As we are now in the midst of Scotland‘s Year of Stories 2022, the Scottish Banner caught up with Marie Christie, Head Of Development, Events at VisitScotland – Scotland’s national tourism organisation – to hear more about this Themed Year, and how it is inspiring locals and visitors to discover more of Scotland’s stories.
What are the main themes of Scotland’s Year of Stories 2022?
Marie Christie: Year of Stories aims to embrace the widest range of activity and content aligned to the theme, with a focus on inclusivity and diversity. In terms of experiences, events and activity, this has been developed across five cross-cutting strands:
•Iconic stories and storytellers – a celebration of Scotland’s wealth of treasured and iconic stories and storytellers from classics to contemporary.
•New stories – shining a light on emerging, fresh and forward-looking talent.
•Scotland’s people and places – our people and places have inspired the widest range of stories and storytellers across the world. The year promotes how Scotland’s diverse culture, languages, landscapes and ways of life provide a source for all types and forms of stories.
•Local tales and legends – every community has its distinct tales to tell; stories of now as well as those passed through the generations.
•Inspired by nature – our encounters with nature are an unfailing source of stories old and new. These stories define our place in the natural world and help to create a more sustainable future
What role do stories play in attracting visitors to Scotland?
Marie Christie: The love of stories is hardwired into us all; it is one of the strongest ways we connect with one another and share our experiences. Great stories, well told, can evoke indelible images in our minds and bring contemporary and traditional cultures to life.
We know that one in five people are inspired to visit Scotland, having seen the destinations on film or TV. Every community has its own tales to tell and places to highlight as inspiration for well-known books and films, as well as visitor attractions that showcase our literary and storytelling heritage. Our Year of Stories events programme is animating places and spaces all over Scotland, creating memorable moments for visitors to enjoy.
The year is shining a spotlight on our diverse stories and creative talent, literary visitor attractions, festivals and bookshops. It’s also encouraging people to explore Scotland’s rich tradition as a backdrop for film and TV. New stories are being created every day and we hope that visitors to Scotland that are joining us in celebrating the Year of Stories, capture and share their own #TalesOfScotland.
It’s a theme with far-reaching appeal and we hope it will resonate with locals and visitors alike, encouraging them to experience all kinds of stories for themselves.
What Year of Stories events can visitors to Scotland enjoy for the remainder of 2022?
Marie Christie: There are some really exciting events taking place across the country that will bring Scotland’s stories to life in creative ways. In Scotland’s capital city, from 13-29 August Edinburgh International Book Festival will showcase Scotland’s Stories Now with both in-person and online events. Stories take centre stage at Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh and the Regional Gardens at Benmore, Logan and Dawyck Botanic Gardens until 15 October where visitors can enjoy an enriched visit to the gardens through audio trails inspired by words and nature in Of Scotland’s Soils and Soul. In September, Findhorn Bay Festival runs from 23 September – 2 October in a dramatic Moray setting while in the south, Scotland’s Book Town, Wigtown, is the setting for the annual Wigtown Book Festival on the same dates (as well as offering a dozen bookshops to explore).
Moving into autumn, the Northern Stories Festival from 7 to 16 October will be a spectacular celebration of the stories of the far north of Scotland, taking place across Caithness in celebration of Scotland’s ancient Nordic connections and close ties to North America. The annual Scottish International Storytelling Festival, runs from 14 to 30 October, and this year it will include the Map of Stories – a specially curated project for Year of Stories with ‘film ceilidhs’ celebrating the most iconic voices – past and present – from Scotland’s oral storytelling traditions. As the nights get darker visitors have the chance to immerse themselves in Scotland’s history at Stirling Castle at the atmospheric Tales from the Castle storytelling events, taking place after hours on 21 and 22 October.
What do you expect the legacy of this Themed Year to be?
Marie Christie: The Themed Year has helped shine a spotlight on our wealth of storytelling attractions, locations, events and festivals across the country and we hope that it will encourage people to return for future visits. There are so many attractions across Scotland which all have great stories to tell and are well worth a visit during any year. As part of the Year of Stories, we have been shining a spotlight on new stories, which will be a legacy for the future. The regional Community Campfires events organised by Scottish Book Trust generated a wealth of local residents’ stories, and the Edinburgh International Book Festival encouraged people across Scotland to share Scotland’s Stories Now by responding to the prompt ‘On this Day’. The year has highlighted how discovering our rich stories enhances a visit to Scotland – whether that be through a tour guide with their storytelling skills and expert knowledge, or hearing about local tales and legends of the region you are visiting. As part of the Year of Stories, we have encouraged communities to share the stories that are special to them, and we hope that becomes something they can build on in years to come.
A main focus during the Year of Stories is the celebration of Scotland’s iconic stories and storytellers, both past and present. Can you tell us about some of the attractions and experiences associated with them which visitors can enjoy?
Marie Christie: Ayr is where our great national Bard, Robert Burns, was born and it is home to the Robert Burns Birthplace Museum managed by the National Trust for Scotland. Visitors can explore the humble cottage where Burns was born and spent the first years of his life. The Museum houses more than 5,000 Burns artefacts including his handwritten manuscripts.
Abbotsford, the charming home of celebrated author Sir Walter Scott, sits on the bank of the River Tweed in the Scottish Borders town of Melrose, and stands as an enduring monument to the tastes, talents and achievements of its creator.
The Writers Museum, situated just off Edinburgh’s Royal Mile, pays tribute to Burns, Scott and Robert Louis Stevenson, the Edinburgh-born author of such classics as Treasure Island and Kidnapped.
The TV series Outlander and the novels by Diana Gabaldon on which it is based have drawn worldwide attention to one of the most famous periods in Scottish history – that of the Jacobite Uprisings. As well as the real-life history locations featured in the story, visitors can explore the locations used in the show, ranging from Culloden Battlefield near Inverness and the delightful Kingdom of Fife conversation villages of Falkland and Culross to the Glasgow Cathedral, Callendar House in Falkirk, and the spectacular Drumlanrig Castle in Dumfries & Galloway.
For fans of JK Rowling’s Harry Potter series, a range of tours are on offer, from walking tours of Edinburgh to discover the city locations which inspired the author, to atmospheric Glen Coe, and the iconic Glenfinnan Viaduct over which the Jacobite Stream Train runs between Fort William and Mallaig.
Many stories from around Scotland of course come from folklore stretching back for hundreds of years, often derived from our landscapes and seascapes, as well as the culture and ways of life that emerged from these locations. In our most northerly island groups of Orkney and Shetland, there are many folk tales of ‘The Hill Folk’, and the Norse history of these islands can be traced today in local place names. In the Outer Hebrides, tales of mermaids, selkies and other sea monsters were handed down in Gaelic through the generations.
Those exploring their Scottish ancestry can gain an insight into the story of how their ancestors lived and the tales they would have grown up with by visiting local history museums, or those which focus on lifestyles in years gone by. These include Auchindrain Historic Township near Inveraray, Argyll and the Highland Folk Museum in Newtonmore at the heart of the Cairngorms National Park, both of which give an insight into Highland farming life, and touch on the story of the Highland Clearances which caused so many Highlanders to leave Scotland, seeking a new life elsewhere.
Find out more about the Year of Stories 2022 at: www.visitscotland.com/stories
Main photo: The Writer’s Museum is located just off the Royal Mile and tells the stories of famous Scottish writers such as Robert Burns, Sir Walter Scott and Robert Louis Stevenson. Photo: VisitScotland/Kenny Lam.