Seven Wonders: The last chance to cast your votes
The search for the icons which capture the heartbeat of Scotland has attracted massive interest from across the country - and the globe. Online votes have poured in from expatriate Scots all over the world who remember their time here with great fondness. Many have expressed the view that it is impossible to name only seven - because Scotland is so rich with wonder.
Organisers of the Seven Wonders project think the final number of votes will be about 50,000 - an astonishing response which shows how much the search has engaged the nation.
Today, we offer a chance to get a taste of what all our "champions" had to say about their chosen wonders - from Sir Alex Ferguson's stirring support for the ships of Glasgow to Liz Lochhead's delicious description of the way the Scots tongue remains at the heart of our spoken language today.
David Lee, assistant editor of The Scotsman, who has overseen the Seven Wonders project, said: "Our champions have written with sympathy and humour, but above all with passion for their chosen wonder. This passion has been reflected in the way readers have cast their votes."
Many voters have expressed amazement that their favoured wonders did not make the shortlist in the first place, with widespread support for the Falkirk Wheel, the Standing Stones of Callanish on Lewis, the Gaelic language and the music and poetry of Robert Burns.
The winning wonders will be named in a 24-page supplement on Saturday, 8 April, produced in conjunction with the National Trust for Scotland. This will feature updated essays from the winning champions, fascinating facts and walks to each of the wonders.
So make your vote count before the deadline - and ensure the Seven Wonders of Scotland are a truly national choice.
Edinburgh Old & New Town
Alexander McCall Smith
Each part of the city has its glories. In the Old Town there are the towering tenements, narrow closes, precipitous drops down to a lower level and the climbs back up. On the other side, classical elegance replaces the higgledly-piggledy of the Old Town.
Dolly The Sheep/Scottish innovation
Scotland is justifiably proud of the long record of inventions made here - or by migrant Scots in other countries. Inventions have transformed our health and lifespan, our opportunity to travel and communicate with anyone anywhere in the world.
Arthur's Seat/Salisbury Crags
The view is dominated by the extinct volcanic eruptions and dolerite still of igneous rock that gave us a wilderness within the city boundaries. Does any other city have such a treasure? Edinburgh's character is proclaimed by the towering face of the Crags.
Colourful landscapes buzz with the prospect of the best of Heather Honey and Red Grouse; otters and brown trout signal the health of Scotland's burns and rivers, while waterfalls and rapids provide the annual spectacle of leaping salmon.
The Scots tongue
It's not going to go away, Scots. Mothers scarce out of childhood themselves tell their weans to c'meer till I gie your face a dicht wi this hanky, you wee slitter, or to no girn, it's daein ma nut in. Open your lugs, you'll still hear plenty among the blether on the bus.
Sir Alex Ferguson
Who could fail to admire the people who worked in the yards and the awesome ships they built? Their skill, their industriousness and capacity for not only coping with, but producing extraordinary work in extremes of weather conditions still amazes me.
It must have amazed the craftsmen who built it, never mind its 21st-century visitors. Monarchs have gazed in awe and rapture, while poor unlettered pilgrims under-stood some of its cartoon-strip messages carved in stone perpetuity.
The Scottish Parliament
The balance is best in the garden lobby, the market square at the centre of parliamentary life. Here, under the extraordinary upturned boats which form the skylights, is where politicians and people come together day after day.
Prehistoric treasures of Orkney
The whole area is covered with powerful, enduring symbols that outlived the culture that created them - and helped create Scotland. Their secrets are locked up in stone. The Wonders of Orkney are perfect northern puzzles for questing Scots.
It is worth the effort to walk up any route to achieve the summit of Ben Nevis in the hope of being there on a clear evening, looking east to the massive rolling domes of the Cairngorms or west as the sun goes down over the distant black outline of the Cuillins.
Single malt whisky
I recall during my first drive through the Western High-lands (between Inverness and Ullapool) smelling the smoky peat and sea salt on the breeze and making the connection: this smell and sensation was the very smell and taste of the whisky.
The work of Rennie Mackintosh
Mackintosh is wonderfully unique because he was that rare thing, an artist, architect and designer all rolled into one; a creative industry before the term was invented. The School of Art and the Hill House are masterworks and have everything going for them.
Loch Lomond & Trossachs Nat Park
Be in no doubt that here is Scotland's unique signature on this Earth, instantly recognisable yet complex beyond any replication. Show a picture of Loch Lomond anywhere in the world and a universal word of recognition rings out: Scotland.
It is resonant, remarkable: James Hogg, John Buchan, Lewis Grassic Gibbon, Neil Gunn, the one-man volcano Hugh MacDiarmid; Muriel Spark, the Glaswegian renaissance - Kelman, Gray, Lochhead, a younger genera-tion roaring to the fore.
Where the sky is vast, and the land low, as on Orkney or the Hebridean islands, the human world is a mere interruption in the long affair between sea and sky; this is a wonder. Or to sit in a pub watching a line of sunlight and shadow creep over a granite wall opposite.
In an entirely tasteful and appropriate way, the wild beauty of the place has been interiorised, until - especially by night - you get the feeling you are striding through a large, Scotch sitting room... pine-fresh darkness and the rush of the waters.
I've experienced every joke and question possible when wearing one - but I genuinely don't think I could go back to trousers. It is the best ice-breaker on the planet. As long as you are good-natured, and wear your kilt well, the world is more open, fun, friendly.
It is impossible to find words to portray St Kilda adequately to those who haven't visited it. The physical grandeur of the islands and abundant wildlife can be described, but it is the spirit of those who lived there that fills the air and leaves one spellbound.
Even for those who do not share the ancient human longing for heaven, Iona is charged with something that is found on few places on earth. It touches something in the heart of those who long for a humanity to cherish this fragile and beautiful planet.
The Scottish sense of humour
Elaine C Smith
Maybe it's the siege mentality or the drink...running through the regions of this country are traits that are the same - a sarcasm, an intelligence, a darkness of the soul, a reeling against the elements whether you work on a farm in Assynt or a fishing boat in Millport.
Playing in the wind on a great Scottish links is unforgettable ...a more natural, less manicured golf than else-where. You're playing on land forged by nature rather than contoured by bulldozers. Golf in this form has been played here for nearly 600 years.
I live in Glencoe now, miles away from anywhere, up the hill. Morning, noon and night, when there's no traffic, it's all mine. In my simplicity, I love it, and Glencoe loves me back. It's my friend. Discovering Glencoe was a religious moment for me.
Ancient pine forest
Now just scattered fragments remain, but these radiate life like shards of broken crystal, beautiful and vibrant, vital for wildlife and the character of Scotland but also important as a reminder of our role as destroyers or defenders of our environment.
Fingal's Cave and Staffa
Pillars of rock, stacked like colonnades of Classical columns, retreated into a dark vault worthy of ancient Rome. The rocky canopy arched above, like the ribs of a Gothic cathedral. Nature had fused the Classic and the Gothic into one harmonious whole.
The Edinburgh Festivals
Audiences and artists from around the globe have flocked to the city for nearly 60 years to participate in this wonderful, crazy, uplifting, infuriating event - because the Festivals are special; they change people's lives. Great artists had their big triumph.
The Scottish Enlightenment
Scotland without the Enlightenment would be a country without its brain and its senses....the last three-quarters of the 18th century in Edinburgh turned a poor, feuding country of lost ambitions into a place of intellectual verve and style.
The Cuillin of Skye
Mountaineering at its best. Skye is an island for all seasons and the Cuillin a place for all climbers. Like Sgurr nan Gillean, they are mountains of youth. The traverse of the main ridge is an experience which no mountaineer should miss, but the way is long.
The Caledonian Canal
It combines the spirit of adventurism characterising Scotland's great achieve-ments with the romance of the Highlands. It is a monumental feat of engineering and represents innovation and persistence capturing the essence of Scotland.
The Forth Bridge
The railway bridge does not just span the Forth, it parts the estuary much as Moses parted the Red Sea. It overpowers the elements by mass and steel.... It reflects a time when life was simpler, issues somehow less involved and bridges were built to pass the test of time.
The Borders Abbeys
Their history hears witness to the prosperity of the Borderland in the early Middle Ages, and to the ravages the country suffered as a result of wars with England and English invasions. They are memorials of a long-vanished Scotland... beautiful and romantic ruins.
HOW TO VOTE
ONLINE: Go to swts.oldsite.jpimedia.uk/7wonders
TEXT: Text the word WONDERS, followed by a space, the numeric codes of your seven choices (each separated by a space), full name, a space and your postcode. Send to 07736 101010 (at standard network rate)
PHONE: Call 09050 10 20 10 and follow the prompts, using the tex codes to vote. Calls cost 10p/min
E-MAIL: Send your list to [email protected] – this is the only way to vote for wonders not on our list or add comments. All voters gets six months free when taking annual membership with the National Trust for Scotland*. Call 0131 243 9555 and quote SCOTSMAN to claim the offer. Voters will be entered into a prize draw to win luxury Grand Tour of Scotland, taking in all winning wonders.
*Terms & conditions apply