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Anyone travelling in Scotland will pass through Crianlarich sooner rather than later as it lies at the junction of two of the main routes from the lowlands to the north west highlands.
The name Crianlarich comes from the Gaelic for low pass. In the 1750s two military roads met here. One came from Stirling via Callander and approached Crianlarich from the east along Glen Dochart. The other started in Dumbarton and approached from the south along the banks of Loch Lomond and Glen Falloch.
Having met in what became Crianlarich they proceeded north west along Strath Fillan to Tyndrum before splitting again to head north towards Fort William and west towards Oban. This pattern is matched today by the A85 and A82 roads, following almost exactly the same lines as the old military routes. And in the 1800s similar lines were followed by the railway builders.
The first railway to arrive in Crianlarich was the Callander and Oban in 1873. In 1894 Crianlarich acquired a second railway station with the arrival of the West Highland Railway from Glasgow, en route to Fort William and Mallaig. The line from Callander to Crianlarich was due to be closed when in 1965 nature took a hand, and the closure was brought forward by a major landslide. Crianlarich is now the point at which trains from Glasgow to Oban part company with those bound for Fort William.
The majestic Cuillin mountains dominate the southern half of Skye. Surrounded by cascading water and expanses of rough terrain the area offers some of the most challenging climbing in Scotland. Access is by one of three routes: from the south on foot or by boat from Elgol, from the Sligachan Hotel at their northern end, or from Glen Brittle on their west side.
The eastern Red Cuillin are formed of red-hued granite and have a rounded appearance. The more western Black Cuillin appear much more sinister, formed as they are from dark, coarse, jagged gabbro. There are few easy routes here and 11 Munros form the main ridge, with another, Bla Bheinn, as an outlier. These are mountains to take seriously, and most are for experienced mountaineers only.
It is difficult to explain the growth and the importance of Glasgow. It has never been a capital or a residence of Kings, it is on a site that was not easily defensible, and although on a major river it didn't have a natural harbour.
But despite all this Glasgow had already been through two booms and two busts by the time it established itself in the 1800s as the second city of the British Empire and, with the rest of Clydeside, the shipbuilding capital of the world. It was also, by far, Scotland's largest city.
Edinburgh is Scotland's capital city. People have lived here for the better part of 3000 years, and for a time it had the world's highest population density, crammed into the high rise tenements that grew around the High Street and Lawnmarket.
The name was changed from Din Eidyn by invading Angles in AD638, and earlier armies passing by had included the Romans on two occasions. Over the 500 years to 1745 Edinburgh Castle was attacked, successfully or unsuccessfully, on 13 occasions. When invaders arrived, residents of the city simply carried what they could to the surrounding countryside, returning when it was safe to do so.
Built on and around seven hills, today's Edinburgh is a wonderful blend of the old and the new, a remarkable place in which surprising changes of level occur at every turn. Small enough to be explored on foot and with views to the Pentland Hills to the south and the hills of Fife beyond the Firth of Forth to the north, this is without doubt one of the world's most fascinating and beautiful cities.
Aviemore is a year-round tourist destination, now bypassed by the A9 on its way north to Inverness. It first developed with the coming of the railways in the later 1800s, and then as a ski resort in the 1960s. In recent years Aviemore has done much to overcome the concrete image given it by the 1960s architects.
The Cairn Gorm Ski Centre is Britain's biggest ski area with 28 runs and over 35km of pistes. The season runs between December and April. Access is by road and the centre is just eight miles from Aviemore. The CairnGorm Mountain Railway opened at the end of 2001 to replace the old ski lifts and in 2002 CairnGorm Mountain won the Good Ski & Snowboarding Guide's "Golden Ski Award" for the most improved ski resort.
Inverness, Capital of the Highlands, became Scotland's fifth city in celebration of the start of the Third Millennium.
It lies at the north end of the Great Glen, where the River Ness flows into the Moray Firth, and has been a natural focus for lines of communication to and through the Highlands for most of the last two thousand years.
Oban is the largest port in the west of Scotland, and the main ferry terminus for the Hebrides. Ferries from here serve Mull and many of the inner Hebridean islands as well as Barra and South Uist in the Western Isles.
The town is also a popular resort, overlooking a beautiful sheltered bay and having many attractions for visitors including McCaig's Folly, a lookalike of Rome's Colosseum, built in 1897.
Oban is accessible by road and rail and there is plenty to see and do in the area. Visitors travelling from the east should visit the Falls of Lora at Connel. Closer to Oban you can drop into Dunstaffnage Castle, just off the A85 three miles north of the town.
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