Scotland has a number of major cites that vary greatly with their composition and their character. They have in Edinburgh probably one of the most beautiful capitals in the world and each major conurbation reflects both regional and national characteristics.

The castle overlooking Edinburgh

Although Edinburgh is the nation’s capital is not the largest city in the country with Glasgow having a population of 590,000 compared with Edinburgh’s 460,000. Both the cities lie in the central belt of Scotland and the only other major city that lies outside of this central area is Aberdeen. Edinburgh is located in the Firth of Forth on the east side of the country and is the 7th largest city in the United Kingdom. The city is famed for its castle which lies on top of a volcanic plug, and pictures from the area are beamed around the world every New Year’s Eve as a massive party brings in the next year. The city holds the parliament buildings, plus many museums and galleries. There are over 4,500 protected buildings in the city which means that it has a higher proportion of buildings under protection than any other city in the UK. Each year it holds the Edinburgh International Festival and the Fringe Festival which take place during the summer months. It has the reputation of being at the centre of the arts in the country and its university is ranked as being the 27th best university in the world.

The massive ship building industry in Glasgow

Glasgow is located on the western side of the country on the banks of the River Clyde. The city expanded as a seaport and is famed as being the industrial heartland of Scotland. The city grew as it became the busiest port in Britain with increasing trade with the Americas and the West Indies. The huge trade that passed through the dock areas meant that the city was at the centre of the industrial revolution in Scotland. The difference in atmosphere between the more arty capital and Glasgow is summed up by each city’s sporting preference. While Edinburgh’s Murrayfield Stadium is home of the country’s Rugby Union Glasgow is known around the world for its football. The national side play at Hampden Park and there is not a bigger derby game played anywhere than the fiercely contested Celtic versus Rangers fixture. This game which is known as the Old Firm game, reflects the religious divide in the city with people who follow the blue shirted Rangers generally emanating from the protestant areas. In contrast supporters from the green and white shirted Celtic club are fiercely Roman Catholic. The city also has a thriving music scene. The working class areas have been perfect environments for rock and pop groups to emerge from and there are many decent venues found in the city where live music is regularly played. Many of the older ship building industries have experienced decline and now have been regenerated as new lighter industries have been attracted into the city.

The only other major city that is located away from the central belt is Aberdeen which is found in the north east corner of the country and has a population of 197,000 residents. The city is known as the off-shore capital of Europe as a result of its links with the North Sea oil industry. The population grew rapidly as the platform in the North Sea started to be drilled in the 1970’s. It originally grew due to the local supplies of granite and the cities buildings reflect this as many are built from the mineral. There was also a large fishing industry and although there are still some working boats it is not as large as it used to be. The main river that runs through the city is the Don which was another major factor in its early settlement with its flood plains providing rich agricultural soils for the local population. The city nowadays is centred on the North Sea Oil with the majority of its jobs being linked to the industry and the city has the busiest heliport in Europe.

Aberdeen is the centre of economic activity in the northern part of the country.