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Shetland

Close enough to Norway geographically and historically to make nationality an ambiguous concept, the Shetland Islands are Britain’s most northerly outpost. There’s a Scandinavian lilt to the local accent, and streets named King Haakon or St Olaf are reminders that Shetland was under Norse rule until 1469, when it was gifted to Scotland in lieu of the dowry of a Danish princess.

The stirringly bleak setting – it's a Unesco geopark – still feels uniquely Scottish, though, with deep, naked glens flanked by steep hills, twinkling, sky-blue lochs and, of course, sheep on the roads.

Despite the famous ponies and woollens, it's no agricultural backwater. Offshore oil makes it quite a busy, comparatively well-heeled place, despite drops in barrel prices. Nevertheless nature still rules the seas and islands, and the birdlife is spectacular: pack binoculars.

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