Why the world’s gone wild for all things Cale­do­nian

Sunday Herald - - FRONT PAGE - BY VICKY AL­LAN

SCOT­LAND’S tra­di­tional cul­ture ... it’s not all tar­tan and short­bread, eh? There is also whisky, danc­ing, songs, Burns poetry, hag­gis, end­less in­ven­tions, the En­light­en­ment, bat­tles galore – or should that be bat­tles of gore – and some of the world’s finest cas­tles and most beau­ti­ful land­scapes. It all pack­ages up to at­tract tourists in their droves to the coun­try, as well as pro­vid­ing writ­ers and film-mak­ers with end­less in­spi­ra­tion for books and movies.

That’s why our na­tion’s cul­ture is be­ing cel­e­brated in a range of new books, pub­lished by Collins next month, whose ti­tles in­clude Scot­tish Cas­tles, Scot­tish His­tory, Scot­tish Dance, and Clans And Tar­tans. The peo­ple of the world are en­chanted by our coun­try’s tra­di­tions, so they now have handy guides to ex­plain Scot­tish cul­ture to them.

Here we look at just some of the as­pects of our cul­ture the new se­ries of books will be cel­e­brat­ing. So, go all Out­lander, don your kilt and raise a dram to the joy of be­ing Scot­tish. There’s nae shame in it.


Eilean Do­nan has been listed as one of the 12 most beau­ti­ful cas­tles in Europe by Conde Nast Trav­eler. Ed­in­burgh Cas­tle was ranked by the Huff­in­g­ton Post as one of the 10 best cas­tles in the world. We know that here in Scot­land, we have cas­tles that not only pro­vide ro­mance and his­tory, but also nes­tle in the most breath­tak­ing lo­ca­tions. Here are just eight of those listed in the Collins guide.

Stir­ling Cas­tle

“Per­haps Scot­land’s great­est sur­viv­ing royal cas­tle,” the guide de­clares, “with a recorded his­tory reach­ing back to Alexan­der I’s reign (1107-24), and as­so­ci­ated with such great fig­ures from Scot­land’s past as Wil­liam Wal­lace, Robert the Bruce and Mary Queen of Scots [she was crowned there].” None, how­ever, of the orig­i­nal build­ing re­mains, as Robert the Bruce de­stroyed it af­ter his vic­tory over Ed­ward II of Eng­land in 1314. Chief high­lights are the parts built in the Mid­dle Ages.

Lin­lith­gow Palace

This royal palace, be­gun by James I in 1424, be­came, de­scribes the guide, a “plea­sure palace for the Stew­art mon­archs”, ap­pre­ci­ated for its tran­quil­lity and fresh air.

It was a royal nurs­ery for James V and Mary Queen of Scots. But later it fell into de­cline, af­ter, the guide notes, “James VI moved the royal court to Lon­don in 1603” and in 1746, was left a roof­less shell, af­ter a fire left unat­tended by Red­coats bil­leted there, set the build­ing ablaze.

Eilean Do­nan

As the Collins guide ob­serves, this is “one of Scot­land’s most pho­tographed cas­tles”, perched on a tidal is­land at the meet­ing point of three lochs. The cas­tle’s past, how­ever, is fairly bloody.

Its bat­tle­ments were, in 1331, adorned with the heads of 15 sol­diers, and, in 1719, dur­ing the Ja­co­bite Ris­ing, it was blown up us­ing gun­pow­der from a Royal Navy war­ship.


The lo­ca­tion alone of Dun­not­tar is breath­tak­ing. As the Collins guide puts it, it’s sit­u­ated “on a lonely promon­tory thrust­ing into the chilly North sea, and ap­proach­able only over a pre­cip­i­tous tongue of land”. It was in this cas­tle that, for eight months, Scot­land’s Crown Jew­els were hid­den from Cromwell’s Round­heads. It was also here that dur­ing the “killing time” of the 1680s, many Covenan­ters were im­pris­oned.

Caw­dor Cas­tle

De­scribed in the Collins guide as “one of the most ro­man­tic cas­tles in Scot­land, de­spite hav­ing no link with Shake­speare’s Thane of Caw­dor in Macbeth”. Leg­end has it that the 5th Thane se­lected its site by let­ting a don­key laden with gold roam around un­til it stopped at a tree.

Cas­tle Sween

The old­est stand­ing cas­tle in Scot­land, built in the 12th cen­tury by Suib­hne (Sven) “the Red”, founder of the Clan MacSween.

Floors Cas­tle

Scot­land’s largest in­hab­ited cas­tle is, the Collins guide de­scribes, “a vast man­sion de­signed by Wil­liam Adam and built in the 1720s for John Kerr, the 1st Duke of Roxburghe”. Its tur­rets and domes were added a cen­tury later by Wil­liam Play­fair.

Go all Out­lander, don your kilt and raise a dram to the joy of be­ing Scot­tish. There’s nae shame in it


Yes, Scot­tish his­tory is kings and queens and bat­tles, but it’s also this­tles, hag­gis, Robert Burns and Dolly the sheep. Here are just a few of the high­lights from the Collins Lit­tle Book of Scot­tish His­tory.

The Stone of Des­tiny

Cur­rently re­sid­ing in Ed­in­burgh, it’s said that this was the very stone that was Ja­cob’s pil­low in The Book of Ge­n­e­sis, as well as the an­cient stone upon which the Scots kings were crowned. But for 700 years it was in ex­ile, af­ter it was re­moved to West­min­ster Abbey by Ed­ward I of Eng­land. Since it was re­turned to Scot­land in 1996, writes John Aber­nethy in the Collins guide, “[it] has yet to re­gain the same na­tional po­tency that it ac­quired in ex­ile”.

The this­tle

Ac­cord­ing to Scot­tish folk­lore, writes John Aber­nethy, “it was dur­ing the reign of Alexan­der III and the con­flict with Nor­way over con­trol of the He­brides that the this­tle be­came a na­tional sym­bol for Scot­land”. The, pos­si­bly apoc­ryphal, story goes that Norse­men, at­tack­ing at night, waded into a field of this­tles, where their cries of pain alerted the Scots to their pres­ence.

The Dec­la­ra­tion of Ar­broath

Writ­ten in Latin in April 1320 by the

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