Hail to the Highlands! | Bangkok Post: travel

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Hail to the Highlands!

The scenic and diverse landscapes of Scotland vow visitors with a natural splendour that has given birth to much lore, many legends and a blood-stained history

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The Scots don't say the word "loch" the way we do. It's the first and most obvious difference I spot soon after boarding the coach on a journey to the Highlands, and it became the first Scottish Gaelic way of pronunciation I have unconsciously adopted ever since. It's pronounced with a fricative sound, with the back of the tongue against the soft palate like the way the German pronounce "Bach". 

You can't help it. Like my tour guide told me, the three Gaelic words you'll learn by heart while visiting the Scottish Highlands are "loch", "glen" and "ben" _ meaning lake, valley and mountain, respectively. Together, they make up the landscape of the Scottish Highlands: thousands of lochs and lochans (over 31,000 in the entire country), a lot of unique, sublime glens created by glacial erosion during the last Ice Age and well, the highest mountain in the British Isles _ Ben Nevis.

The term Highlands refers to the area north and west of the Highland Boundary Fault which traverses Scotland from Arran to Stonehaven. Formed around 390 million years ago, this fault line clearly separates the distinctive topographical features of the Highlands from those of southern Scotland. A trip from Glasgow to the Highlands reveals a drastic change in landscape from lowlands and hills to mountainous moorland.

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