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The Scots love their games, watching them with fierce, competitive dedication and identifying closely with teams and individuals competing both locally and internationally. The most popular games are football (soccer), rugby union, lawn bowls, golf (which the Scots claim to have invented), and the endemic shinty and curling. Shinty is an amateur ball-and-stick sport similar to Ireland's hurling. It's fast, very physical and played in winter. Curling involves teams of four propelling circular polished granite stones over ice as close to the centre of a target as possible.
Another popular activity, among locals and visitors alike, is walking. Scottish walkers are fiercely protective of their right to roam the mountains and moors, and legal rights of ways plus responsible access agreements to private property have resulted in a multitude of paths for enthusiasts to enjoy. These include the long-distance West Highland Way and Great Glen Way. Whether it is conquering Britain's highest mountain, discovering the isolation of the Highlands' moors or wandering along spectacular sea cliffs, the range of options is as varied as the landscape itself.
An unusual, and typically British, way to explore the Highlands' Great Glen is on the canal in a narrowboat - with all the comforts of home. Other activities popular in the region include cycling the quite roads of the majestic Highlands and mystical islands; diving, surfing or swimming (equipped with a wetsuit for anything more than a quick dip); skiing Britain's best snow resorts in the Cairn Gorm and Glen Coe areas; and birdwatching, particularly the nesting seabird colonies on Orkney and Shetland.
Scenically located on the shores of the inner Moray Firth, at the northern end of the Great Glen, Inverness is the bustling capital of the Highlands. Visitors flock to the town in summer, using it as a base while they experience the region's remote open spaces or enjoy a little monster hunting at nearby Loch Ness. It is also well worth spending some time strolling and birdwatching along the picturesque River Ness or cruising on the Moray Firth in search of its 100 or so bottlenose dolphins.
One of the town's major attractions is Inverness Castle, a 19th-century replacement of the 15th-century original, blown up by the Jacobites in 1746. Today it serves as the local sheriff's court. The Drum Tower houses the Castle Garrison Encounter, where actors representing characters from the Hanoverian army of 1746 attempt to bring history alive. In front of the castle stands a statue of the ubiquitous Highland heroine Flora MacDonald, who helped Bonnie Prince Charlie to escape, following his defeat at the Battle of Culloden in 1746.
Thanks to Inverness' often turbulent history and, in more recent times, dubious planning decisions, relatively few buildings of real age have survived. Much of the town dates from the completion of Telford's Caledonian Canal in 1822, but older structures include the 1593 Abertarff House and the 1668 Dunbar's Hospital, both in Church St. Across the river and south along the bank lie St Andrew's Cathedral, dating from 1866-69, and the modern Eden Court Theatre, which hosts regular art exhibits. It's also worth a stroll around Ness Islands, connected to the riverbanks by footbridges.
The Ness Islands are situated on the River Ness, opposite the Bught Park, in the city of Inverness, Scotland. The first bridges to the islands were built in 1828, prior to their construction the only access to the islands was by boat. The original bridges were washed away in the flood of 1849 and were replaced in 1853-1854 by two suspension bridges designed by William Dredge. The Islands are a natural beauty spot and a popular walk with tourists and locals alike, as the islands are home to a number of imported species of trees and home to wildlife such as bats and otters and occasionally deer.