery of Wester Ross, or the Trossachs, was some kind of DIY makeover: ‘oh, yes, we got rid of all that woodchip and planted the hillsides in Caledonian pine forest. The native woodland look is in this year.’ The Scots have every right to be proud. When the rain stops falling and the mist clears, there is no more beautiful place on Earth. If there is a heaven, it probably looks like this, but let’s hope the petrol’s cheaper.

Scotland is one of the least densely-populated countries in Europe. Not much smaller than its southern neighbour, England, it has only a tenth of its population - and most of those are crammed into the narrow central belt, leaving two-thirds of the country virtually empty. The Highlands and Islands, in particular, are Europe’s last great wilderness; one of the few places in this increasingly cluttered continent where you can really get away from it all. About the only thing Scotland doesn’t have going for it is a dependable climate. If you want to lie on a beach all day, then you ought to try somewhere else. Another perennial problem has been the clichéd image of bagpipes, haggis and short-bread. In an attempt to kill two birds with one stone, the tourist board promoted the country as the perfect destination for a romantic break - if the weather’s rubbish then you’ll have more time to stay in bed - thus giving a whole new meaning to the term Highland fling. It scandalized the more puritanical elements of the Scottish establishment. Heaven forfend that Scotland should become a sexy destination.

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