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The Ring of Brodgar

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When I painted this view of the Ring of Brodgar, in 2009, it was part of a landscape that was already a UNESCO World Heritage site, the Heart of Neolithic Orkney - http://goo.gl/YrYaAq.

Since then more discoveries have been made in the centre of the site, on a narrow strip of land called the Ness of Brodgar. Excavations have revealed a number of buildings, which seem to form what might be called a temple complex - http://goo.gl/eOkksi.

I doubt whether we will ever really know what went on here, but a picture is beginning to emerge of a site with great importance on Orkney, and maybe even a place of pilgrimage from other parts of Europe.

Location - https://goo.gl/maps/ZW3aXBUmzcw

Duncansby Head

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There is a popular sporting challenge, which involves walking or cycling the length of the British mainland. The usual starting point is the rugged coast of Land's End, in Cornwall, in the far south-west. The finishing point is John o' Groats, in Caithness, but it really ought to be Duncansby Head, the most north-easterly point in mainland Britain. However, I believe that Lands End now has a theme park, which must distract from the experience for those who are looking for a sense of natural drama. Fortunately, Duncansby Head is unspoilt, so long may it remain 'Land's End to John o' Groats'!

Location - https://goo.gl/maps/4K28vynXux92

Commando Memorial at Spean Bridge

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The British Commandos were formed during World War II to take part in raids against occupied Europe. They had their depot at Achnacarry Castle, where they went through tough training in the surrounding mountains. Later, they were joined by US Rangers and commandos from other countries. The famous monument was set up in 1952.

Location - https://goo.gl/maps/3QrCoYYgmT32

The Far North Line

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An old line-man's hut, beside the track of the beautiful Far North Line, in the north of Scotland. The scenic route runs from Inverness to Thurso and Wick, in Caithness, and the journey takes three and a half hours. Some of the wonderful scenery along the way includes: The Kyle of Sutherland, the coastline at Brora, the Flow Country around Forsinard.

Location - https://goo.gl/maps/D59MFt2xEo72

Ben Nevis

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Ben Nevis has two distinct characters, making it seem very different depending on which way it is approached. The southern side has a rounded profile with steep slopes. Most visitors climb the mountain from this side by a zigzag path called the Pony Track. It was made at the end of the Nineteenth Century when a weather observatory was built at the summit. For a number of years men were stationed there permanently to make recordings. It must have been a tough assignment in bad weather. The building even had to be made taller so that it wasn't buried under the snow in winter.

Although the Pony Track is steep in some places, it is a fairly easy route and makes the mountain seem deceptively benign. However the approach from the north reveals a different prospect. A glacier, like a gigantic ice-cream scoop, has carved away the side of the mountain, leaving 600 metre high cliffs. They are popular with climbers and in the winter they provide some challenging ice-climbing ro…

The Great Wood of Caledon

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At one time the Great Wood of Caledon covered most of the Highlands with a more-or-less continuous area of forest and mountains.

Caledonian pine forest is a mixed woodland of Scots Pines and other native trees. It forms a unique habitat and home to some of Britain's rarest species, including the Capercaillie and the Scottish Crossbill.

Over the centuries much of the forest has been cleared for grazing land and for shooting grouse and deer. A few areas survive and some of the largest are in the Cairngorms National Park, where efforts are being made to allow them to regenerate naturally.

The main threat to these forest now is overgrazing by deer. There are no large predators in Scotland and the size of the deer population has become a problem, especially for the regeneration of forests. Any young trees that become established are browsed by the deer, resulting in a dying habitat that has only old trees. Where deer are fenced out or managed the young trees can grow undisturbed…

Brochs

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Throughout the Highlands and Islands of Scotland there are the remains of ancient round towers, called brochs. The best-preserved ones are in the Orkney Isles, but there are some impressive examples on the mainland in Glenelg, in Wester Ross.

These mysterious towers were built during the Iron Age and experts disagree over what they were used for. They seem to be defensive structures, but they may been intended to show off the wealth or power of their owners.

The most complete of the surviving brochs are around 25 metres tall, but they may originally have been higher than that. The walls were hollow with staircases ingeniously built into them to give access to upper levels. There were no windows and just a small, low doorway. They were built of stone and amazingly no mortar was used to hold them together. The fact that they have survived at all, after two thousand years, is a testament to the skills of their builders.

Location - https://goo.gl/maps/AfXLfj7Fa4w