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The votes have been counted and Scotland has been pronounced as the most beautiful country in the world by the readers of Rough Guides.
Yes, this small nation-known for having a landscape loaded with alluring lochs and rugged islands-beat out bigger countries like Canada, New Zealand and Italy to grab the crown.
Lots of Lochs
Readers surely took into consideration the countless lakes-called lochs in this neck of the woods-that stretch across the Scottish countryside. The lochs are the result of ancient glaciers and today stand as an awesome example of how truly gorgeous geology can be.
Loch Ness is the poster child for Scottish lochs. This enchanting body of water holds the most water of any in Scotland, and while it may be most famous for the mysterious monster which may (or may not) live in its depths, its beauty is definitely real.
Loch Morar is the deepest of the lochs in Scotland while Loch Duich is home to a "straight from the silver screen" island castle called Eilean Dona.
While Scotland will never be confused with Switzerland (which landed in 15th place), it still packs a punch when it comes to pinnacles.
Misty and moody Ben Nevis checks in at just over 4,400 feet high, making it the tallest peak in the United Kingdom and a very popular day hike location. The Cairngorms range is full of rolling mountains and assorted natural attractions, with the town of Aviemore being its active sports base.
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Voters were also most likely swayed by Scotland's spectacular collection of islands. Numbering around 800, these beauties are home to miles of windswept beaches and some serious serenity.
The Isle of Skye is probably the star of Scottish islands, as it is home to a dramatic landscape of spiky mountains, heather-covered moors and colorfully-painted villages. The island of Islay boasts the sweeping sands of Killinallan Beach in addition to some of the smokiest and peatiest whisky on the planet.
And if you are really up for some off-the-beaten-path island adventure, head ferry up to Fair Isle and the rest of the Shetland Islands, with their rocky cliffs, seabirds & flowers and unique traditions.
Sky Full of Stars
Some voters must have also been aware of Scotland's nocturnal beauty. Even after the sun goes down, the sights are still out of this world. That's because Scotland has some of the largest swaths of dark sky in all of Europe.
Each evening, they put on a stellar performance.
The country is home to Europe's second official Dark Sky Park-Galloway Forest Park-which is located only a 90-minute drive from Glasgow. On the outskirts of the park, you will find the Scottish Dark Sky Observatory, whose facilities are open to the public and are certain to enhance your stargazing experience.
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Stargazers will be blown away by how much is visible in the Scottish sky and, if you are lucky, you may even spot the Northern Lights dancing across the horizon.
The rest of the top 20 in the competition were as follows:
20. Vietnam19. Croatia18. Ireland17. Norway16. Peru15. Switzerland14. Finland13. India12. Mexico11. Slovenia10. Wales9. U.S.A8. Iceland7. England6. Indonesia5. South Africa4. Italy3. New Zealand2. Canada
Born in the USA but now based in England, Scott has been writing about travel for over 10 years. He specializes in Europe, rail...
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