Of all the many influences that have shaped the national character of Scotland, perhaps the most relevant is the fact that this small country has 6,158 miles of coastline, comprises 787 islands, and is deeply indented with sea lochs. No Scot lives more than 40 miles from saltwater, and it’s no wonder Scots have such a long tradition of seafaring, or that many famous seagoing explorers, among them Mungo Park and David Livingstone, set sail from Scotland. Vikings and other invaders have arrived by sea, Roman sailors rowed onto the shores, and the coasts have witnessed the comings and goings of the Spanish Armada, German U-boats, fleets of the Royal Navy, World War II spies, and present-day oil-drilling operations. The proximity of such great expanses of open sea also means that all sorts of weather blows in and out at any time, that many Scots have a strong character that might be described as being rather salty, and salmon and other seagoing creatures show up on menus even in landlocked places. However, and despite all these traditions, conditions, and achievements linked to the sea, it’s a testament to the complex richness of the Scots’ character that the most famous Scottish legend of all dwells in fresh water, the Loch Ness Monster.

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