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Edinburgh is Scotland’s capital, and one of the most beautiful cities in Britain. It has been the capital since fifteenth century when it was the centre of Scotland’s resistance to its enemies. The heart of Edinburgh is the thousand-year-old castle, where the kings of Scotland lived for centuries. Nowadays, it overlooks one of Europe’s most famous streets, Prince Street.
From Edinburgh castle you can see for miles, north over the beautiful old streets and squares to the “Firth”, and arm of the sea that pushes island. Far away are the mountains of Central Scotland, often covered with snow.
There are also the Royal Palace of Holyrood and many other beautiful monuments. It is a city of elegant Georgian architecture.
Edinburgh has a busy cultural life. Every year, in September, the international Festival takes place. Musicians, actors and singers come from all over the world and thousands of visitors fill the city. In the evening, the opera house, the theatres and the concert halls are full. In cafes and pubs, small groups sing, act and read poetry.
The castle is at its best in Festival time. Every night there is a magnificent military “Tattoo”. Highland soldiers wearing “kilts” play the bagpipes, and march to the music.
The kilt is only worn by men and is a relic of the time when the clan system existed in Scottish Highlands.
Tartans, the patterns of the kilts, have an interesting history. Since the fifteenth century, each Scottish family (or ‘clan”) has worn its own tartan as a kind of badge. It was a useful way of recognizing people, especially in times of war. Many tartans date only from the nineteenth century, but some of the old patterns still exist. “Dress” tartans, worn on special occasions have light, bright colours. “Hunting” tartans are usually green, blue or brown.
The kilt and the tartan are very much connected with Scottish history. In 1745 Bonnie Prince Charlie came to Scotland and led a rebellion against King George II in an attempt to regain the throne for the Stuarts. Most of the Prince’s followers were highlanders from the clans. The rebellion was a disaster and at the battle of Culloden the Scots were finally defeated.
Answer the following questions:
1. How long has Edinburg been the capital of Scotland?
2. What is the castle famous for?
3. What kind of celebrations do the inhabitants of Edinburg have during the international Festival?
4. What is a kilt?
5. What is a tartan?
6. In what way are the kilt and tartan connected with Scottish history?
What is so special about Oxford and Cambridge, the two oldest universities in England? Why do so many students want to study there?
Both of these university towns are very beautiful. They have some of the finest architecture in Britain. Some of their colleges, chapels and libraries are three, four and even five hundred years old, and are full of valuable books and precious paintings. Both towns have many lovely gardens, where the students can read and relax in the summer months.
Oxford is the older university of the two. The first of its colleges was founded in 1249. The university now has thirty-four colleges and about twelve thousand students, many of them from other countries. There were no women students at Oxford until 1878, when the first women’s college, Lady Margaret hall, opened. Now women study at most colleges.
Oxford is, of course, famous for its first-class education as well as its beautiful buildings. Some of the most intelligent men and women in the country live and work here. Oxford gives them what they need: a quiet atmosphere, friendly colleagues, and the four-hundred-year-old Bodleian library, which has above five million books.
It is not easy to get a place at Oxford University to study for a degree. But outside the university there are many smaller private colleges which offer less difficult courses and where it is easy to enroll. Most students in these private schools take business, secretarial or English language courses.
Answer the following questions:
1. Oxford is a small town with fine architecture, isn’t it?
2. What are Oxford and Cambridge famous for?
3. Which of the two universities is the older and in what century was it founded?
4. Do woman have an opportunity to study at Oxford?
5. Why do many students want to study at Oxford?
6. Is it difficult to get a place at Oxford University?