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Photo: UniAcco
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Situated within vibrant Europe, Scotland is a progressive nation built on innovation, creativity and the fabulous warmth of its people. Here you'll find a range of Scottish facts, from quirky and fun to historic and informative.

1. Unicorn is Scotland’s national animal

The unicorn has been a symbol of Scotland for centuries, and the reason behind this perfectly captures the Scottish spirit. England has always been represented by a lion.

And in the history of Great Britain, England and Scotland have been known at odds (and sometimes literally at war) throughout history. In old myths, a unicorn was said to be the only one that could defeat a lion so unicorn hass become the national animal off Scotland.

2. Home of islands

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Photo: parliament.scot

Scotland inhabits part of the island of Great Britain, but did you know that it itself has more than 900 offshore islands of its own? Not all of these islands are inhabited or even visit-able, but many of them are. Island-hopping in Scotland is therefore very popular. Scotland's islands are divided up into the Inner Hebrides, Outer Hebrides, Orkney Islands, and Shetland Islands. In the Outer Hebrides, you have islands like the Isle of Lewis and Harris, Barra, and the Isle of St. Kilda. In the Inner Hebrides, you'll find Islay and its whisky, Colonsay, the Isle of Iona, Staffa (famous for puffins and Fingal's Cave), the Isle of Mull, and the famous Isle of Skye. And both the Orkneys and Shetlands are home to the ruins of ancient settlements with Viking ties.

3. Scotland’s linguistic heritage is complex

The vast majority of the population now speaks English, but both Scottish Gaelic and the Scots language have wide influence. Languages such as Urdu and Punjabi continue to be spoken by immigrant groups, and the Scottish Parliament provides information in different languages to meet these needs.

The Scottish government has allocated funds to support Gaelic, notably in broadcasting and education, and it also has provided grants to Scots-language organizations. Local education authorities are required to provide for the teaching of Gaelic in Gaelic-speaking areas, and they give guidance on ways to include Scots literature in school curricula.

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4. Proportion of blue eyes

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Photo: The Herald

Scots are most likely to have blue eyes than people in the rest of the UK. 57% of the South East of Scotland has blue-eyed residents. About half of Scots are blue-eyed, with DNA studies from a sampling of 12,000 people conducted by ScotlandsDNA determining the highest number of gene mutations were found in Edinburgh, the Lothians, and Borders. Many babies are born with blue eyes, then their eye color will change within the next three years.

5. Shortest flight in the world

Because of all these little islands dotted all over, Scotland is home to the world's shortest commercial passenger flight. The flight runs between two of the Orkney islands (Westray and Papa Westray), which only lie 1.7 miles apart. So it takes 1 minute 14 seconds, the time of the shortest scheduled flight in the world. Tickets can be bought for as low as £14.50 return.

6. Redheads

That's approximately 140 million people. Scotland boasts the highest percentage of natural redheads, with 13% (40% might carry the gene there). Because it holds its pigment tighter than any other hair colour, red strands need to have their pigment stripped before being dyed by bleaching which, of course, damages the hair.

The funniest fact about red hair is that red hair will never turn grey; it simply fades to white via rose gold when the time comes.

7. Home to Harry Potter

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Photo: The Herald

Speaking of redheads, the most famous red-headed family in literature has ties to Scotland. The Weasleys – along with all the other Harry Potter characters – were the brainchild of Scottish author JK Rowling.

Rowling was born in England, but has called Edinburgh, Scotland, home since 1993. She wrote most of the Harry Potter books while living in Scotland, and the fictional Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry is found in the Scottish Highlands.Because of these ties, there are lots of Harry Potter things to do in Edinburgh, as well as throughout Scotland.

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