A CELEBRATION OF SCOTTISH CULTURE
Why the world’s gone wild for all things Caledonian
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.
“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.
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.
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.
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.
The oldest standing castle in Scotland, built in the 12th century by Suibhne (Sven) “the Red”, founder of the Clan MacSween.
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”.
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