Scotland named best golf destination in the world

For the first time in the 9-year history of the World Golf Awards, Scotland has been awarded the ultimate accolade of ‘Best Golf Destination in the World.’  Around 200 guests from golfing destinations across the globe, attended the prestigious annual World Golf Award gala ceremony in Abu Dhabi in November. The World Golf Awards, which is part of The World Travel Awards, serves to celebrate and reward excellence in golf tourism with winners chosen by tour operators, media and golf fans from across the world. Scotland’s first win of the night came during the Best Golf Destination in Europe category followed by the top recognition of Best Golf Destination in the World – a unique double, and a first in the history of the Awards. Both awards acknowledge and celebrate the quality of Scotland as a golfing destination and, as the industry continues to recover from the pandemic, everything Scotland has to offer to golf fans. Widely regarded as the ‘Home of Golf’, Scotland has over 550 courses to play, including multiple championship venues and resorts, links courses, parkland courses and 9-hole courses.

The award wins follow on the back of a momentous last year for the Scottish golf industry which saw a number of the world’s biggest and most prestigious golf tournaments return home to Scotland to be played over an action packed five consecutive weeks. Headlined by the historic 150th Open at St Andrews, Scotland also provided the perfect stage for The Genesis Scottish Open, The Senior Open Presented by Rolex, Trust Golf Women’s Scottish Open, AIG Women’s Open and the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship. The jam-packed calendar of tournaments attracted over 421,000 spectators who watched 748 world class players tee off.  It is anticipated that the awards will further inspire visitors from around the world to visit Scotland, cementing its position as a world-leader in the sport as sustainability, environmental and community initiatives amongst others, came to the fore throughout the summer period. 

Scotland is a bucket list destination for most golfers around the world

Dermot Synnott, Director of Global Partnerships for the World Golf Awards said: “Scottish golf tourism is thriving, and Scotland is a bucket list destination for most golfers around the world. It offers a vast range of parkland and links options across all its regions, so the travelling golfer really is spoilt for choice. No stranger to hosting landmark events, this award is fitting recognition to a top-quality golf destination that successfully staged The 150th Open in St. Andrews.”

Pre-covid, the 2020 UK Event Report reported that the UK’s events industry was estimated to be worth a direct spend of £70bn in 2019, and it is estimated that over £6bn (9%) of this can be attributed to Scotland. The golf industry in Scotland is worth more than £1.1 billion with golf tourism accounting for approximately £286 million annually, supporting around 4,400 jobs.  As well as the tourism boost, the health and well-being aspect of golf was brought into sharp focus during the pandemic as one of the first activities to reopen after lockdown providing exercise and social interaction.  Scotland attracts around 220,000 golfing visitors annually, while an estimated 92,000 ‘regular’ visitors to Scotland will also play golf whilst on holiday.

Main photo: Fortrose & Rosemarkie Golf Club 16th Green. Photo:  John Paul Photography.

Stirling station postcards from the past reveal further information

While the work on Stirling station roof is now complete, the treasure trove of WW1 postcards that were unearthed from the roof crawl space in 2021 continues to offer insights into the lives of the men who served in local regiments. Network Rail recently shared the post cards publicly and asked for assistance from members of the public in a bid to uncover the stories of the men to whom the postcards were addressed. In the year since, progress has been made in identifying and unearthing the stories behind these postcards.

With the assistance of the Regimental museums, information, and photos, have emerged for three of the soldiers featured. As well as the stories of service and bravery during war time including in the Battle of Loos and at the Somme, the search also uncovered human stories of the men and offered insights into their lives beyond the army and back in civilian life. This included stories of marriage and starting families but also in one case, tales of theft and bigamy!

Appeal for anyone who may have further information

A year on from sharing the initial story of the post cards Network Rail felt it appropriate to share an update and reiterate our appeal for anyone who may have further information to get in touch and help us complete their stories. 

Captain and Quarter Master, Arthur James MacDonald of the 8th Cameron Highlanders, re-joined the Army as a commissioned officer in 1914 at outbreak of war. He was dispatched to Stirling from Dingwall with his regiment and then went on to fight in the Battle of Loos in September 1915. During this battle, the regiment suffered heavy losses and only 58 of the original 776 men survived the day. Capt. MacDonald survived the battle and was wounded on 28th October 1918, presumably during the final Allied Offensive. Given that this was only several weeks from Armistice, the Regimental Museum believes he likely survived the war and returned home.

Private and Corporal, Walter Reddiford, it is believed was born on 19th March 1898 in Lancashire, signed up to B Company, 11th Gordon Highlanders in May 1916. He initially joined as a Private and was promoted to Lance Corporal in June 1916 and then to Corporal in August that same year. Around this time, Corporal Reddiford was sent as part of a draft to the British Expeditionary Force and after arrival in France, he was posted to 2nd Battalion Gordon Highlanders. This battalion suffered many losses during the Battle of the Somme, July – November 1916. It is likely that Corporal Reddiford was posted as part of draft reinforcements to make up for the losses sustained. From 1917 until the end of the war, 2nd Battalion served in Italy. Corporal Reddiford survived the war and was awarded the Victory Medal and British War Medal.    Upon his return home, he married Mary Ann Heywood in 1918 and demobbed in 1919 to live with Mary Ann in Royton. In 1920, it appears that he and Mary Ann moved to Wrexham but later that year sent Mary Ann “home to her parents”. It is believed there were two children within this marriage. The next we hear of Corporal Reddiford is in a newspaper article where charges of theft, forgery and bigamy were brought against him. He was accused of stealing two cheques belonging to Colonel Gregson of Southport and of forging and uttering one of them for £6 5s. 6d. At the time of his arrest, letters were found in his possession which led to a further charge of bigamy and Florence N Stanbrooke gave evidence as to going through a form of marriage with Reddiford in March 1922.

2nd Lieutenant John Neil Campbell, born in Glasgow in October 1896 and educated at Hutcheson’s Grammar School, Glasgow. He enlisted into the 11th Gordon Highlanders in November 1915. Lt. Campbell was sent as part of a draft to the British Expedition Force in September 1916. He arrived in France on 10th  September 1916 and was posted to the 2nd Battalion Gordon Highlanders with the rank of Temporary Lieutenant. When the war ended, he was awarded the Victory Medal and the British War Medal. Lt. Campbell demobbed he moved to 20 Queen Mary Avenue, Glasgow. Through the Hutcheson’s Grammar school archives, we have been able to find out that Lt. Campbell married Ethel May Rodgers in 1934 and was listed as a chartered accountant, living in Cuckfield, Sussex in the England and Wales register of 1939. He died on April 20th 1968. It is believed he was survived by his three children.

Current efforts from Network Rail and the Black Watch Regimental Museum have drawn a blank with the search for the soldier serving in the 6th Blackwatch. Names could include George, Rankine, Raukine, Ranking or Rankins.

The happiest areas to live in Scotland announced

Rightmove a UK property portal and marketplace has just announced Scotland’s happiest places to live. Every year the website asks people in Great Britain to tell them how they feel about where they live. People are asked what they love about their local areas, and what makes a place really feel like home. 

The annual survey is now in its 11th year, and this year heard from more than 21,000 people living in towns, cities and villages up and down the nation. Residents score their local areas on things like community spirit, and how much access they have to nature and green spaces, as well as artistic and cultural activities. This year has seen a Scottish location score among the top three places for the first time since 2016.

The Scottish Borders

The Scottish Borders town Galashiels has been awarded second place in the survey, scoring particularly highly on the friendliness and politeness of its locals.  In terms of average prices, it also has the most affordable house prices out of all the areas that made the top ten. The average asking price of a home in Galashiels is £153,546.  Galashiels real estate agent, Alice Brown, says: “Its central placement in the Borders makes it a popular location for families, giving a relaxed way of life, while being in a commutable distance of Edinburgh. Steeped in history, Galashiels has a wide variety of housing from classic period properties to new– builds. The countryside surrounding Galashiels also has much to offer, and the recently established Heartland Market brings together the town and local businesses.”

Two other Scottish areas also ranked among this year’s top 10 happiest places to live: the riverside city of Perth, and the historic city of Stirling. Galashiels was beat out for the top spot by St Ives in Cornwall.

Photo: The happy streets of Galashiels. Photo: VisitScotland.

Masterplan commissioned for home of Auld Lang Syne

Architects and heritage experts will develop vision for Robert Burns farm.

Some of Scotland’s leading architects and heritage experts are to develop a masterplan for the only home built by the poet Robert Burns. A consortium led by Delfinity Limited won the contract to develop a sustainable future for Ellisland Farm and Museum near Dumfries, where the poet wrote Auld Lang Syne and Tam o Shanter.  The £30k masterplan and viability study was commissioned by the Robert Burns Ellisland Trust charity, which has run the site since 2020. The plan will be funded by The Architectural Heritage Fund/Historic Environment Scotland, South of Scotland Enterprise and The Holywood Trust.

The project will explore how to grow audiences and deliver creative learning on the romantic site which was Burns’s first home with young wife Jean Armour. It seeks to improve biodiversity and access, including by foot, bicycle and public transport. Ellisland has 170 acres of land and is the best place to see nature through the poet’s eyes. The site has been run as a heritage attraction since 1928, thanks mainly to the efforts of volunteers.

The masterplan will propose ways to create world class facilities, restore the 1788 buildings and develop new trading income streams as the charity receives no regular public subsidy. The Delfinity team includes Oliver Chapman Architects and HarrisonStevens Landscape Architects who have worked on the sensitive development of Edinburgh’s Old Town and heritage expert Lyndsay Clark whose experience includes projects with the V&A in Dundee and National Museums Scotland. Engagement with local community, cultural and youth organisations is an essential part of the six-month project. 

A place to celebrate Burns

Joan McAlpine, Business Development Manager of The Robert Burns Ellisland Trust said: “We are so excited to work with such a talented team of experts. The home of Auld Lang Syne should be recognised around the world as a place to celebrate Burns, nature and Scottish culture. We want more people, especially young people, to be inspired by Ellisland the way Burns was inspired – and also to generate economic benefit and jobs for this part of South Scotland. We will of course reach out to the wider community to develop that vision.”

The appointment of Delfinity is the latest success of the trust, which includes a masterplan and conservation study and the development of new holiday accommodation. The trust grew its membership income five fold in 2021 and has 12 Burns Clubs members in its “1788 Circle”.

In January last year, The Annandale Distillery and The Globe Inn became Ellisland’s first corporate sponsor and in August the trust launched Explore Ellisland, which recreated the site in Minecraft, one of the world’s most popular computer games.

Celebrate the life and legacy of Robert Burns

Scotland’s winter festivities extend beyond the New Year to Burns Night on 25 January – the birthday of Robert Burns, Scotland’s national bard.  There’s no experience quite like a Burns Night celebration; locals and visitors alike can soak up some Scottish culture, indulge in the traditional dish of haggis, neeps and tatties and natter over a warming dram of whisky at one of the many Burns Night celebrations taking place this year.  Whether toasting virtually at home or heading out to a local event, anyone can join in the celebrations this Burns Night, anywhere in the world. Robert Burns composed some of the world’s most instantly recognisable lines of poetry and song, so what better way to kick off the year than with a celebration of one of Scotland’s most iconic storytellers?

Follow in Burns’ footsteps

Burns Cottage – The birthplace in 1759 of the poet Robert Burns and now museum in Alloway.

Fans of the Bard can experience the poems and songs that the spectacular Scottish landscapes inspired, explore real-life locations and uncover a wealth of stories connected to Rabbie Burns himself on a trip to Scotland.  The romantic ruins and bonnie villages of Ayrshire inspired many of Burns’ masterpieces. A visit to the beautiful village of Alloway will uncover what Burns’ life was like back in the 18th century. There is the thatched cottage where Burns was born and a walk along Poet’s Path leading to a series of weathervanes that tell the story of Tam o’Shanter, as well as the Robert Burns Birthplace Museum where it is possible to take a special behind the scenes tour to see the original first draft of Auld Lang Syne. Other nearby Burns attractions include the Bachelors’ Club in Tarbolton and Burns House Museum in Mauchline.

In fact, connections to Burns scatter the surrounding area. Perched majestically on the Ayrshire cliff, not too far from Maybole where Burns’ parents met, is Culzean Castle. Erected in Burns’ time, visitors can roam the extensive grounds and even stay the night in one of the five impressive suites. South of the castle lies Kirkoswald, home to the “ancient, trusty, drouthy crony” Souter Johnnie who was immortalised in Tam o’Shanter

The globe inn – frequented by the poet Robert Burns on the high street, Dumfries, Dumfries and Galloway.

Slowing down and taking in the beauty of the sea, rivers and mountains on a Whisky & Burns cycling tour through Dumfries & Galloway is the perfect way for visitors to savour traditional food and drink whilst learning about Scotland’s national poet. Along the route in Dumfries, tour groups can discover the pleasures of whisky once enjoyed by the bard himself in The Globe Inn, one of the country’s oldest hostelries, and draw up a seat at Burns’ very own dining table, surrounded by artefacts and memories. Fans can follow the town’s Burns trail to Robert Burns House where he spent the last years of his life and see original manuscripts and personal belongings.

Named the world’s first UNESCO City of Literature, Edinburgh is renowned for its connection to great literary figures, and Robert Burns is no exception. On 28 November 1786 when Burns arrived in Edinburgh its gates were flung open to him. On the Royal Mile, visitors can find a plaque dedicated to Burns near the entrance to Lady Stair’s Close. The close contains Makars’ Court, an evolving national literary monument celebrating Scottish writers from the 14th century up to the present day, where famous words have been inscribed into the flagstones. While in Edinburgh, fans of Burns will be able to see one of the most famous portraits of Robert Burns at the Scottish National Portrait Gallery, painted by friend and renowned Scottish artist Alexander Nasmyth.

The perfect Burns Supper

Burns Supper traditionally consists of haggis, neeps (turnip) and tatties (potatoes).

Many places across Scotland will host Burns Suppers this month, but also see our events page for events taking place across the ex-pat world. Or host your own. All that’s needed for the perfect Burns Night is haggis, neeps, tatties, great company…and some Scottish whisky, of course! Follow these instructions to prepare and host the perfect gathering on 25 January. To start everyone gathers, the host says a few words, everyone sits and the Selkirk Grace is said.

The meal- the starter is served, the haggis is piped in (by a piper in a kilt, naturally) the host performs the Address to a Haggis, everyone toasts the haggis and the main meal is served, followed by dessert (cranachan is a great option).  After the meal the first Burns recital is performed, the Immortal Memory (the main tribute speech to Burns) is given, the second Burns recital is performed, and then there’s a Toast to the Lassies, followed by a Reply to the Toast to the Lassies, before the final Burns recital is performed.

To end the night the host gives a vote of thanks, everyone stands and sings Auld Lang Syne, crossing their arms and joining hands at the line “And there’s a hand, my trusty fere!”   

Download Burns Night resources and hosting tips from Find out more about Burns, his life, legacy, and exploring his story in Scotland at:

Editorial – The Scottish Banner Says….

February – 2023 (Vol. 46, Number 08)

The Maura Gin label by artist Hope Blamire. Image courtesy of the Isle of Cumbrae Distillers.

The Banner Says…

Saying ‘I Do’ to Scotland

If you are like me when I think of Scotland, I think of the incredible amount of natural beauty the country has to offer. It would be very fair to say it is quite a romantic place to visit with incredible vistas, coastlines, history and architecture.

Most cannot help but fall in love with the country, even those there on their own. This month the world will be selling just a few more roses when Valentine’s Day takes place mid-month. Scotland however has been helping lovers from around the world in its very own way for hundreds of years.

Location played a huge role in allowing the Scottish Borders town of Gretna Green to become Britain’s wedding capital, with its romantic history beginning nearly 300 years ago. In 1754, English Parliament passed a law banning people under the age of twenty-one to get married without permission of their parents.

However for those who ventured over the Scottish border, the law did not apply. In Scotland, a much more lenient age of sixteen was law and English couples found themselves flocking to the sleepy border town. To this day, and certainly around Valentine’s Day, many couples from across the globe travel to Gretna Green for wedding and vow renewal ceremonies.

Scottish wedding customs

Thousands of people have also enjoyed taking on some of the unique Scottish wedding customs that have developed over the years. Luckenbooth brooches originated in 16th century Edinburgh and were given by the groom to his bride as a token of both love and luck. The brooch features two hearts entwined together, with a crown on top. The brooches also were said to help ward off witches, and originally were sold in the luckenbooths, a row of tenements near St Giles Cathedral on the Royal Mile. Today you will still find these being sold across the world.

A favourite of children would have to be the wedding scramble. The father of the bride throws a handful of coins for children to collect just as the bride is climbing into the wedding car to make her way to the church. Children would then scramble to get as many coins as possible and create an atmosphere as the bride sets off, it was also thought doing this would bring financial stability to the newlyweds.

Traditionally a Scottish bride is always found to the left of the groom. This started back when the groom may need his right hand free to use his sword to fight off anyone who may have objected of their union, including in-laws!

Another tradition you will still find at weddings today is the quaich ceremony. A quaich (cuach in Gaelic means cup), or also referred to as a loving cup, is a Scottish traditional two handled cup and has been around in some form for centuries. Each person to marry takes a drink from the often silver or pewter quaich, with their favourite whisky or brandy. The sharing of the drink signifies both the union of two people and families.

In this issue

Think of a distillery in Scotland and of course most would instantly think of the “water of life’, or whisky. However, gin is one of the fastest growing spirits for Scotland and in fact Scotland now produces 70 percent of gin for the UK market. We get a chance to speak this month to one of five women who are behind the Isle of Cumbrae Distillers. Having grown up around many strong women in my life I have no doubt distillers like at Cumbrae will help lead the way to more women, of more ages, entering the drinks industry and I will very happily drink to that!

Eagle eyed travellers who have been on the Edinburgh to Glasgow train service will no doubt have spotted a unique spire as they pass through Linlithgow. The ‘crown of thorns’ spire which sits at the top of St Michael’s Church had local controversy when it was added to the 15th century church in the 1960s. Sadly overtime the modern addition, which has become a symbol for Linlithgow, has fallen victim to the Scottish weather and now needs repair. Perhaps you have caught the spire when in Linlithgow, or just passing on the train, and can help preserve this iconic piece for future generations.

One story that caught my eye this month was Scotland being named ‘Best Golf Destination in the World.’ I do admit I am not a golfer, much to my father’s disappointment, but I was slightly surprised that a country known the world over as the ‘Home of Golf’ has only won this for the first time. With nearly 600 courses across the country and a history of golf in Scotland going back to the 15th century, the industry is said to be worth nearly £300 million to the Scottish economy. Previous winners were Australia, Vietnam and Portugal, so glad to see Scotland being rightly recognised.

The romance of Scotland

Whether or not you are looking for a romantic break with that special someone, maybe getting married or looking to renew your vows, Scotland is certainly a place to consider as
celebrating your heritage and the quirky customs which come with it can be a special thing to do.

For me however it is simply the romance of Scotland itself that lures me each and every time, the majestic Highlands, Edinburgh’s winding streets, the dramatic coastlines and the incredible friendliness of the people.

Scotland can be my Valentine anytime!

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The Tranquillity of Stonehaven

For many centuries the wee fishing port on Scotland’s east coastline has been a magnetic location for summer tourists, a distinction it retains to this day. Made up of delightful seascapes, an enchanting harbour and a lively town centre, it is an ideal spot for a day trip or a longer visit. Lying on a picturesque bay 13 miles south of Aberdeen, Stonehaven, or “Stoney” as it’s known by the locals, is sadly no longer a high-level fishing port, but it still preserves a great deal of its historic attractions.

As well as the age-old harbour there is the 15th century Tolbooth which includes an enchanting museum of local history and fishing. Another crowd-puller is the impressive sight of Dunnottar Castle which is perilously perched on a rocky cliff just south of the town. Besides having many historic connections, the scenic castle has recently been used for the location of several smash hit movies. The harbour was constructed to supply Dunnottar Castle and for many years the tiny port was very busy. In fact, at the turn of the last century when the herring fishing was in vogue as many as 150 boats regularly tied up at Stonehaven, so much so that one could “walk” from one side of the harbour to the other without getting your feet wet!

Now only a handful of vessels fish regularly, and the harbour is utilised mainly by pleasure craft. But there has been a fresh revival in the fishing industry by scallop boats which arrive in the summer months from as far away as the Isle of Man to dredge the sea bottom just offshore of Stonehaven Bay.

The Feein’ Market

Another attraction Stonehaven presents is the Feein’ Market, held in the Market Square the first Saturday in June. This is a restoration of the old feein’ market when, at the end of a working contract, farmhands who fancied a change of service, gathered to become “fee’d” with new employers after thrashing out a working arrangement regarding fresh terms of employment. The new Feein’ Market is currently organised by the Stonehaven Business Association and covers the entire Market Square, giving visitors a rare spectacle of how farm-life survived all those generations ago.

The wee town’s premier event though ironically takes place at a time of year when only a handful of proper tourists stay in the district, yet visitors from all over Britain descend on the town to witness it. The Stonehaven Fireball Ceremony is held every Hogmanay (December 31st) and is an extravaganza observed by thousands. The highlight of the ritual is when participants walk through the towns streets twirling gigantic fireballs above and round their heads! The fireballs are constructed of wire netting bags crammed with various kinds of combustible substances, and are swung round the head with the help of a long wire rope attached to a handle. The etiquette is said to stretch back to Pagan times where twirling the fireballs acted in fending off evil spirits which might endanger the town during the next 12 months.

The initial settlement at Stonehaven was little more than a number of tiny fishing huts positioned around Stonehaven Bay, but that all changed in 1600 when the wee hamlet was upgraded to become the County Town of Kincardineshire when the seat of the Sheriffdom of Kincardine was shifted from the ancient Kincardine township at Kincardine Castle close to the village of Fettercairn. When the fishing port was elevated to become the administrative centre of the county, it was most crucial to acquire a municipal building and at the time the only appropriate building in the vicinity was the storehouse owned by the Earl of Marischal on the harbour’s northern confines. The repository was hastily adapted to embody a courthouse and prison and, having been repaired and renovated over the centuries, it still stands to this day.

The New Town

The Aberdonian Steam Train. Photo: The A1 Steam Locomotive Trust.

Stonehaven’s New Town expanded in around 1781 when a bridge was erected over the Carron Water by Robert Barclay of Ury, giving more easy access to the town by those living to the south. The New Town was created around the nucleus of the Market Square with the town expanding as ripples from its centre. The famous clock tower was raised in 1857.

Stonehaven expanded as the years passed and it was not long before the railway came to town. The railway did in fact reach the town but due to the ground features of the area it was obligatory to construct the station just up the hill from the town. This resulted in more houses being constructed and a thriving suburban area soon connected Stonehaven with its railway station.

In more recent times the entire length of the town’s main road was extensively restored. Great care was taken to re-lay the old cobblestones on the surface of the street to recreate a 19th century atmosphere. The streetlamps were also given the time treatment with fine reproductions of old gas streetlights. So, if you find yourself on the north-east coast road travelling north to Aberdeen or south to Dundee, make sure you leave the main road and drive a few hundred metres down into Stonehaven. Spending a couple of idyllic hours in the tiny hamlet will put your mind completely at rest and set you up nicely for the remainder of your journey.

Scotland’s the place to be in 2023

Celebrate a new year with plenty to discover across Scotland. New stories, special moments and unforgettable memories are ready to be made in Scotland in 2023. From January through to December there are plenty of reasons why Scotland should be at the top of any travel bucket list. Start the year with Burns Night Celebrations across the country, watch the blooming of bluebells, snowdrops, and fresh fauna, welcoming new wildlife in spring, before gearing up for a festival extravaganza in the summer months. Then comes the turning of the leaves casting a golden blanket over the luscious landscapes before winter rolls round again and the year closes with the sound of fireworks and revelry at Hogmanay celebrations far and wide. 

There are cabins aplenty positioned under the stars for views that are out of this world, lush green forests and spectacular waterfalls spraying mists that are reinvigoratingly cool, and intimate gigs where revellers can dance the night away. So, whether seeking adventure or tranquillity, shopping or feasting – or a taste of it all – those who venture to Scotland will find a world of choices at their fingertips. And as always, visitors can expect a warm welcome awaiting them!  There are many reasons to make Scotland the place to be in 2023, the list below is just a selection of some of the major openings, news updates and events to look forward to in the year ahead.

2023 highlights

Dundreggan Rewilding Centre.

Celtic Connections 30th Anniversary, January 2023

Celtic Connections, the home of world-class music, one-off collaborations, and genre-defying spectacles, is set to celebrate its 30th anniversary in January 2023. The 30th Anniversary is a pinnacle moment for the festival as it recognises the advancements and achievements of the last thirty years and everything the organisers have overcome to bring people together in a defining cultural celebration. The internationally renowned festival marks this milestone with an ambitious and eclectic programme of music showcased between Thursday 19th January – Sunday 5th February 2023. The full programme can be viewed here:

Dundreggan Rewilding Centre, March 2023

Opening in 2023, Dundreggan Rewilding Centre will be Trees for Life’s flagship rewilding estate, a unique place rich in natural and cultural heritage where real change is happening, restoring Scotland’s landscape. The new wild landscape and its ancient connections to Gaelic culture will encourage people to ‘rewild’ themselves by connecting with nature and exploring the heritage of the Highlands. Dundreggan Rewilding Centre will become a gateway for people to experience rewilding in ways that are best suited to them; from a casual visit while passing through, to immersive experiences, encouraging the idea that we can work with nature rather than against it.

V&A Dundee – Tartan, April 2023

In its fifth anniversary year, V&A Dundee will offer a radical new look at one of the world’s best-known fabrics through its flagship exhibition: Tartan. Tartan, the first major exhibition curated by V&A Dundee, with consultant curator ​​Jonathan Faiers of the University of Southampton, will celebrate the global story of a unique pattern which has connected communities worldwide, expressed tradition, revolt and diversity, and inspired playful and provocative design. It is a complex, rich, and sometimes painful history unequalled by any other cloth or pattern. Tartan is a textile which is adored and derided, inspiring great works of art and design, and representative of unity and dissent, tradition and rebellion.

Moreover, V&A Dundee, the first V&A museum in the world outside London, will celebrate its fifth anniversary in September 2023. For more information and to book, please visit:

Scottish Crannog Centre, spring 2023

The Scottish Crannog Centre is currently building a new museum located at the site of Dalerb on the North side of Loch Tay in Perthshire which is set to open in spring 2023. The aim of The Scottish Crannog Centre at Dalerb is to be the most sustainable museum in Scotland. The new visitor centre will showcase internationally significant archaeological collections, an Iron Age-inspired village of craft and technology demonstrations, and the first of three expert-led, but community-built, crannogs. For more information, please visit

Tall Ships Races, July 2023

Shetland will once again host the Tall Ships Races from Wednesday 26th July to Saturday 29th July in Lerwick. The Tall Ships Races is an annual race series that has been arranged by Sail Training International since 1956 and in summer 2023 the town of Lerwick will welcome the fleet for four days of celebrations, sharing culture and international friendships. The full event programme is currently under development and is set to be published in March 2023. For more information and to keep up to date, please visit

2023 UCI Cycling World Championships, August 2023 

The biggest cycling event in the world comes to Scotland in 2023! The world’s greatest riders will come together in Glasgow and across Scotland to compete at the highest level, make history and show the world the power of the bike. Across 11 days of events, competitors will compete for over 200 rainbow jerseys and World Champions will be crowned in events covering everything from BMX to Mountain Biking, Indoor Cycling to Road Cycling, Para-Cycling and much, much more. With Scotland’s beautiful bike-ready landscapes, legendary cycling centres and epic arenas ready to welcome competitors and visitors from all over the world, there’s never been a better time to plan a cycling trip to Scotland. This event is more than an event exclusive for elite riders, it’s an opportunity for everyone to ride their bicycle! For more information, please visit

Coast to Coast Cycle Route, Stranraer to Eyemouth, summer 2023

An exciting new 250 mile on-road cycle route covering the length of the South of Scotland has received the green light to progress to delivery stage. The Coast-to-Coast route will run from Stranraer to Eyemouth, making it one of the longest in the UK and a new challenge for experienced cyclists. Riders who want to test themselves can tackle the Coast-to-Coast Challenge route over four days but are highly recommended to slow down, immerse themselves and enjoy more of what the South of Scotland has to offer by completing the Explorer route over eight days or more. The project is aiming to be delivered in time for the 2023 UCI World Championships in Glasgow and across Scotland. Three of the 13 Championships are taking place in the South of Scotland in August next year, allowing visitors to the South to try the new route during or after the Championships.

The Scottish National Gallery, summer 2023

The transformative project to deliver an inspiring new space for Scotland’s renowned collection of Scottish art is set be completed in 2023. From summer 2023, visitors can look forward to experiencing a brand-new suite of world-class galleries at the Scottish National Gallery in Edinburgh. The Scottish National Gallery Project will create a beautiful space for Scotland’s art right in the historic heart of Edinburgh, with striking displays drawn from the National Galleries of Scotland’s broad-ranging collection alongside special loans from other leading arts institutions. Large windows will offer spectacular light-filled views across Princes Street Gardens, inviting visitors to come in and discover the work of pioneering Scottish artists such as Phoebe Anna Traquair, William McTaggart, Anne Redpath, Sir Henry Raeburn and Charles Rennie Mackintosh. For more information, please visit

Scot City knows the score

New Edmiston House.

Rangers will open a new club museum in Glasgow soon. New Edmiston House will be an incredible, state-of-the-art facility that will host a long-awaited club museum, a new two-storey Rangers Store and an events space for use on matchdays and beyond, thus enhancing the experience for supporters when they visit Ibrox. The new museum opening coincides with the Scottish club’s 150th anniversary.

For budding golfers and enthusiasts alike, Glasgow also welcomes the addition of Topgolf. Make use of complimentary clubs or visitors can bring their own, take aim at the giant outfield targets using high-tech balls which automatically keep score. Enjoy climate-controlled hitting bays for year-round practice, relax in the sports bar or refuel in the onsite restaurant.

For even more golfing fun in the city, Golf It! is The R&A’s brand-new golf concept that will open in Glasgow in summer 2023. The vast new indoor and outdoor attraction is a new innovation and marks a significant financial investment by The R&A towards its purpose of making golf more accessible and inclusive. The new facility will feature a range of introductory golf formats including a twist on pitch and putt, adventure golf and community putting greens plus a double decker floodlit driving range and a new look nine-hole course for all the family to play.

Have a dram

Eden Mill Distillery.

The Cairn Distillery-Late October 2022 saw the opening of The Cairn Distillery, the first new distillery to be built in the Cairngorms National Park for more than a century. Nestled on the banks of the river Spey on the northern frontier of the Cairngorms National Park, every detail of The Cairn Distillery has been considered to create a remarkable structure that is reflective of its environment.  From its sedum roof which encourages insect life to thrive, to the Caithness stone pathways, every aspect is designed to respect the natural shapes and colours around it. The new distillery aims to build on Gordon & MacPhail’s 127-year heritage of producing exceptional Scotch whisky to inspire future generations. With magnificent views of its stunning location just outside Grantown-on-Spey, visitors can choose from a selection of immersive experiences, each culminating in a whisky tasting in The Discovery Room.

Moffat Distillery-Dark Sky Spirits will open Moffat’s first distillery soon. In keeping with the desire for sustainability and local resources, the distillery will have the only wood-fired still in Scotland with wood collected from local, sustainable sources. The pilot set-up is a 350-litre wash still and a 200-litre spirit still which will make Moffat Distillery the smallest whisky producer in Scotland with a visitor centre.

Port of Leith Distillery-A distillery like no other, Port of Leith Distillery is set to become Scotland’s first vertical distillery when it opens its doors in 2023. Set in the historic Port of Leith, the distillery will draw on the incredibly rich whisky heritage of Edinburgh and the history of Leith which was once an epicentre of the industry. The distillery forms part of the resurgence of distilling in the area and will offer guided tours, tastings and a rooftop bar with panoramic views across Edinburgh, Leith and Fife.

Eden Mill Distillery-Founded in 2012, Eden Mill was the first distillery in the region for over 150 years and today has a premium gin portfolio crafted from the finest botanicals, many foraged from in and around St Andrews. Over ten years later, Eden Mill have an ambition to create the finest gins and Scotch whiskies with minimal environmental impact combining traditional distilling techniques with ground-breaking innovation. Eden Mill is building a stunning distillery at the mouth of the River Eden, overlooking the iconic, historic town of St Andrews. The new distillery sits at the heart of the University of St Andrews Eden Campus, a unique site dedicated to zero carbon and sustainable businesses and research.

Trip-spiration – Go your own way

The Flying Scotsman.

From cycle paths to long-distance walking trails, set-jetting to train trips, there are many ways to follow your own path around Scotland in 2023.

A wheely good time-Avid cyclists can follow in the tracks of the world champions set to be crowned at the UCI Cycling World Championships in August and plan a bike-packing trip through the hills and glens of Scotland’s stunning scenery. With routes covering the abbeys in The Borders, island hopping in the Hebrides and the dramatic coastlines in the north, there’s adventure to be had in all corners of Scotland. For those looking for day experiences, an adrenaline-fuelled day at one of the 7Stanes mountain bike centres in the south of Scotland is sure to get the heart pumping or, with routes for all abilities, a day on the waymarked paths at Gravelfoyle is a great way to take in the stunning landscapes of Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park at a more leisurely pace. Cities in Scotland are getting greener and Glasgow, Scotland’s very own Dear Green Place, provides a variety of ways to explore the city in a more responsible way from OVO Bikes to the fully electric fleet of sight-seeing buses launching in 2023, it’s never been as easy to keep it green! 

Stay on track-Perhaps a different track appeals more and with the Flying Scotsman celebrating its 100-year anniversary in 2023, there’s never been a better reason to hop on board a train and sit back and enjoy the ride. It’s easy to explore Scotland’s eight cities as each are connected by a variety of rail routes meaning a day trip or longer stay to explore each of their cultural highlights, historical sites and foodie delights is only a train ride, or two, away.  Scotland is home to some of the world’s most iconic railway journeys and the routes are surrounded by postcard-perfect views that are guaranteed to surprise and mesmerise as the train rolls by. From Glasgow, travellers can hop on the West Highland Line to the westerly port town of Mallaig traversing remote wilderness and the world-renowned Glenfinnan Viaduct. While from Edinburgh, passengers can climb aboard the longest new domestic railway to be built in over 100 years deep into the picturesque Scottish Borders and the land of Sir Walter Scott. Departures from Inverness include the coast-to-coast Kyle Line, taking in spectacular Highland scenery and finishing with magnificent views of Skye, and the Far North Line which traces the North Sea coast up to Wick, from which it’s only a short hop by bus over to John O’Groats, the most northerly inhabited point on the mainland. 

These boots were made for walking-From an afternoon amble on a leafy forest path to bagging a Munro, from a city stroll to a coastal walk, exploring the great outdoors on foot in Scotland is a fantastic way to spend a holiday. The Seven Wonders of Scotland’s Walking World provide a unique glimpse into Scotland’s natural heritage and offer spectacular walks with views and are located across the country. Adventurous hikers can take on the West Highland Way, a 96-mile challenge between Milngavie and Fort William, or they can cross coast-to-coast on the John Muir Way or follow in the footsteps of pilgrims from centuries ago on the Fife Pilgrim Way. These walks can be enjoyed section by section or as an adventure across several days.

As scene on screen-Launched in November 2022, Set in Scotland is a 52-page guide featuring more than 150 films which have been shot entirely or partially in Scotland – such as Braveheart (1995), Skyfall (2012), Avengers: Infinity War (2018), Avengers: Endgame (2019) and The Batman (2022) – and details more than 100 film locations. Set-jetting is a great way to follow in the footsteps of the legends of TV and film and with two iconic films celebrating big anniversaries in 2023, The Wicker Man (1973) and Local Hero (1983), there’s never been a better time to explore. This handy guide has all the location information needed to plot out a blockbuster trip to Scotland for 2023. The guide and more information can be found at:

From Edinburgh Castle, Iona Abbey and St Andrews Cathedral to Skara Brae, Urquhart Castle and The Falkirk Wheel, there are dozens of exciting attractions and sites across Scotland to visit in 2023.  For more inspiring days out and exclusive offers and discounts visit

The inaugural Australian Juvenile Pipe Band Championships

At the November 2022 Pipe Bands Australia National Council meeting approval was given for a standalone Australian Juvenile Pipe Band Championships to be held as a recurring fixture on the Australian contest calendar every alternate year between occurrences of the Australian Pipe Band Championships.

This initiative will give flourishing juvenile and school programs the opportunity to work towards a major championship on an annual basis.

Developing youth pipe band organisations

Pipe Bands Australia is pleased to announce that the inaugural Australian Juvenile Pipe Band Championships will be hosted and promoted by SCOTS PGC College in 2023. This event will take place Saturday 30 September at the SCOTS PGC College grounds, Warwick, Queensland. It is anticipated that the October long weekend (observed in QLD, ACT, NSW & SA) will be the date for this event in future years.

SCOTS PGC plans a full weekend that will include, in addition to the AJPBC, focused development opportunities such as workshops and recitals for developing youth pipe band organisations that will culminate in an opportunity to showcase Australia’s best pipers and drummers in the Australian Piping and Drumming Solo Championships. Additionally, the wider Warwick community will also be hosting the highly popular CelticFest. In previous years, this event has brought thousands of Celtic cultural devotees to Warwick.

The Scottish Highlands named as one of the ‘Best of the World’ destinations for 2023

The Scottish Highlands has been named as one of National Geographic’s ‘Best of the World’ destinations for 2023. The publication revealed that the region is one of only two UK destinations to make the annual list. It has been shortlisted in the nature category, alongside Botswana, Slovenia, Big Bend National Park in Texas and Azores.

The travel list, which is created, researched, reported and written in collaboration with National Geographic Traveler’s international editorials teams, celebrates Scotland’s rewilding efforts, which aim to restore the original landscape of the Highlands by replanting and restoring native species. It references areas such as Alladale Wilderness Reserve and the Affric Highlands project which will start restoring 500,000 acres stretching from Loch Ness to the West Coast.

Natural assets

In response to the Highlands addition to the National Geographic Best of the World line-up, Tourism Minister Ivan McKee said: “This is excellent news, Scotland continues to go from strength to strength in developing sustainable tourism and to be recognised alongside Botswana and the Azores reinforces that tourism and environmental protection can be developed alongside each other through strategic planning and appropriate interventions. Our scenery is one of the largest draws for our international visitors and it’s important that we preserve it for generations to come. Sustainability is therefore a key strand of our Tourism Strategy: Scotland Outlook 2030 and it’s encouraging to be recognised for this.”

Highland Council Leader, Cllr Raymond Bremner, said: “To have the Highlands shortlisted as one of only two UK destinations in such a prestigious list of nominees is testament to the stunning unspoilt nature of the place we are lucky enough to call home. What is really pleasing is to receive recognition from National Geographic for the efforts in restoring the Highlands’ ecosystems through projects like Affric Highland in the rewilding of 500,000 acres, re-introducing native species, improving biodiversity being carried out in areas like the Alladale Wilderness Reserve, and in the rewilding planned to improve biodiversity across 500,000 acres as part of the Affric Highland Project.”

He added: “Our natural assets bring thousands of visitors to the region every year. Like the rest of the world however we are not immune to the effects of Climate Change. As a region it is vital that we work together in the development of  a more sustainable tourism infrastructure. Areas like the Alladale Wilderness Reserve are proof of what can be achieved when you focus on restoring the balance of nature.”

Main photo: Hillwalker in the ancient Caledonian Pine Forest at Coire Loch, Glen Affric. Photo: VisitScotland/Kenny Lam.

Blockbuster Scotland on Screen

One of the stars of medieval epic blockbusters, Highlander, Braveheart and Outlaw King, and fantasy TV series, Game of Thrones, is fronting a new guide to filming locations in Scotland – in a bid to entice film fans. Scottish acting legend, James Cosmo, who has more than 200 screen credits over the past six decades, pens the foreword to the revamped guidebook, Set in Scotland, published by Scotland’s national tourism organisation, VisitScotland. he 52-page guide features more than 150 films which have been shot entirely or partially in Scotland – such as Braveheart, Skyfall, Avengers: Infinity War, Avengers: Endgame, Fast & Furious 9, and The Batman – and details more than 100 film locations. It can be downloaded from

To date, Scotland has appeared in five of the top 30 highest grossing films of all time, which have brought in a total of $10.6 billion at the box office worldwide. Among them are Avengers: Infinity War and Avengers: Endgame, which showed off Edinburgh’s gothic architecture and the quaint fishing village of St Abbs (which doubled for New Asgard) in the Scottish Borders, respectively.  Following the release of Avengers: Endgame, the fishing village is now ‘twinned’ with New Asgard. Its popularity with film fans has given a visitor bump to nearby nature reserve, St Abb’s Head.

The attraction, cared for by the National Trust for Scotland, saw a 25% increase in visitors, to 63,721, when Endgame was released in 2019. In the two years prior to its release, the attraction had on average 49,000 visitors. Last year’s visitor numbers remained above pre-Avengers levels at 58,862, despite the continuing impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.   Research shows that around one in five visitors (18%) from the USA and 13% from Canada visit a film or TV location while in Scotland. A recent report valued screen tourism at £55 million to the Scottish economy, based on those visiting film and TV locations, creating 1220 full-time jobs.


Actor James Cosmo. Photo: Julie Howden.

Screen tourism – or set-jetting – is a global trend in which film or TV fans are inspired to visit a location after seeing it on screen. It comes in the form of visiting the exact filming location or providing the general motivation to book a holiday to the destination. The trend is long-term, with many visitors citing film titles released long before their trip as motivation, and so can provide ongoing financial support to the regions and businesses linked to popular locations.  On the small screen, Starz TV series Outlander, based on the best-selling books by Diana Gabaldon, has resulted in a huge boom to screen tourism in Scotland since its first broadcast in 2014, particularly from US and Canadian visitors. Visits to Outlander film locations and attractions rose from 1.47 million in 2014 to 3.2 million in 2020.

Actor James Cosmo writes in the foreword: “Throughout my career I have been privileged enough to be involved in many [films] that have made a real connection with audiences worldwide. People still come up to me while in Scotland and tell me they are here because they watched Scottish films such as Braveheart or Highlander. And what is wonderful, is that the films are only the starting point. They then form a strong connection with the real country – it may be because of their ancestors or the feeling they get while they’re here. That stays with them.”

Set in Scotland covers the last 90 years, from Alfred Hitchcock’s 1935 version of The 39 Steps, in which UNESCO World Heritage Site, The Forth Bridge, appears, to The Road Dance, which was filmed on the Isle of Lewis in the Outer Hebrides during the pandemic and released in May this year. Alien, Avengers, Batman, Fast & Furious, and James Bond, are among the global film franchises to have come to Scotland. The guide labels each film by genre, features web links to film themed content on, and contains a new section, Monarchs of the Glens, which focuses on those films linked to Scotland’s kings and queens, from Shakespeare’s Macbeth to the Oscar-winning The Queen.

After the release of medieval epic Braveheart (1995) about Scottish freedom fighter William Wallace, the National Wallace Monument in Stirling, which commemorates the life of William Wallace, reported visitor numbers leapt from 80,000 a year to nearly 200,000 in 1996.  For the 10-year period from 1996 to 2005 the average annual number of visitors to the National Wallace Monument was 135,000, and it has remained above 100,000 over subsequent years.

Dan Brown’s 2003 novel, The Da Vinci Code, had a huge effect on Rosslyn Chapel, in Midlothian, near Edinburgh. Visitor numbers increased by 72 per cent, from 68,603 in 2004 to 118,151 in 2005. In 2006, following the release of the film directed by Ron Howard and starring Tom Hanks, visitor numbers reached 175,053, providing a major cash injection for conservation work at the site.

For more on screen tourism and to download Set in Scotland: 

Major programme of restoration and repair set to start at Rosslyn Castle

A major programme of restoration and repair at one of Midlothian’s most historic sites is to get underway.  Rosslyn Castle, just a short walk from Rosslyn Chapel, was built by the St Clair family and the oldest parts date back to the early 14th century. Although much of the site is ruinous, the East Range, developed as a domestic residence and completed in 1622, is still partly occupied and let as holiday accommodation.

However, some parts of the East Range, the former Great Hall and Tower, have remained in a ruinous state, leading to further deterioration including to the three levels of vaults below ground level. A permanent roof will be built to cover the former Great Hall, to protect important masonry carvings, and the three levels of vaults below. This will also allow a new kitchen and living area to be created at ground level and an additional bedroom to be located in the former Tower. Work will also include the upgrading of the energy efficiency of the whole building and the development of a new sustainable heating strategy.

One of Midlothian’s most historically significant buildings

Rosslyn Castle is category A-listed, recognising its architectural and historic character and its grounds are designated as a Scheduled Monument. The Castle is in the care of Rosslyn Chapel Trust and the East Range has provided self-catering accommodation, through a partnership with The Landmark Trust, since the 1980s. The programme of work is scheduled to last for over a year and access to the ruined areas, and the bridge leading to the Castle, will not be possible during this time. 

Ian Gardner, Director of Rosslyn Chapel Trust, said: ‘We are delighted to be at this very exciting stage when work is about to get underway. This project will help to conserve the East Range of Rosslyn Castle for future generations to appreciate and will transform the quality of the experience for guests staying here. In short, this work will secure the long-term future of one of Midlothian’s most historically significant buildings.’ Rosslyn Chapel Trust has commissioned Page\Park as architects to oversee the work. Karen Nugent, of Page\Park, said: ‘Rosslyn Castle is a special place nestled in the tranquillity of Roslin Glen and we are very pleased to continue our conservation work here with Rosslyn Chapel Trust. The project is a unique opportunity to add a new layer to the historic building and to pioneer sustainable heating systems in a protected setting.’

Rosslyn Chapel Trust was established in 1995. Since then, it concluded a 17-year programme of conservation at Rosslyn Chapel in 2014 and completed a two-year programme of conservation and repair at Collegehill House, the former 17th century inn which stands at the entrance to the Chapel, in 2018.

For more information on Rosslyn Chapel and Castle see:

Central Florida Scottish Highland Games

The Central Florida Scottish Highland Games, the largest community event in Seminole County, is organized each year by the Scottish-American Society of Central Florida. The event was created to promote and preserve the area’s strong Scottish and Celtic heritage. Each January, the two-day gathering welcomes thousands of visitors to Central Winds Park in Winter Springs, just minutes north of Orlando, for a celebration of community and culture.

In 2023, the festivities will begin on Friday evening with the annual whiskey tasting, where visitors are welcome to sample from an array of expertly curated spirits, presented by the Whisky Cabinet – a group of dedicated local whiskey enthusiasts who regularly tour the region to engage, educate and entertain whisky newbies and connoisseurs alike. Things take off on Saturday with a number of competitions in traditional heavy athletics – including the Stone Put and the Caber Toss – Highland dance, bagpiping, and shortbread & scone baking. There is also the popular Boulder Boogie event, where contestants vie for bragging rights of carrying a heaviest rock the farthest distance without dropping it.

A family friendly event

The weekend also hosts several cultural activities, including Border Collie demonstrations, a gathering of Scottish clans, musical performances, a medieval camp, axe throwing, and much more. As always, the festival is a family friendly event featuring “Kids Games” version of the traditional heavy athletics and loads of other activities for the wee ones. Let’s not forget the unique shopping opportunities. The Central Florida Scottish Highland Games features some of the best Celtic artisans presenting jewelry, clothing, artistry, weaponry and more. Get yourself a kilt or new sporran. Add to your Celtic jewelry or purchase items typically found only in Scotland and the UK.

There is plenty of food and drink. Come out and have a beer, wine or whiskey with your haggis, scotch-egg, or fresh fried fish and chips. Finally, there is the Ceilidh, a Scottish and Celtic music fest featuring Albannach, Barley Juice and others performing on the main stage. Whether you are looking to explore your heritage and enjoy a walk through the clan village or cheering on the displays of strength and skill on the athletic fields, or simply enjoy some drink and food with friends while listening to the music, there is something for everyone at the Central Florida Scottish Highland Games.

The Central Florida Scottish Highland Games takes place January 14-15, 2023 in Winter Springs, Florida. Tickets are now on sale at: For more information see:

ScotlandsPeople 1921 Census: Who Will You Find?

The 1921 census records, made up of over 9000 volumes of enumeration district books, have now been released by the National Records of Scotland (NRS) on the online research service ScotlandsPeople. 200,000 images of 4.8 million individual records can now be searched, viewed and downloaded and have been added to the census returns already available on the website, covering every 10 years from 1841. The census is a survey which collects information on every household, building and vessel in Scotland on a particular night. The enumeration books contain all of the information transcribed from the household schedules (which were destroyed after work on the census was completed) and can be seen online as full colour images.

The 1921 census revealed that the population of Scotland had reached 4,882,500 inhabitants; twice as large as had been recorded in 1831, and three times the size as in 1801. The effects of the First World War (1914-1918) and the influenza pandemic known as ‘Spanish ‘Flu’ (1918) had been felt, however, by local communities and were reflected in the 1921 returns. Between the 1911 and 1921 census the male population had grown by 38,803 and the female population by 82,790, totalling 121,593 individuals or a growth of around 2.5%. This was, however, the smallest increase since 1801 in any census period due to war and emigration. Over the years, the questions which formed the census have varied, but all are a guide to what the government at the time wanted to know about its population, including its size and age, location, sex and the variety of occupations employing its citizens. Details captured by the census were used to inform government policy at the time; immediately after the census was taken, as is still the case, statistics were made available publicly for demographic purposes. Today, however, these records offer a rich resource of contemporary information which can be explored by historians and genealogists alike in order to trace people, the history of buildings or local areas.

Delivering the 1921 census

In Scotland the work of delivering the census was led by the Registrar General who relied on a network of registrars and enumerators to get census forms called “schedules” out to every household, filled in and returned. The information from the schedules was then copied into enumeration books by hand. It is images from the pages in those books that customers can find on ScotlandsPeople.  The census of 1921 was taken on 19 June.  Making the personal data of a census available is an unusual undertaking in that it unites two teams of workers 100 years apart. The Census Act of 1920 ensures that once the statistical information has been created from household data the personal information like names, relationships and ages must be kept confidential for 100 years. Only at that point can it be opened for members of the public to view. 

To give people an efficient way of searching, digital copies have been taken of every page of every enumeration book and then every handwritten name transcribed into a computerised index. Quality review work has also been undertaken to improve accuracy.  With a ScotlandsPeople account people can search for their ancestors or other people of interest at no charge with just names and an idea of where they might have been living. There’s a fee to view the images. An account also offers website users handy ways of storing their finds in timelines so key information can be found quickly. The more information about where someone was living the better the chances of finding them. While there are no guarantees that a person is listed it is likely that they will be included if they lived in Scotland at the time. There are online guides full of hints and tips for users. Using the census is a great opportunity to turn detective and NRS invites everyone to tell them: who will you find?

For more information see:

2023 – A Year in Piping & Drumming

By: The National Piping Centre, Glasgow

As we all know, the last couple of years have been tough and it has really been felt by those of us who make music. But we are looking ahead to a 2023 that will be packed with all the things we love – pipe bands playing together, music festivals where we can share the experience of live music once again and the world’s best going head-to-head throughout a full piping and drumming season. 2023 will be a special year for a number of events – read on to find out why!

Glasgow comes alive at the darkest time of year, as the UK’s premier celebration of Celtic music, Celtic Connections returns with a full 18-day programme from 17th January – 5th February to celebrate its 30th Anniversary year. Opening with a spectacular 30th Anniversary concert and featuring high profile traditional musicians such as John McCusker, Treacherous Orchestra and Karine Polwart, as well as a host of up and coming artists, and those pushing the boundaries of their art forms. Head over to the website now find out more –

As well as Celtic Connections, solo pipers are heading to Kansas City once again this January as Winter Storm, organized by MHAF, returns from 12th – 15th January, after a 2-year hiatus. The Competition League for Amateur Solo Pipers also returns in January, with an in-person event in Glasgow on 14th January. This league has an overall and online-only titles so you can compete as an amateur solo player from anywhere in the world. The latest online event saw competitors from Hong Kong to Hawai’i join the event! If you are an amateur player and would like to find out more go to

Southern Hemisphere

There is also a plethora of events in the Southern Hemisphere with pipe band events, solo competitions and more. On 1st January, New Zealand holds its first major solo piping and drumming event of the year and the 150th Anniversary of the Waipu Highland Games. Then from the 11th – 15th January, the Royal New Zealand Pipe Band Association will host its summer school. After a year’s hiatus due to the pandemic, this event returns to Christchurch. This Summer School is the perfect opportunity to learn from world class tutors, and it showcases some of the best talent New Zealand has to offer. The RNZPBA is excited to bring the NZ & South Pacific Pipe Band Championships to Christchurch on Friday 10th and Saturday 11th March. The celebration of Scottish culture and music will include pipe bands from throughout New Zealand and Australia.

Then on 18th February, our National Piping Centre Junior Piping Championship returns, one of a host of fantastic contest for young pipers aged Under 18 across the country every year. It aims to encourage all young players to compete, with chanter competitions through to Piobaireachd events.

The National Piping Centre’s Adult Gatherings return from 6th – 19th February, for the first of four events across the year. You can join these schools in person or online, so you can get tuition from the world’s best, wherever you are across the globe!

In Australia, Ballarat Grammar School in Victoria will host its annual pipe band contest on Sat 25th February.  Pipe Bands Australia is also pleased to announce that the inaugural Australian Juvenile Pipe Band Championships will take place Saturday 30th September at SCOTS PGC College in Warwick, Queensland.

On 11th March, the adult solo piping season kicks off in Scotland with the Duncan Johnstone Memorial Competition which is held at The National Piping Centre and managed by the Competing Pipers’ Association for B and C graded pipers.

The National Piping Centre’s Junior Gatherings return in April, from 3rd – 6th, with 4 schools throughout the year for pipers aged Under 18 to come and immerse themselves in playing, whilst meeting other young pipers.

Scottish summer events

Piping Live!

The annual Chicago Highland Games has rapidly become the largest pipe band competition in North America based on the number of entrants, and the June 2023 edition will see the addition of a Grade 1 competition.  The Glengarry Highland Games take place August 4-5 in Maxville, Ontario, Canada and are home of the North American Pipe Band Championships. The Grades 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5 Band Competitions will take place on Saturday.

As we move into the Scottish summer (keeping everything crossed for some sunshine!) the pipe band season begins in earnest! The Royal Scottish Pipe Band Association have not announced the dates for four of their five major contests yet, with usually happen at the end of May, middle and end of June and at the end of July. However, the date for this year’s World Pipe Band Championships has been announced as the 18th and 19th August. Keep up with all the pipe band news at

Piping Live! returns in full force to the streets of Glasgow in the run up to the World’s once again as Glasgow hosts the world’s biggest week of piping! This year, we are celebrating the 20th edition of our festival running from 12th – 20th August, which attracts performers and audiences from across the world. In 2022, we welcomed performers from Iran, Hungary and Estonia performing on their own styles of bagpipes, as well as Scottish Pipe Bands from Argentina, USA and Canada, as well as from across Scotland. We can’t wait for the 20th edition – keep up with what’s happening and register for email updates at

Solo competitions

The Glenfiddich Piping Championship.

The annual Chicago Highland Games has rapidly become the largest pipe band competition in North America based on the number of entrants, and the June 2023 edition will see the addition of a Grade 1 competition.  At the end of August, the piping world turns its focus to top level solo competition, with the Argyllshire Gathering taking place in Oban on 23rd and 24th August, and the Northern Meeting in Inverness happening on 31st August – 1st September. These see the world’s best solo performers gather to compete for the most prestigious solo piping prizes, as well as a chance to qualify for the Glenfiddich Piping Championship.

The Glenfiddich Piping Championship takes place at the end of October each year, and in 2023 will celebrate its 50th event on Saturday 28th October. 10 competitors will gather at Blair Castle to compete in Piobaireachd and March, Strathspey and Reel disciplines to be crowned champion. As it is a special year there will be a host of extra special moments planned. Tickets to join us in person at Blair Castle or to watch through the livestream will go on sale around mid-July through the National Piping Centre website.

But October isn’t all about solo piping, as on Saturday 21st October, the World Solo Drumming Championship takes place, here in Glasgow, with the best drummers gathering to compete of several rounds to be crowned the best. Inveraray and District’s Steven McWhirter has won a record 10th straight title in 2022, so let’s see what 2023 brings!

The Glenfiddich Piping Championship marks the end of the 2023 season, only for the 2024 season to start the very next weekend in London with the Scottish Piping Society of London’s annual competition, which has its 85th year in 2023. Also, in the USA and Canada there are several piping events through November, with the An Crios Gréine – Sun Belt Invitational Solo Piping Competition taking place in Florida and the George Sherriff Memorial Invitational for amateur players taking place in Hamilton Ontario. Dates for these events will be confirmed later this year.

So, if you are travelling this year, come and hear piping in Scotland – or look out for it around the world!

You can find out more about all The National Piping Centre’s projects at or get the latest news and results from the piping world at which will give you details of events happening across the globe.

Editorial – The Scottish Banner Says….

January – 2023 (Vol. 46, Number 07)

Dunnottar Castle. Photo: VisitScotland/Luigi Di Pasquale.

The Banner Says…

Lighting up a New Year

As we all look at a New Year upon us with this issue for many (and certainly for those in Scotland) this will be some of the darkest, and coldest, days of the year this month. Of course, our Australian and New Zealand readers will be trying to keep cool as they look to take in the height of summer.

The powerful symbol of fire

Scottish tradition has long incorporated the powerful symbol of fire during the dark winter nights and January is no exception to this. Hogmanay celebrations are still a huge part of Scottish culture and let’s face it the Scots know how to throw a party!

Hogmanay or New Year’s Eve, also known as Oidhche Challainn in Gaelic, is the biggest annual celebration in Scotland. The use of fire on this night is famous the world over today but has been part of Scottish tradition for centuries. People would light fires and candles for luck for the coming year ahead, if you lost your fire it was thought to be bad luck for the household in the coming year.

In many parts of Gaelic speaking Scotland children would often go from house to house on New Year’s Day and burn a sheep candle, which was sheep meat dipped in wax. Each house would offer fire for luck and protection and each member of the household would have the flame around their head, should that flame go out it was likely that person would have bad luck or worse death in the year ahead. While fire is still a focus, some may be surprised to know that not all of Scotland has celebrated the New Year on December 31st.

In Moray, the Burning of the Clavie has its origins in Pagan rituals and in fact acknowledges New Year on January 11th. The Burning of the Clavie is a Pictish celebration of the ancient Scots Hogmanay, which fell on January 11 before the Gregorian calendar was introduced in Britain in the 18th century. The event involves lighting a 100kg barrel of tar which is then carried around the town. The Clavie is then taken up Dorie Hill before being allowed to burn out and tumble down the hill. Locals then gather around the smoking remains as it is supposed to bring good luck for the year ahead. Other parts of Scotland that have had a different New Year include on January 12th on Berneray in the Outer Hebrides and Foula in the Shetland Isles who celebrate on January 13th.

Up Helly Aa

The largest fire festival in Europe happens to also take place this month in Lerwick on Shetland. Up Helly Aa is a fire festival in Shetland where 1,000 torch bearers, led by the Jarl Squad Viking, march through Lerwick and set fire to a Viking replica longship. This year amazingly will be the first that will allow females to take part as torchbearers since this iconic Norse event began in the early 1800s. The celebration of Shetland and Viking culture uses fire as a main focus of the events energy with a torchlight procession marching through the streets, culminating with fires burning throughout the night. The fires of tradition burn throughout winter in Scotland with Up Helly Aas traditionally taking place in various locations from January through to March.

In this issue

As we welcome in the New Year with this issue, we highlight some of the great things you can experience in Scotland in the year ahead. I am looking forward to my first visit to Scotland this month, after a few years absence. We also hear from our friends at the National Piping Centre in Glasgow on just some of the array of events taking place across the piping and drumming world in Scotland and the globe. Whether you play in a band or are just a fan of the sound of Scotland, there will be plenty of opportunities to hear the pipes and drums throughout 2023.

Stonehaven is a small and picturesque town, located just south of Aberdeen, on the Aberdeenshire coast. With a picture postcard harbour and the stunning and dramatic Dunnottar Castle located minutes from the town centre, it is a great spot to enjoy for a
day or longer. Stonehaven is one place I have only managed to visit once and it was for lunch, and it is on my list of not only places to return to, but for a longer period to take in its charm and beauty.

All of Scotland stopped for a moment late November as Scottish rugby legend Doddie Weir, who won sixty-one caps for Scotland, passed away at the age of 52. Weir was diagnosed with motor neurone disease in December 2016 and used his profile to raise money and highlight the need for better research and care. Though his rugby skills will forever be remembered it will be the determination and humanity he showed Scotland and the world throughout his illness which will define him forever, a statement from his family certainly summed up what the nation thought of Weir when they called him an “inspirational force of nature”.

Robert Burns

On the 25 January people across Scotland and the world will pay tribute to the life and cultural legacy of poet Robert Burns. Born in Ayrshire on January 25, 1759, Robert Burns is Scotland’s national bard and still today is one of Scotland’s most famous Scots. Burns would never have imagined his legacy would be so far reaching and long lasting, nor could he ever have contemplated a fame like he has achieved during his short lifetime, Burns died a poor man at just the age of 37. Perhaps you will attend a Burns Supper this year or simply raise a dram to one of Scotland’s greatest sons.

I hope you not only find a way to enjoy Burns Night, but I wish you and yours a safe, happy and healthy 2023 ahead.

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Auld lang syne

Perhaps Burns’s most famous song, these lines are sung across the world on Hogmanay. However, this is not Burns’s original work. It was one of the traditional ballads he heard as he travelled around Scotland, and he wrote it down (with the music) in 1788. Burns reworked the piece (quite how much is unknown) and sent it to George Thomson in 1793 to be published in A Select Collection of Original Scotish Airs for the Voice. In a letter to Thomson, Burns described ‘the old song of the olden times, & which has never been in print, nor even in manuscript, untill I took it down from an old man’s singing.’ An earlier version of the song also appeared in Jame Johnson’s Scots Musical Museum.

One of Burns’s greatest legacies (in addition to his own works) was this transcription of hundreds of traditional ballads, which may otherwise have been lost. Auld lang syne roughly translates as ‘for old time’s sake’, a fitting song to be sung at the end of the year and other big occasions such as Scottish ceilidhs, weddings and, of course, Burns Suppers. It has become traditional in Scotland to hold hands in a large circle for the first five verses and then, at the end of the fifth verse, singers cross their arms (still holding their neighbours’ hands!) and run into the middle of the circle.

Auld lang syne

Should auld acquaintance be forgot,

And never brought to mind?

Should auld acquaintance be forgot,

And auld lang syne?


For auld lang syne, my dear,

For auld lang syne.

We’ll tak a cup o’ kindness yet,

For auld lang syne!

And surely ye’ll be your pint-stowp!

And surely I’ll be mine,

And we’ll tak a cup o’ kindness yet,

For auld lang syne!


We twa hae run about the braes,

And pou’d the gowans fine;

But we’ve wander’d mony a weary fit,

Sin’ auld lang syne.


We twa hae paidl’d in the burn,

Frae morning sun till dine;

But seas between us braid hae roar’d

Sin’ auld lang syne.


And there’s a hand, my trusty fere!

And gie’s a hand o’ thine!

And we’ll tak a right gude-willie waught,

For auld lang syne.


Handy glossary: pint-stowp = tankard of ale; pou’d = pulled; gowans = daisies; braid = broad; fere = companion; gude-willie waught = good hearty swig.

Text and image courtesy of the National Trust for Scotland. For more information on the Trust or to help them protect Scotland’s heritage see:

Main photo: A section of Burns’s handwritten manuscript for Auld lang syne.

New 250-mile Coast to Coast cycle route gets green light

An exciting new 250 mile on-road cycle route covering the length of the South of Scotland has received the green light to progress to delivery stage. The Coast to Coast route will run from Stranraer to Eyemouth, making it one of the longest in the UK and a new challenge for experienced cyclists. Walking and cycling routes can deliver significant economic, environmental and community benefits, and early projections are that the new South of Scotland Coast to Coast route could attract up to 175,000 new visitors to the region, with a direct spend of £13.7million per year.  

The project is aiming to be delivered in time for the 2023 UCI World Championships in Glasgow and across Scotland. Three of the 13 Championships are taking place in the South of Scotland in August next year, allowing visitors to the South to try the new route during or after the Championships. Riders who want to test themselves can tackle the Coast to Coast Challenge route over four days but are highly recommended to slow down, immerse themselves and enjoy more of what the South of Scotland has to offer by completing the Explorer route over eight days or more. The Coast to Coast announcement follows the launch of the first ever South of Scotland Cycling Partnership Strategy in September, which aims to ensure cycling becomes the most popular choice for shorter, everyday journeys by 2032. The Strategy also has a vision for the region to be recognised as Scotland’s leading cycling destination and a world-class cycling destination of excellence.

Home of the bike

Councillor Scott Hamilton, Scottish Borders Council’s Executive Member for Community and Business Development, said: “The development of this route could deliver very significant benefits to communities all the way from Eyemouth to Stranraer and we continue to work closely with the partners involved to bring it to fruition. It is through initiatives such as this that we can really build upon the region’s cycling heritage and already significant reputation for cycling and truly make the South of Scotland the ‘Home of the Bike’.”

Tourism Minister Ivan McKee added: “The South of Scotland is already recognised as a destination that offers a wide range of experiences and activities for visitors including walking and cycling. The creation of the Coast to Coast cycling route will support the Scottish Government’s ambition of delivering economic, environmental and community benefits to our regions through sustainable tourism. The route is part of the momentum building towards the 2023 UCI Cycling World Championships in August, which is bringing three of the 13 Championships to the South of Scotland and encouraging participation in cycling across the region.”

Strathblane-Between the Ranges

Words and images by: David McVey

I grew up in Kirkintilloch. Until the 1980s the town had a two-hourly bus service to Strathblane. In half-an-hour it swept us from our declining post-industrial hometown, westwards along the wooded lower slopes of the Campsie Fells, to a prosperous rural village squeezed between two hill ranges. To the west were the Kilpatricks, to the east, perhaps the most impressive face of the Campsies. In every direction there was promise for outdoor enthusiasts. I was a regular on the Strathblane bus. It was my escape to adventure.

In 1933, the prolific travel writer Ian C Lees wrote that ‘The rich valley of the Blane… is the finest place for trampers within easy reach of Glasgow.’  It was true then; it was true in the 1980s and it is true now. And I wish we still used the word ‘tramper’. Today, though, it is perhaps easier to find peace and quiet there than in the 1930s, as the real enthusiasts hurtle north in their cars to Glencoe, the Trossachs or Arrochar.

A word about names. Blanefield (the ultimate destination of that bus from Kirkintilloch) and Strathblane are conjoined villages that straddle the A81 between Aberfoyle and Glasgow. Strathblane is the village; the valley is Strath Blane, drained by the Blane Water, a river that finally runs via the Endrick into Loch Lomond.

An outdoor paradise

The Pipe Track.

At the heart of Strathblane, where the A891 joins the A81, is the Kirkhouse Inn. It is said to date from the 17th century and happily has survived Covid. When the Kirkhouse was new, Strathblane, protected by a belt of high ground to the south, must have felt especially remote. However, in the 1860s the arrival of the railway brought the village into the Glasgow commuter belt.  Owing to that high ground to the south, the trains arrived circuitously, via Kirkintilloch and Lennoxtown, and the line eventually extended to Balfron and Aberfoyle. The railway lost its passenger service in 1951 and was closed completely in 1959 (our bus from Kirkintilloch, now also gone, originated as its partial replacement). But, as we will see, it’s still an important travel route today.

Just north of Strathblane/Blanefield is Duntreath Castle, the home of the Edmonstone family who remain significant landowners here. The castle is private though its gardens are sometimes open to the public. In 1909 crowds flocked to Blanefield Station when King Edward VII arrived there for a visit to Duntreath. He was greeted by Sir Archibald Edmonstone of Duntreath and the Duke of Montrose. Crowds also turned out to see the King when he attended Strathblane Parish Church on the Sunday. Edward had visited Duntreath before, when he was Prince of Wales. There’s speculation that he may have made other, more clandestine visits; Mrs Alice Keppel, with whom he had a long affair, was Sir Archibald’s sister. Duntreath had its own small railway siding, and it has been suggested that Edward travelled on ordinary service trains and had them stop here so that he could make secret visits to Mrs Keppel at her birthplace. I am sceptical about this; the king, travelling on a humble local train that stops unexpectedly in the middle of nowhere so that he can hurry away? That would surely attract attention, not avoid it?

Nowadays the trackbed of the railway east of the village is a walking and cycle path that runs all the way to Kirkintilloch while the West Highland Way also follows the railway north-west through Strath Blane. The John Muir Way uses the path from Kirkintilloch to Strathblane and then climbs up to Mugdock before continuing through the Kilpatrick Hills. These routes all help to make Strathblane an outdoor paradise. Mugdock is also home to a much-loved country park. And then there’s The Pipe Track.

Feels remote, even though it is not

Glengoyne Distillery.

The Pipe Track begins as a quiet suburban drive, climbing steeply from Strathblane’s War Memorial. A couple of hours on the track, with spectacular views ahead to the hills around Loch Lomond, will take you to the village of Killearn, from where you can take a bus back to Strathblane. But on the walk you will notice some odd stone towers and bridges. These are associated with the Loch Katrine Aqueduct which takes sweet fresh water from the Trossachs to reservoirs at Milngavie. This astonishing civil engineering project was carried out in the 1850s with the intention of providing Glasgow with clean water. Today, with an extension dating from the 1870s, it still does. The Pipe Track was originally a service road for the building of the aqueduct.

The farm of Blairquhosh, just beyond Blanefield, was famous in the early days of Scottish tourism for its Muckle Tree – sadly no longer with us except as a sad roadside stump. Further on is a current tourist draw, the Glengoyne Distillery, famous for its single malts. It is a picturesque facility with the peak of Dumgoyne towering above. Many visitors must think they are in the Highlands. The B10 bus serves Glengoyne from Glasgow and Strathblane and you can walk there using either the West Highland Way or the Pipe Track.


Returning to Strathblane’s War Memorial, just across the road are some rows of cottages that were built for people who worked in a massive now vanished calico works that once dominated the area. In 1941, during the Second World War, two landmines fell on the village. The Clydeside Blitz was raging, and it is probable that the German bombers were simply shedding their loads before heading for home. One of the landmines landed just across the road from the war memorial and destroyed a block called ‘Sunnyside’. Four people were killed, including a mother and her two children who had been evacuated from Clydebank to avoid air raids. A plaque near the parish church commemorates the tragedy.

The Campsies are the dominating feature of Strathblane, with the pointy green alp of Dumgoyne and the mighty crags of Slackdhu. If Slackdhu seems familiar, it may be because you are a Monty Python fan. They stood in for South Africa in the Zulu sequence of Monty Python’s Meaning of Life. You would not ever really mistake Strathblane for the veldt. Yet it feels remote, even though it is not.

The Hayland Gathering

Hear, hear the plains are calling! The inaugural Hayland Gathering is being held on Saturday 11th March 2023 in the rural town of Hay, NSW. Commencing with a street march followed by the official opening, the Hayland Gathering will host the Riverina Scottish Highland Dancing Titles, Highland Muscle Heavy Event competition, Pipe Band displays and masses bands, Clan Tents, stalls, athletics events including the kilted dash, children’s entertainment, finishing with a Ceilidh and fireworks.

It is the first highland gathering to be held in the town, ironically the flattest place in Australia, and the committee is looking forward to the Scottish community gathering in Hay. The Hayland Gathering is pleased to promote a special performance at the gathering and ceilidh by one of the world’s leading junior Highland dancers, 17 year old Morven Johnston from Perth, WA. Morven was born in the small weaving village of Kilbarchan in the West of Scotland and immigrated to Perth, Western Australia in 2010 at the age of 4. She has been involved in Highland dancing from the early age of 3 and has been dancing at the Scottish Highland Dance Academy, under the watchful eye of her teacher Kerry Grosser, since she first arrived in Australia.

Throughout her dancing career Morven has won over 80 plus State, Interstate and National championships within Australia including multiple International, Grand Australasian and Australian Commonwealth Championships together with the Junior Champion of Champions.  She has also regularly competed at the highest level on the international stage, notably winning 4 Scottish Championships at Cowal together with a 6th in 2018 at age 13 and a 3rd in 2019 at 14 in the Juvenile World Championship final.

Highland dancing

Unfortunately, covid stopped Morven, like many other dancers around the world, from finishing their final years in their world age groups. Although not known at the time, no one would return to Cowal until 2022. Having previously won a USIR (USA) open championship, Morven was honoured to win the 17 years Canadian open championship in 2022. All great achievements from a place as remote as Western Australia.

Excited to finally be back in Scotland, Morven started her 2022 campaign with a win in the Bute Championship in Rothesay, followed by a win in the Commonwealth Championship in Stirling the following week, a win in her Junior World final heat and then finishing with runner up in the Junior World Final at Cowal on the Saturday. All capping off a great year of doing what she loves “highland dancing”. In parallel to her dancing, Morven has continued to develop a strong connection with her Scottish heritage by learning to play the bagpipes throughout her school career, becoming the Pipe Corporal in her final year. Morven is currently finishing her last year of school at PLC in Perth, WA.

Whilst continuing to actively compete at the highest level of competition across the globe, Morven is also keen to focus on obtaining her teaching qualification and be ready to help SHDA develop the next generation of highland dancers in Western Australia. The Hayland Gathering is delighted to have Morven join us to share her love of dance.

More information on the Hayland Gathering can be gained by following the Facebook page, emailing [email protected] or contacting the Hayland Gathering convenor Kylie Kerr on 0417 052 491.

Main photo: Highland dancer Morven Johnston.

Neolithic culinary traditions uncovered

A team of scientists, led by the University of Bristol, has uncovered intriguing new insights into the diet of people living in Neolithic Britain and found evidence that cereals, including wheat, were cooked in pots. Using chemical analysis of ancient, and incredibly well-preserved pottery found in the waters surrounding small artificial islands called crannogs in Scotland, the team were able to discern that cereals were cooked in pots and mixed with dairy products and occasionally meat, probably to create early forms of gruel and stew. They also discovered that the people visiting these crannogs used smaller pots to cook cereals with milk and larger pots for meat-based dishes. 

Cereal cultivation

Aerial view of the crannog at Loch Langabhat. Photo: Fraser Sturt.

Cereal cultivation in Britain dates back to around 4000 BCE was probably introduced by migrant farmers from continental Europe. This is evidenced by some, often sparse and sporadic, recovery of preserved cereal grains and other debris found at Neolithic sites. At this time pottery was also introduced into Britain and there is widespread evidence for domesticated products like milk products in molecular lipid fingerprints extracted from the fabric of these pots. However, with exception for millet, it has not yet been possible to detect molecular traces of accompanying cereals in these lipid signatures, although these went on to become a major staple that dominates the global subsistence economy today.

Previously published analysis of Roman pottery from Vindolanda (Hadrian’s Wall) demonstrated that specific lipid markers for cereals can survive absorbed in archaeological pottery preserved in waterlogged conditions and be detectable through a high-sensitivity approach but, importantly this was ‘only’ 2,000 years old and from contexts where cereals were well-known to have been present. The new findings reported now show that cereal biomarkers can be preserved for thousands of years longer under favourable conditions. Another fascinating element of this research was the fact that many of the pots analysed were intact and decorated which could suggest they may have had some sort of ceremonial purpose. Since the actual function of the crannogs themselves is also not fully understood yet (with some being far too small for permanent occupation) the research provides new insights into possible ways these constructions were used.

Culinary traditions of early farmers

Photo reconstruction of one of the pots from Loch Langabhat. Photo: Mike Copper.

During analysis, cereal biomarkers were widely detected (one third of pots), providing the earliest biomolecular evidence for cereals in absorbed pottery residues in this region. The findings indicate that wheat was being cooked in pots, despite the fact that the limited evidence from charred plant parts in this region of Atlantic Scotland points mainly to barley. This could be because wheat is under-represented in charred plant remains as it can be prepared differently (e.g., boiled as part of stews), so not as regularly charred or because of more unusual cooking practices. Cereal markers were strongly associated with lipid residues for dairy products in pots, suggesting they may have been cooked together as a milk-based gruel.

The research was led by Drs Simon Hammann and Lucy Cramp at the University of Bristol’s Department of Anthropology and Archaeology. Dr Hammann said: “It’s very exciting to see that cereal biomarkers in pots can actually survive under favourable conditions in samples from the time when cereals (and pottery) were introduced in Britain. Our lipid-based molecular method can complement archaeobotanical methods to investigate the introduction and spread of cereal agriculture.” Dr Cramp added: “This research gives us a window into the culinary traditions of early farmers living at the north-western edge of Europe, whose lifeways are little understood. It gives us the first glimpse of the sorts of practices that were associated with these enigmatic islet locations.”

Crannog sites in the Outer Hebrides are currently the focus of the four-year Arts and Humanities Research Council-funded ‘Islands of Stone’ project, directed by two of the papers’ authors (Duncan Garrow from the University of Reading and Fraser Sturt from the University of Southampton) along with Angela Gannon, Historic Environment Scotland. The next stage of the research at the University of Bristol is an exploration of the relationship between these islets and other Neolithic occupation sites in the Hebridean region and beyond as well as more extensive comparative study of the use of different vessel forms through surviving lipid residues.

Main photo: One of the first pots to be discovered, an Unstan Bowl from Loch Arnish. Photo: Chris Murray.

Saving Kinloch Castle

Kinloch Castle on the isle of Rum is an ornate castle which was built by George Bullough, son of a rich industrialist and friend of the Japanese emperor in the 19th century. It was once a place where the fashionable set of the day including aristocrats and actors would visit. Now frozen in time but slowly crumbling despite all sorts of plans over the years, including intervention by the then Prince Charles, the castle is looking for help to secure its future as a key part of the small island community as Judy Vickers explains.

In fairy tales when a knight in shining armour arrives at a castle for a rescue, it’s generally a princess locked up inside who needs his assistance. In real life, however, on the Hebridean island of Rum, it’s the castle itself which needs help – and the knight in shining armour isn’t being welcomed by everyone.

The castle in question is next to the island’s tiny village of Kinloch. It is a pink-stoned turn-of-the-century crumbling pile owned by NatureScot, Scotland’s government-owned nature agency which has been trying to find a buyer and secure a viable future for it for years. The knight is multi-millionaire businessman Jeremy Hosking, who is said to be willing to buy it, stump up the millions to restore it and put it into a trust in order to open it to the public.

The news of Mr Hosking’s involvement earlier this year was welcomed by politicians, heritage experts and the campaign group Friends of Kinloch Castle. But some of those living in Kinloch aren’t so keen on the prospective new owner and have convinced a government minister to put a hold on the sale.

It’s just the latest twist in the tale of the castle which was once a playground for the rich with Gaiety Girls allegedly dancing on the grand piano and hummingbirds filling the conservatory but which is now more of a castle under a spell, its opulent Edwardian interiors frozen in time, waiting for a knight with deep pockets to stop their slow decay.

The most ostentatious shooting lodge ever

Interior of Kinloch Castle. Photo: Lorne Gill/NatureScot.

Kinloch is now the only inhabited settlement on the island of Rum (sometimes written Rhum or Rùm). The diamond-shaped island is one of the four main Small Isles of the Inner Hebrides off the west coast of Scotland. The others are Eigg, famous for its community buyout 25 years ago; Canna, owned by the National Trust for Scotland; and Muck, privately owned by the MacLean family – Lawrence MacLean, who died in May, was known as the Prince of Muck. Rum has always been at the whim of its wealthy owners. When the kelp industry – used to make soda ash for explosives – dried up after the Napoleonic Wars, the island was given over to sheep farming and within less than 40 years a population of more than 400 had been cleared by the owners, the Macleans.

It was then owned by a succession of wealthy landowners, when it became known as the Forbidden Island as uninvited island visitors were discouraged – there was no ferry service in those days. In 1884, John Bullough, a mill owner from Lancashire in England, became the latest of those rich landlords. He bought the castle to create a shooting pleasure park, introducing deer and game birds, and when his son George inherited it in 1891 he built perhaps the most ostentatious shooting lodge ever – Kinloch Castle.

The castle took three years to build, from 1897 to 1900, with pink sandstone imported from the island of Arran and 250,000 tons of soil for the gardens. It was state-of-the-Edwardian-art with a hydro-electric scheme, one of the first at a private residence in Scotland, allowing electric lights and air conditioning – there was also double glazing and an inter-room telephone system, as well as a lavish interior décor with mahogany panelling, stags’ heads, tiger skins and Eastern exotic treasures, many gifts from the Emperor of Japan, whom George had struck up a friendship with while sailing the world on his 221-ft yacht the Rhouma.

A special German-built orchestrion, an elaborate electric pipe organ designed to simulate the sound of an entire orchestra, had originally been ordered by Queen Victoria, destined for Balmoral Castle, but her death saw it diverted to join the other extravagances at Kinloch. Outside, a domed glasshouse – which later blew down in a storm – was full of hummingbirds, turtles and alligators (the latter in heated tanks), while the walled garden was lined with hothouses containing peach and fig trees. While the scratches on the grand piano were actually made when a brass incense burner was knocked over rather than the heels of dancing London chorus girls, the castle’s heyday did see parties full of bright young things fill the ballroom, billiard room, galleried hall, dining room, drawing room, morning room, squash court, bowling green or small golf course – and of course out on the hills shooting for the fashionable “Highland season”.

Opulent grandeur has been quietly decaying

It was a brief moment in the sun, however. There was little time, money or manpower for such frivolities in the aftermath of the First World War. George – Sir George from 1901 when he was knighted for turning his beloved yacht into a hospital ship during the Second Boer War – died in 1939. His widow, Lady Monica Bullough, sold the island to the Nature Conservancy Council, a forerunner of NatureScot, in 1957 “to be used as a nature reserve in perpetuity and Kinloch Castle maintained as far as may be practical” and Rum became a National Nature Reserve the same year. Only the family’s mausoleum remains in their ownership.

The island’s natural assets have since thrived – sheep and cattle were taken off the island and the natural woodland scrub allowed to return. The island’s famous red deer now form part of an internationally important study and eagles, both white-tailed and golden, as well as otters, dolphins and basking sharks are among the wildlife frequently spotted on land, sea and air. The introduction of the Small Isles ferry in 2004, complete with a new pier on Rum at Kinloch, means the once forbidden isle is now popular with tourists keen to hillwalk the Rum Cuillin, wildlife spot or enjoy its quiet beaches.

Isle of Rum. Photo: John MacPherson/NatureScot.

Even the population, which dwindled from 100 in 1900 to 28 in 1951 and remained at just over 20 for many years, has seen an increase in recent years. The Isle of Rum Community Trust has seen some of village transferred to community ownership and has built new homes, successfully attracting new families in 2020 and boosting the population to around 40.

But the last half a century has not been so kind to the castle and, despite some restoration by NatureScot, its opulent grandeur has been quietly decaying. The servants’ quarters were used as a hostel up until 2015 but now even that is closed and leaks, with dry rot and woodworm having taken hold. The castle’s appearance on the 2003 TV programme Restoration highlighted its plight and there were various schemes proposed including one from The Prince of Wales’s Regeneration Trust. But all have come to nothing so far. NatureScot has warned the public purse cannot afford its upkeep and a solution must be found soon. So will Mr Hosking, a noted railway enthusiast who has funded many steam heritage projects, be the saviour this sleeping beauty castle has been searching for, with the islanders’ fears over access roads and energy supplies overcome? Only time will tell.

The Maryborough Highland Gathering- A New Year celebration like no other

There aren’t too many events in Australia that can claim to have thrived and survived for over 150 years and after a two-year hiatus, the Maryborough Highland Gathering is back for its 160th instalment this New Year’s Day. Maryborough’s Highland Gathering was originally formed by Scottish squatters and businessmen in an attempt to recreate the New Year celebrations of their native home.

Today, the Highland Gathering attracts people from all across the country – athletes, dancers, musicians, and those who just want to soak up the incredible atmosphere of piped bands and traditional Scottish culture. The program has something for everyone.

A great way to celebrate the new year

A piped band street parade, all-day athletics, highland dancing on two stages all day, Highland games and traditional strongmen event. Track events on the day range from 70-metre sprints to middle-distance races over 1500 metres. There are events for both men and women, including veterans. The athletics program culminates with the running of the $15,000 Max Martin Memorial Maryborough Gift, contested over 120 metres; now one of the country’s most prestigious footraces.

Anyone who’s attended the event over the past 35 years will have a lasting memory of the Girl on the Drum spectacular that has become a highlight of the New Year celebrations. It features a highland dancer atop a base drum, lifted to the shoulders of three burly Scots. Flanked by a full piped band and other traditional dancers, it really is a sight and sound spectacular not to be missed. There is plenty to keep the kids entertained too, with games, sideshows and rides happening throughout the day. The day concludes with a free evening concert and fireworks display – a great way to celebrate the new year.

The Maryborough Highland Gathering takes place on January 1st, 2023 in Maryborough, Victoria. Entry to Princes Park is $16 for adults, $8 for seniors, with children under 16 free. For more information call 03 5461 1480 or visit

Hogman-eh! ’22

Join the Scottish Society of Ottawa for the eleventh celebration of Hogman-eh! – the annual Scottish-style New Year’s Eve celebration and the largest Hogmanay celebration outside of Scotland. This is a family friendly way to close off the past year and to ring in the new. The Scottish Society of Ottawa is happy to celebrate it with you in-person and in the comfort of your home!

Two Ways to Celebrate!

Celebrate the coming of the New Year with family and friends at Lansdowne Park with brilliant live entertainment! Rock the night with Mariner’s Curse, The Mudmen, and Alan Frew Band! Experience a brilliant firework show, Highland dancers including eight-time World Champion Marielle Lespérance, pipes and drums, Scottish historical booths, a Climate Café, enjoy food and drink, and of course there will be Scotch whisky! Limited tickets will be available for the event.

Prefer to celebrate in the comfort of your own home? Enjoy our spectacular free live streaming event with some of the evening’s highlights. Online entertainment available on our Facebook page, YouTube channel or at

Ceud mìle fàilte! That is Gaelic for one hundred thousand welcomes. More than just a greeting, this phrase is a symbol, to tell you that whoever you are, or wherever you are from, we welcome you!

Visit for details and tickets. 

Share a Story about Rosslyn Chapel

People around the world are being invited to share a story about Rosslyn Chapel, as part of Scotland’s Year of Stories 2022, with the aim of adding a variety of personal reminiscences to the Chapel’s archive.   

Rosslyn Chapel, which was founded in 1446, has featured in a number of stories, most notably Dan Brown’s novel, The Da Vinci Code, which led to a large increase in visit to the Midlothian site. The Chapel has, though, attracted visitors for generations, with early visitors recording their stories in travel journals. In one of the earliest, Thomas Kirk describes the story of the Apprentice Pillar in his Tours in Scotland, dated 12 August 1677. Now, Rosslyn Chapel Trust is looking to add stories and memories of more recent visits to its archives.

Pass it on to future generations

Ian Gardner, Director of Rosslyn Chapel Trust, said: ‘We often hear stories and memories about Rosslyn Chapel and now we want to record these for the future as part of our archive. This year, designated Scotland’s Year of Stories 2022, provides the perfect opportunity for us to do that. Whether you have visited in the past, or attended an event, a church service, wedding or concert, please share your story with us so that we can pass it on to future generations’.

Stories can be emailed to [email protected] or shared through Rosslyn Chapel Trust’s Facebook page. A selection of stories will be published on the Chapel’s website.    

Rosslyn Chapel was built for Sir William St Clair and was incomplete when he died in 1484. The beauty of its setting and the mysterious symbolism of its ornate stonework have inspired, attracted and intrigued visitors ever since. The Chapel came to worldwide prominence when it featured in the novel The Da Vinci Code and the subsequent film. The Chapel is open to visitors daily and tickets can be booked on the Chapel’s website

Led by VisitScotland, the Year of Stories 2022 sustains and builds upon the momentum of preceding Themed Years, showcasing a nationwide programme of major events and community celebrations.  Scotland’s Year of Stories 2022 spotlights, celebrates and promotes the wealth of stories inspired by, written, or created in Scotland. 

Castle of Light returns to the capital this winter with all new illuminated trail

Edinburgh Castle will transform into a ‘Kingdom of Colours’ this winter as the capital’s most iconic landmark is illuminated with state-of-the-art projections to highlight stories from Scotland’s history. Guests can expect a truly immersive experience as Edinburgh Castle is brought to life once again through spectacular light and sound displays to brighten up the darker months. Bursting with colour and spectacular illuminations, the Kingdom of Colours theme promises to offer visitors the chance to see the castle in a whole new light this winter. Set to showcase the castle’s stories as ‘defender of the nation’, the historic moments dating back 800 years will be displayed through many thematic zones.

Drawing inspiration from kaleidoscope patterns, this year’s projections include a mix of geometric designs depicting stories from Scotland’s past, transforming the castle with light, sound and wonder like never before. Stephen Duncan, Director of Marketing and Engagement at Historic Environment Scotland, which operates Edinburgh Castle, said: “We’re excited to be back for another year but this time we’re bringing together even more storytelling, music and extraordinary displays to build our biggest show to date. We felt it was important that we continued to bring light and joy to the capital during the darker months. We hope that much of the community and visitors to the city are able to experience the wonder of Castle of Light in 2022.”

Castle of Light is now on until Friday 30 December 2022. For more information visit:

Clan Hororata welcomed 10,000 people to the 11th Hororata Highland Games

Kilts swirled, drums played, bagpipes sang, cabers were tossed, and ropes tugged as 600 competitors competed in all the traditional Scottish sports at Hororata Highland Games in November.  The Games, located just outside Christchurch, hosted the first Pipe Band competition in 18 months with 20 bands traveling from all over the South Island to compete. They combined to play together in the massed bands’ march which brought a tear to people’s eyes as the sound wave of bagpipes and drums rolled over the huge crowd. 

Adam Millar, Terry Sparkes, Jeremy Hogg and Craig Manson with Chieftain Kate Foster. Photo:  Cindy Driscoll.

Heavy athletes from Australia and New Zealand battled for the Oceania Heavyweight Championship over eight disciplines including the Caber Toss and the Hororata Stones. Australian, Terry Sparkes retained the title giving him back-to-back wins, albeit with a three-year gap for this international Championship as it was last run in 2019. The Games also hosted the New Zealand Heavyweight Championship which Ashburton’s Craig Manson won. The Women’s Championship was hotly contested with Australian Lily Riley winning.

Strongwoman Lily Riley.

Strongwoman, Red Wiard travelled from Brisbane to compete in Hororata for the first time and was blown away by the event, “I am so grateful for this experience. It was a massive day. Being in the arena with 10,000 people cheering me on made me feel like a celebrity. I am going home with 2nd place, a few personal bests, new friends and a whole lot of memories.” 

Celebrates Scottish culture with a Kiwi twist

Highland dancing.

Have A Go is another part of the Games with people of all ages able to enter the arena to see if they can toss a caber, play the pipes or be victorious in the Tug of War. Cindy Driscoll from the Hororata Community Trust explains that the ‘have a go’ element is a most popular part of the festival. “This gives people an intimate experience of the Highland Games because they don’t just watch but are part of it, and then some catch the bug and end up becoming competitors.”

In every corner of this festival, there is something to discover including medieval arts, sword fighting, live music and of course haggis; all combined for a rich cultural experience. 

Drumming to perfection.

In a show of true community spirit 230 volunteers join the Hororata Community Trust to make the Hororata Highland Games happen. “The Games is unique in the way it celebrates Scottish culture with a Kiwi twist but what really makes it special is the passion people give in to making the event happen. Our community is not defined by lines on a map.  A huge group coming together, bringing passion and energy for a common cause. For 11 years the Games really has become part of who we are. We are Clan Hororata,” said Cindy.

Fletcher Walmsy crossing the finish line of the Kilted Mile.

Kate Foster was the 11th Hororata Highland Games Chieftain and the first local to be bestowed this honour. “The Games is very much at the heart of our community.  It showcases our rural area to the world, celebrates our history, brings people together and provides a fundraising platform for groups. The Games enables the Hororata Community Trust to support the community to embark on our next project which is developing the Hororata Community Hub. This will be a modern vibrant facility that celebrates our heritage and provides for community needs now and into the future,” said Kate. 

The 12th Hororata Highland Games will take place on Saturday 4th November 2023. For details see:

All images unless noted: Jeremy Sim.

Winner of the Glenfiddich Piping Championships crowned, making history in the process

The overall champion of the prestigious Glenfiddich Piping Championship has been named as Willie McCallum. The win marks a record ninth win for Willie, extending his record of having the most overall wins ever.  Willie McCallum, from Campbeltown, went up against nine of the world’s greatest solo players at the renowned 49th annual competition at Blair Castle last night to claim the title.  Callum Beaumont was crowned runner-up and Fred Morrison was third overall.  

Callum Beumont was named the Piobaireachd winner, and the March, Strathspey and Reel (MSR) competition was also won by Willie McCallum. The 2022 Balvenie Medal Winner was Tom Brown. Tom was an inspirational piping tutor for generations of young people at Lochgelly High School. The Balvenie Medal was introduced the Glenfiddich Piping Championship in 1985 and is awarded for “Services to Piping”.

Pinnacle of solo piping competition

The competition played out in front of a live audience in Blair Castle’s Victorian ballroom and hundreds from around the world who watched the spectacle online. Overall winner Willie McCallum said: “It’s such an honour to be taking home the Glenfiddich trophy. It was a fierce competition and everyone played their absolute best so it means a lot to have been named as the overall winner.”

The National Piping Centre’s Director of Piping, Finlay MacDonald, said: “It’s fantastic to be back at Blair Castle for the 49th annual Glenfiddich Championship. This is the pinnacle of solo piping competitions and all of this year’s competitors upheld their reputations as the best in the world. They all should all be extremely proud of themselves, it was incredible to watch them all perform in this magnificent venue.”

Competitors travelled from near and far to take part, including 2021 champion Jack Lee from British Columbia, Canada, Jamie Forrester from London, the USA’s Nick Hudson, Connor Sinclair from Crieff, and Fred Morrison from Renfrewshire. The Glenfiddich Piping Championship was established in 1974 to inspire the world’s finest exponents of Ceòl Mòr or Piobaireachd (the great music) and Ceòl Beag or light music (the little music). Run by The National Piping Centre, the world centre for excellence in bagpipe music, and funded through the William Grant Foundation, the event is held annually at Blair Castle in Blair Atholl, Perthshire.

Photo: Callum Beaumont and Willie McCallum.

The Florida Keys Celtic Festival is back celebrating its 10th year


On January 7 and 8, 2023 the Keys kick off one of the most anticipated events of the year, the Florida Keys Celtic Festival. Celebrating its 10th year, the festival is bringing back some of the favorite bands, including, Screaming Orphans, Albannach, West of Galway, The Byrne Brothers and the Police Pipe and Drum Corps of Florida.

There will be plenty of Celtic food with a variety of teas and ales. Highlights of the two-day event include: vendors with Celtic themes, Irish dancing, a parade, a fabulous children’s Glen, sheep dog herding and Women’s Highland Athletic Competition.

Perfect for the whole family

The Police Pipe and Drum Corps of Florida.

This festival is perfect for the whole family and supports the Hammock House, a free after school educational and nutritional program. Tickets are available for $10 per day at if purchased in advance and $12 at the gate. 

You can get further information by going to their website:, email:  [email protected], or contact St Columba Episcopal Church at 305 743-6412. Keep up to date on their Facebook page, Florida Keys Celtic Festival.

Scots Pipe Band drummers and piper thrive on world stage

The Scots School Albury Pipe Band is back in competition mode with a vengeance after a Covid-pause, and Pipe Major Liam Nicolson and Drum Major Damon Wright are leading the way. Wright led a trio of drummers to become among the very best in the world following their outstanding success at the World Solo Drumming Championships in Glasgow recently and Nicolson competed on the world stage for outstanding results during a tour to Scotland in August.

Wright and youngster Rollo Nickols are now ranked third in the world for drumming and Josh Niuila eighth. Wright finished third in Juvenile Section 2 (14-and-over but under-18, NJ/G4 March), Nickols was third in the Juvenile Section 1 (Under 14, NJ/G4 March) and Niuila was eighth in the same category as Wright.

Pipe Major Liam Nicolson.

In August, Nicolson excelled during a whirlwind tour of Highland Gatherings in Scotland. He placed fourth in the prestigious MacGregor Memorial Piobaireachd, an unofficial world championship for junior pipers.  Just to be accepted to play, Nicolson had to submit a formal application, including references and results. Judges selected the tune each Piper would play for the heats and another for the final. Nicolson played Queen Elizabeth 2nd in the heat followed by MacLeods Salute in the final. The 16-year-old was the second youngest piper in the contest and youngest in the final.

During his international tour, he was successful at the Lonarch Highland Games (1st in the Piobaireachd, 1st in the 2/4 March, 1st in the Strathspey & Reel), Cowal Highland Games  (1st in the MSR, 2nd in the Piobaireachd), Glenfinnan Highland Games (1st in the Strathspey & Reel, 2nd in the Piobaireachd, and 3rd in the March), Glen Isla Highland Games (2nd in the March and 2nd in the S&R), St Andrew’s Highland Games (1st in the 2/4 March, 1st in the S&R), The Northern Meeting (2nd in the under 18 Piobaireachd) and finished with another win at the Braemar Highland Gathering (1st in the Under 18 Piobaireachd, 1st in the 2/4 March). Liam’s international success was on the back of being named Victorian Champion C-Grade piper at the Victorian Solo Piping Championships in July.

Travel and competition

Wright also has been turning heads in Australia for his drumming. He was recently named Australian Young Drummer of the Year 2022 at a competition in Sydney and that followed hot on the heels of winning the Victorian B Grade Snare champion at the Victorian Solo Drumming Championships in Melbourne. The pair lead a talented bunch of pipers and drummers at Scots who are preparing for the World Pipe Band Championships in Scotland next year. It will be the first time the entire Pipe Band has been to Scotland since its performance at the 2017 Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo, when Nicolson and Wright were 10 years old and in Year 5.  Back then, the students endured a brutal schedule of 27 night-time performances in 31 days, while keeping up their schoolwork from 9am-3pm each day. No concession was made for the students’ youth and they were expected to perform consistently and without compromise alongside adult pipe bands.

Overseas tours can be a tough initiation for many of the young students and to help build their perseverance and resilience for the world championships next year, Pipe Band co-ordinator Scott Nicolson recently led a tour to the Kuala Lumpur Highland Games in Malaysia. “We haven’t had much opportunity for competition during Covid, so it was good to get away with the band members to KL and just expose them to the vagaries of travel and competition,” Mr Nicolson said.

The band picked up first place in the Kuala Lumpur Highland Games Champion Mini Band and a third place in the Band contest. Young pipers and drummers also excelled with the following results: 1st D Grade and Champion Piper of the Day – Jonny Coe. 1st Novice Piper – Noah Boundy. 2nd Novice Piper – Neve Harris. 1st Novice Bass – Clancy Ledger. 3rd D Grade Snare – Storm Tanuvasa. The Scots School Albury will be hosting a Highland Games at the school on Saturday 11th March 2023. This will be followed by a Tattoo. Prospective stall holders can contact the school at the number below.

More information: Rowena Newcomen: 02 6022 0000 or 0417 428 579.

Scottish Murders Podcast presents Scottish Collaboration

Podcasts, in 2021 it was reported that there were between 850,000 and 1 million active podcasts, and over 48 million total podcast episodes out there, with the majority of podcasts coming from the United States of America. However, just like with the breath-taking scenery and mouth-watering food, Scotland too boasts some fantastic podcasts and content.

One such podcast is Scottish Murders, which is hosted by Scottish sisters Dawn and Cole, and have been releasing regular podcast episodes since July 2021. Scottish Murders is a podcast dedicated entirely to murders of Scottish people or murders that have taken place in Scotland. While Scottish Murders covers some truly barbaric murders and highlights a darker side to Bonnie Scotland, it also ensures to showcase some good points about the area where a murder took place too.

Showcase some fantastic Scottish podcasts

Dawn, one of the hosts of Scottish Murders, had the idea to bring together as many Scottish podcasters as possible and for them to collaborate together, to really showcase some fantastic Scottish podcasts from genres such as comedy, sport, news, society and leisure, television and film, education, arts and of course true crime. The Scottish Collaboration is an online event that has been organised to take place from Monday 5th December to Sunday 11th December 2022. However, once Dawn had begun the journey of contacting Scottish podcasters to bring them together for this event, the scope broadened slightly, and now small Scottish businesses and musicians will also be taking part in the event so their products and talents can also be showcased.

All information about the Scottish Collaboration as well as details of all participants taking part, can be found at and a full daily schedule of what’s happening on each podcast will be available there closer to the event taking place.

Follow Scottish Murders on social media or check out #scottishcollab to ensure you don’t miss a thing.

£10,000 needed to establish the Falkirk Wallace trail to tell the story of Sir William Wallace

Falkirk plays a huge part in the Wallace story, from his mother’s Connection to Grangemouth to his uncle preaching at Dunnipace as well as his closest friend hailing from the area.

The Battle of Falkirk itself played a huge role in Falkirk’s history. While Wallace would ultimately lose at Falkirk this would set up Wallace future and is grisly murder.

Bring history to life

The Wallace Trail wants to bring the multitude of stories that weave the fabric that is not only history of Falkirk buy also Scotland itself. From the 600 men of Bute to the heroism of Macduff of Fife, Graeme and Stewart to the theory of betrayal.

The project aims to bring schools and community groups into creating a Wallace trail that will not only bring history to life but also encourage the community to contribute and get involved on its creation.

If you can help bring history to life see:

The inauguration of the Chief of Clan MacBean/MacBain

By: Phillip Beane

The 23rd hereditary Chief of Clan MacBean was installed by the Lord Lyon at MacBain Park near Inverness in August and a memorial was dedicated to the memory of Alan Bean, the astronaut who took a piece of MacBean tartan to the moon. The Chief of Clan MacIntosh was present along with clansmen from both sides of the Atlantic as US reader Phillip Beane explains.

The inauguration of the Chief of Clan MacBean/MacBain.

August 6, 2022, was going to be a big day for Clan MacBean, and for my wife Jennifer and me.  We had planned to go to the Alan Bean Memorial ceremony when it was originally scheduled back in August 2020.  We paid for the tickets and added a tour of Scotland and were to spend some time in the Inverness area.   COVID, canceled those plans but instead of a refund, I did get a credit towards a future tour, which we decided to use this summer. The sad deaths of Chief James MacBain and his wife Peggy in the past year now meant that a new Chief of Clan MacBean/MacBain had to be put in place.   My own Mother and Father had known MacBain and his wife since meeting them in the 1980’s.  I had met him when I was President of the Clan MacBean and when he came to the Sumter and Greenville, SC games, I acted as sort of an aide for both.   But now, their son Richard was going to be inaugurated as the new Chief of Clan MacBean and we had the chance to be present for that historic occasion.

We wanted to be in Inverness a few days before the ceremony so we could explore the area where the MacBean Clan had lived so long ago.  Of note, the standing stones made famous in the Outlander TV series are just outside of Inverness at the Clava Cairns.  Jennifer ran up to the big stone that Claire Randall had touched.  Claire had then been transported in time back to Scotland of the 1740’s, but thankfully Jennifer is still here with us today.   The MacBain Park is not on a regular tour route, so I paid a driver extra to take us to the park. We were the only visitors and we wondered around and took pictures, the Alan Bean Memorial was very well done.  We drove on down to Dores for dinner and signed the Clan MacBean guest book. At the dinner, Jennifer and I were seated at a table with 8 members of Clan MacBean.  I do believe that our Clan had maybe 40 people present for the dinner and our new Chief, Richard McBain of McBain was a guest and speaker.  

The inauguration

At our table, was John MacBain, brother of Allan MacBain who will become the “chieftain” of Clan MacBean for the UK.  After the work on the Alan Bean Memorial was stopped by COVID in March 2020, John was asked by Richard to be the local representative to deal with the stone masons and other workmen to get the project completed.  After the original masons did not work for 1 year, John approached some masons who were very expensive and couldn’t guarantee a finish before October 2022.   John then found a local stone mason and he and that gentleman finished the Memorial, two benches and worked on the older Chief’s Memorial further up the hill.   John was instrumental in getting the Alan Bean Memorial finished within budget and on time.   For that our entire Clan should be thankful. Our new Chief made a few comments at the dinner, and it should be noted that the Lord Lyon presented Clan Chattan with its very own Coat of Arms.  This heraldry is for the organization of Clan Chattan and every member is entitled to wear the special Coat of Arms.  It doesn’t belong to just any one individual, like the Coat of Arms of a Clan Chief.

The day of the inauguration was a beautiful day, blue skies with some white clouds. Although Loch Ness was very close, it was not visible from the park then due to the summer foliage. The City of Inverness also sent a representative to this very important regional event. Local cyclists rode by, and some paused to watch the very colorful proceedings.   Mr. Phillip Beddows of the UK was doing a great job as MC for this event.  He is also a Clan Historian and the Seanachaidh to the Chief.   I am glad I am writing that title and don’t have to pronounce it.   The dignitaries marched in behind the official Clan MacBean piper, Stewart McBain who played a special pipe tune that was made especially for the Chief of Clan MacBean. First was the dedication of the Memorial to Astronaut Alan Bean who took the Clan MacBean tartan to the moon and back.  A truly notable achievement, if you ask me. They played a recording of Alan Bean’s daughter, Amy, who talked about her Father and his connections to Clan MacBean.  The Chief gave formal recognition to John MacBain and others who gave of their time and efforts to have the Memorial completed on time.

23rd Hereditary Chief of Clan MacBain

Phillip and Jennifer Beane at the Alan Bean Memorial.

Next the Lord Lyon, Joseph Morrow, gave a talk about the importance of the ceremony inaugurating the new Chief of Clan MacBean.   I talked with the Lord Lyon afterwards about the significance of our Chief living in Arizona.   The Lord Lyon stated that adhering to all the requirements and duties of the office was much more important than where the Chief lived.  He pointed out that over the centuries so many Clansmen had gone to other parts of the world and that it would be expected that some Chiefs would also live away from Scotland.   The Lord Lyon, told me that inaugurations, like the one that day, were important and that he was there representing the Scottish Community.  He felt strongly about the Clan and family system that exists in Scotland.  He feels that it gives so many a sense of identity, a sense of belonging, and a word he used…rootedness.   Clans were original formed for safety and community.   They can still fulfill a role today in giving one a Scottish community they can belong to.   We moved on to the actual inauguration of our new 23rd Hereditary Chief of Clan MacBain.   The Lord Lyon spoke about the history of these events.  Phillip Beddows gave the genealogy of our line of Clan MacBean chiefs and presented Richard with a special and elaborately made “Cromach”.  Money from many Clan members went towards the purchase of this special Shepherds Crook. 

The Chief talked about the future of the Clan and the history of the MacBain Memorial Park.   Whisky was passed out and a toast was given to the new Chief of Clan MacBean.  It was a wonderful and moving ceremony. Later, the Chief talked to me about how pleased he was about how well the whole thing had come together, and explained that the four main organizers of the event all lived in different locations on both sides of the pond (most had met for the first time only on the day of the Clan Chattan Annual Meeting that week). The Chief discussed his wish that Allan MacBain assume the role of Clan Chieftain and represent him at events where he can’t attend, particularly in the UK.   There is some discussion by the Standing Council of Scottish Chiefs about the role of Clan Chieftains but our Chief feels strongly about the position. Richard also told the story of finding a penned tune for a piper in his father’s papers.  The tune had apparently been authorized by his grandfather back in the 70’s for a pipe band in Calgary.  Phillip Beddows posted the tune on Facebook and a man named Stewart McBain had copied it and learned to play the tune.  He volunteered to travel hundreds of miles to MacBain Park and play the tune for this ceremony. The Chief appointed him the Clan Piper for the UK.    The Chief also discussed the YouTube sites for Clan MacBean and Clan Chattan.  With 100 subscribers, YouTube gives page holders a lot of privileges, to include live streaming.  This could be used for future events such as the Clan Gatherings, etc. This trip was certainly a bucket list for myself and the whole adventure exceeded all my expectations.  The Scottish people, the weather and the countryside were wonderful and made the trip one I will remember always. 

Main photo: Richard McBain of McBain. Photo: Scott McElvain.

Two in a row for Lisa Williams at the World Porridge Making Championship

Lisa Williams from Suffolk has been crowned World Porridge Making Champion after beating competitors from around the world at the 29th World Porridge Making Championship, which took place in the Highland village of Carrbridge. Lisa was amongst 26 competitors competing for the highly-coveted title of World Porridge Making Champion and the Golden Spurtle trophy. Following five heats, the final cook off included competitors from Australia, Iceland, Cyprus, Scotland and England.

Lisa said: “I can’t put into words how delighted I am. I came to Carrbridge thinking that I was saying goodbye to the Golden Spurtle trophy, and I can’t believe that I am taking it home with me again. It has been so lovely being back in the village seeing everyone. There’s great camaraderie amongst the competitors, and the whole event is so friendly and welcoming.”

The best traditional porridge

The title of World Porridge Making Champion is awarded to the contestant deemed to have made the best traditional porridge using just three ingredients – oatmeal, water and salt.

Entries are judged for appearance, texture, colour and taste. This year’s judges included former Gleneagles Executive Chef, Neil Mugg, Scottish MasterChef finalist Sarah Rankin, and New Zealander Kirsten Gilmour, owner of KJ’s Bothy Bakery in Grantown on Spey.

Neill Mugg, Chair of the judges, said: “Lisa’s porridge was really well made. Rich, flavourful, well seasoned and the perfect consistency.”

In addition to the main competition, the title of Speciality Porridge Champion is awarded to the creator of a sweet or savoury dish where oatmeal can be combined with any other ingredients. This year’s speciality winner was Chris Young, owner of street food and events caterer The Rolling Stove, who wowed the judges with his porridge noodles two ways, with hand-dived seared scallops and caramelised figs. The 2022 World Porridge Making Championship was held in person for the first time since 2019. A virtual speciality competition was held in 2020 and 2021 during the pandemic.

Karen Henderson, the main organiser of the 2022 World Porridge Making Championship said: “It has been wonderful to have porridge fans, their supporters and so many visitors in a very packed Carrbridge village hall. What started very much as a small local event has grown to be a highlight of Scotland’s food and drink calendar, and it has been fantastic being able to welcome back visitors from around the world again.”

Main photo: 2022 winners Chris Young and Lisa Williams.

Top Ten Reasons to Visit Scotland in 2023

Autumn is often the time when thoughts turn to travel plans for the coming year. To inspire you in planning you next trip, we’ve teamed up with VisitScotland, Scotland’s national tourism organisation, to bring you our top ten reasons to visit Scotland in 2023!

1) Explore Scotland’s UNESCO Trail

In a world first, Scotland has launched the first ever UNESCO digital trail. What makes Scotland’s UNESCO digital trail so unique is that the 13 designated sites featured, from Dumfries and Galloway in the south to Shetland in the north, feature such a variety of different experiences. These range from Cities of Literature, Music and Design, to World Heritage Sites of architectural and historic significance, and even geoparks and biospheres with fascinating geological and natural stories to tell. For more information see

2) Get a taste of farming life

A trend which has really taken off in the last few years is agritourism. More and more people are becoming aware of food provenance, and are looking to find out more about sustainable farming methods on a farm, croft or estate when they come to Scotland. Go Rural is a close-knit network of quality agritourism businesses throughout the Scottish countryside offering visitors high quality farm produce, accommodation and memorable experiences. They are passionate about producing the highest quality food and drink, caring for the environment, and protecting Scotland’s landscapes for everyone to enjoy responsibly. From luxury lodges and cosy cottages to camping and glamping, you’re sure to find your ideal farm experience. See

3) Relax on a wellness break

Given the fast pace of modern life, more and more of us are looking for ways to relax, de-stress, and reconnect with nature. The tranquillity of the Scottish countryside is so conducive to this type of break and there are a variety of options right across the country. You might choose to commune with the natural world by staying in a rural cottage in a peaceful glen, take to the waters on a sailing experience and spot wildlife as you go, or enjoy the soothing experience which an island holiday offers. You might want to undertake a mindfulness course or yoga retreat amid stunning countryside. Whichever you choose you’ll find it in Scotland. More information on these and many other wellness options at www.visitscotland. com/holidays-breaks/wellness

4) Discover the freedom of cycling

Scotland is made for cycling, offering 32,000 square miles of cycling adventures. Whether you’re a complete beginner, want to challenge yourself, or simply take it slow and enjoy some family time, there’s a cycling experience in Scotland that’s perfect for you. There are several long-distance routes through awe-inspiring scenery, purpose built world-class mountain biking trails at over 25 centres across the country, and lots of safe, traffic-free cycling networks and routes for fun, family days out, plus lots of options for bike hire and guided cycling tours. See

If spectator sports are more your thing, the 2023 UCI Cycling World Championships, the biggest cycling event ever staged, will bring the world’s greatest riders together in Glasgow and across Scotland from 3 to 13 August:

5) Connect with your Scottish ancestry

For anyone with Scottish connections, there’s nothing like actually being in Scotland – walking in the footsteps of your ancestors in landscapes they would have known well, and maybe even touching the walls of your clan or family castle which has seen centuries of history. If you have Scottish clan or family surnames in your family tree, you can visit the regions and places in Scotland most strongly associated with those names. For those wishing to explore their family genealogy, there is no better place to start than ScotlandsPeople in Edinburgh which holds a collection of records acknowledged to be among the best in the world ( The Scottish Council on Archives, located in the same building, can provide fascinating insights into the wider social aspects of Scotland’s history ( To find out more about how you can enjoy the unique and special experience of exploring your ancestry in Scotland, go to

6) Stay somewhere unusual

Hobbits overlooking Loch Ness at the Loch Ness Holiday Park, Invermoriston. Photo: VisitScotland/Paul Tomkins.

From holidaying in an apartment topped with a gigantic pineapple to enjoying a stay in a Hebridean cottage built to the design of a prehistoric island dwelling that looks like a set from a Tolkien novel, Scotland’s fantastic range of visitor accommodation offers so many experiences. You can stay in a castle, a lighthouse, a boat, a yurt, a church, a glamping pod, a tree house, a log cabin – all in midst of breath-taking countryside. You’ll find an abundance of suggestions at accommodation/unusual-places-to-stay/

If you have a special occasion anniversary or event coming up, you might want to consider celebrating it Scotland by treating yourself to a touch of luxury. There are plenty of ideas to inspire you at

7) Uncover the story of tartan

Although most closely associated with Scotland, tartan is known throughout the globe. It has a rich history, has inspired unity as well as rebellion, and while strongly linked with tradition, it has also made its mark on the contemporary world, even touching the pinnacle of high fashion. A fascinating, not-to-be missed exhibition entitled Tartan will take place at the V&A Dundee, Scotland’s design museum, from 1 April 2023 to January 2024. Bringing together a unique collection of objects and media, the exhibition will tell the story of the impact of tartan right up to the present day.

8) Discover Scotland’s Royal connections

Balmoral Castle has been a Royal residence since 1852 and, situated on the south side of the River Dee, near the village of Crathie. Photo: VisitScotland/North East 250/Damian Shields.

Following the sad news of the loss of Her Majesty The Queen in September, there has been a renewed focus on her famous love for Scotland, and the Scottish locations associated with the British Royal Family. Balmoral Castle at the heart of Royal Deeside is normally open to the public between April and July each year, though it is said His Majesty King Charles may be considering extending this. There are also a number of holiday cottages on the estate (

In Edinburgh, the Royal residence is the Palace of Holyroodhouse, lying at the foot of the historic Royal Mile where visitors can explore the rooms which once belonged to Mary Queen of Scots ( Other Royal places to visit include the Royal Yacht Britannia in Edinburgh (, Glamis Castle in Angus (, the enchanting childhood home of Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother, her beloved holiday home at the Castle of Mey on the North coast of the Scottish Highlands ( and Dumfries House in Ayrshire which is now a visitor attraction and event venue (

9) Visit Scotland’s most fascinating churches

Iona Abbey is located on the Isle of Iona. The abbey was a focal point for the spread of Christianity throughout Scotland since Columba arrived there in AD 563. Photo: VisitScotland/Paul Tomkins.

While Scotland has experienced times of religious turbulence, there’s no doubt that our many churches offer havens of peace and contemplation.

Greyfriars Kirk in Edinburgh has a rich history, from the Convenanters who fought for Scotland’s religious freedom to the story of the famous Greyfriars Bobby, plus a programme of world-class classical music performances (www.greyfriarskirk. com). Iona Abbey, located on the tiny island of the same name is a place of pilgrimage for many. Originally founded by St Columba in 563 AD, it is a magical place with a special atmosphere. See or the Iona Community ( Although no longer used as a church, the Italian Chapel in Orkney, built by Italian prisoners of war during WWII from two Nissan huts, is one of the islands’ best loved attractions.

The Pilgrim Way is a 64-mile route across the Kingdom of Fife to St Andrews which for 400 years was one of the main pilgrimage destinations in Medieval Europe. walks/fife-pilgrim-way

The Lammermuir Festival takes place in East Lothian each September. This cultural gem offers stunning music and choral performances in a variety of equally stunning locations, including the county’s many churches.

10) Experience Scotland’s newest city

Some of Scotland’s greatest medieval monarchs were laid to rest at Dunfermline Abbey. Charles I was delivered here in 1600 – the last monarch to be born in Scotland. Photo: VisitScotland/Damian Shields.

Dunfermline is now officially Scotland’s newest city, having been granted city status in June. It actually boasts a rich and ancient history – no surprise, since it was once the capital of Scotland!

The impressive 12th century Dunfermline Abbey and Palace is effectively a Royal mausoleum, since it is the final resting place of Robert the Bruce and the burial site of 11 other Scottish kings and queens. The Andrew Carnegie Birthplace Museum is located in the humble cottage which was once the home of the world-famous philanthropist and tells the story of his life and legacy, and as you might expect, Dunfermline also has a Carnegie Library & Galleries! The city’s Pittencrieff Park, gifted to the local people by Carnegie himself offers an abundance of colour throughout the year with its Japanese, Rock and Kitchen Gardens, and glasshouses containing exotic plants from across the world.

For more information on Dunfermline see:

For more inspiration on planning your 2023 visit, go to:

Main photo: Blairmore farm, Crieff, luxery farm stay holidays. Photo: VisitScotland/Luigi Di Pasquale.

Editorial – The Scottish Banner Says….

December – 2022 (Vol. 46, Number 06)

Kinloch Castle on the Isle of Rum. Photo: Lorne Gill/NatureScot.

The Banner Says…

The cancellation of Christmas

When most people receive this month’s edition of the Scottish Banner, they will no doubt be looking at a busy month ahead with festive events, get-togethers with friends and family and perhaps just spending a little bit too much money on gifts, food and festive cheer.

I remember as a child the excitement of going to bed on Christmas Eve and wondering what might be in some of those wrapped packages bearing my name on them. We were lucky to have as part of our family tradition the offer of opening a small gift on Christmas Eve before going to bed and getting some milk, cookies and of course carrots out for Santa and his loyal crew of reindeer.

Banning Christmas

I am glad those traditions were part of my growing up and cannot imagine not having them as part of my childhood memories. However, for many years Scottish children did not have such traditions as part of their growing up experiences. Some may be surprised to learn that Christmas was actually banned in Scotland for centuries. Christmas had its early origins in Scotland when those fierce Vikings raided the land and made communities in Scotland from the 8th century, with them they brought the custom of celebrating the winter solstice in a pagan festival which became known as yule.

Yule was a multiday celebration which honoured their ancestors in the darkest time of the year, this eventually became a Christian tradition. During the Reformation years Scottish Protestant kirks broke ties with the Catholic Church and thus began to cut ties with all things Christmas.

Christmas was abolished in 1640 by the Scottish parliament as it was seen as a Roman Catholic tradition and celebrating Christmas became illegal. The law was strictly enforced, and it was even illegal to bake a yule log or sing a Christmas carol. And though you would no longer be thrown into prison for celebrating Christmas, it did become just another working day for many Scots well into the 20th century. Whilst some of the banned period may feel like part of medieval history it was not in fact until 1958 that Christmas even became a public holiday in Scotland, that is less than 70 years ago.

Even more recently, Boxing Day did not become recognised as a holiday in Scotland until 1974. In some parts of the country, December 26th was Sweetie Scone Day, when the Lord or Lady of the estate would give cakes made with dried fruit and spices to their workers and the poor (who couldn’t afford these luxurious ingredients).

In this issue

The iconic Kinloch Castle is located on the Isle of Rum. Built in the late 1800s, the A listed Victorian mansion has quite a history and was once a playground for the rich, privileged and famous of England and Scotland. Sadly, the state of the Kinloch Castle has fallen in such bad shape it needs someone with very deep pockets to get it back on track. The small but passionate local Rum community also have their ideas on how Kinloch should be restored and managed. A buyer is needed who will be both sympathetic to the castle and the community.

Strathblane is in Stirlingshire but just outside of Glasgow making it an ideal commuter town. However, the rolling hills and green spaces that surround the area certainly let you know you are not in Glasgow. Visitors can enjoy walking and cycle trails, and picturesque drives. Not to mention the stunning hill ranges of the Campsies and a great whisky distillery. It is great we can highlight this lovely spot, and one that is quite easy to get to when you are next in Scotland.


Scots of course were not completely deprived of fun and cheer during the festive period. They would whole heartedly embrace New Year’s Eve, or as we all know it Hogmanay, as back in the day Scots could not celebrate Christmas itself. Some amazing Scottish customs also have been developed over the years which still take place today. Many Hogmanay celebrations still light up the dark cold night with fire, from torchlight processions to fire ball ceremonies Scotland holds on to these unique celebrations which signify the Winter Solstice, ancestors and the rejuvenating energy of the sun.

Speaking of fire some Scots still practice the tradition of burning a twig from a rowan tree during the festive season. It is believed that burning rowan gets rid of jealousy or mistrust between family, friends and neighbours. Hundreds of years ago it was popular to burn a Yule log and the ashes were considered lucky and would protect the house for the year ahead. From this tradition some Scots today burn a candle in the window as a welcome to family, friends and even strangers.

Of course, Christmas is a joyous time for most of us today, however some will be doing it tough this holiday season. Some will be alone, some sick, some working, or just missing someone special who is not around the table this holiday season and I always think of them at this time of the year.

I hope you and yours have a safe, wonderful and happy holiday season. We also thank all our readers, customers, subscribers and advertisers for all their support in 2022.

Merry Christmas, or as some may know in Scots Gaelic, Nollaig Chridheil!

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Ian Bairnson-Shetland’s music maker

By: Neil Drysdale

For some Scottish musician Ian Bairnson may not be instantly a recognised name, however you are very likely to have heard the many projects which he was part of. Neil Drysdale tells the story of the Shetland guitarist who played on Kate Bush’s biggest hit Wuthering Heights. Ian Bairnson, also had a No 1 hit with Pilot, recorded backing vocals on Paul McCartney’s Mull of Kintyre and sold millions of records with the Alan Parsons Project.

It’s the longest-ever period between an artist having No 1 singles; a gap of 44 years from when Kate Bush scaled the peaks with Wuthering Heights to the success of Running Up that Hill this past Scottish summer. When the singer-songwriter first released her Gothic song, inspired by the Emily Bronte novel, early in 1978, she was still a teenager, Jimmy Carter was the American president, Margaret Thatcher was a year away from becoming the Prime Minister and Grease was the summer’s big box-office movie hit. But if Kate appeared to have emerged from her own private world, she was helped by the otherworldly guitar performances of another young musician who had grown up in the far north of Scotland.

And, even as a new generation enjoys her work after Running Up that Hill was featured on the series Stranger Things, it’s time to pay homage to how Ian Bairnson was an integral part of Kate’s early hits. Bairnson, born in 1953, spent his early years in Levenwick, a small village about 17 miles from Lerwick, on the east side of the South Mainland of Shetland. From an early age, he was interested in music and bought his first guitar at the age of six, for £3 15 shillings, with what he later described as “some birthday money”.

Expertise as a guitarist

His father, John, owned a local shop and while it was a remote setting, the youngster was encouraged by one of his neighbours, Peerie Willie Johnson, who dwelt at Bigton on the other side of the hill. Though still a child, Bairnson marvelled at the rhythmic sounds which Johnson could produce on his guitar whenever he visited him. Tragically, he lost his dad when he was just nine in 1963 and the family moved to Edinburgh. But that was only the start of a peripatetic career which propelled Bairnson to the top of the charts before he ever met Kate Bush. In some quarters, they were derided as teenyboppers, but with hindsight, Pilot were the antithesis of the Bay City Rollers.

When they released their first LP From the Album of the Same Name in 1974, it featured a compelling mixture of pop, rock, bossa nova, a quirky pub anthem in Auntie Iris and a bona fide classic hit single in Magic, which is still heard on football terraces and the occasional TV advertisement. Bairnson only featured on one track, but he was fully on board for their next effort, Second Flight, which propelled the band to the top of the charts with January at the beginning of 1975. And it offered further evidence that Bairnson and his fellow band members, David Paton, Billy Lyall and future 10cc drummer Stewart Tosh, weren’t simply expert craftsmen, but as comfortable with appearing live on The Old Grey Whistle Test as they were on Top of the Pops. The Pilot project soon hit the buffers, and there was something ironic from Bairnson’s perspective about how January was knocked off its pedestal by Cockney Rebel’s Make Me Smile (Come Up and See Me). Prior to joining his fellow Scots, he had been given the opportunity to become part of Steve Harley’s iconic band, but politely declined the offer.

In the grand scheme, it didn’t matter much because Bairnson’s expertise as a guitarist had attracted interest from some seriously big names – and, as 1976 turned into 1977, he and Paton were recruited as the engine room of The Alan Parsons Project which became a global multi-million-selling phenomenon.

Life was hectic for the Shetlander and his companions. Whilst recording the Alan Parsons work I Robot at the famous Abbey Road studios, he and Paton were enlisted to provide backing vocals for a song being created next door. It just happened to be a catchy little ditty called Mull of Kintyre by Paul McCartney and Wings, which subsequently became the top-selling single in UK history for the former Beatle and his new bandmates. By this stage, punk was taking over the charts to a large extent, but there was always room for new talent with a USP – and nobody could have foreseen the impact made by Kate Bush when she unveiled The Kick Inside in 1978. This was an LP of staggering imagination, featuring several songs which had been written when she was only 13 or 14. It was balletic, melodic, eccentric, occasionally mad as a bag of frogs and mesmerising in equal measure.

But what would the first single be? EMI wanted James and the Cold Gun (which might be the worst track on the album). Bush, who described herself as “the shyest megalomaniac you’re ever likely to meet” disagreed. And eventually, they all plumped for the song with nods to the Bronte canon. Now it was time for Bairnson to do for Wuthering Heights what Raf Ravenscroft had done for Gerry Rafferty’s Baker Street.

Wuthering Heights

It turned into one of those joyous occasions where everything clicked. Bush recorded her vocal in a single take and even some seasoned studio hands were amazed at the nonchalance with which she performed the swooping lyrics. The melancholic guitar solo was played by Bairnson, who initially said he disliked the tone due to “purely guitarist reasons”, but that’s what happens when you are a perfectionist. Audiences loved it, not least because it has a heartbreaking quality as the record fades out the way the novel ends. Engineer Jon Kelly – who went on to work with the likes of Paul McCartney, Tori Amos and the Beautiful South – was an ingenu when he was at the helm for that original session of the song.

No wonder he said later: “I remember finishing that first day….and thinking: ‘My God, that’s it. I’ve peaked!” Wuthering Heights was simply unique in the history of popular music. It was the first time a female singer-songwriter had ever topped the charts with a self-penned song. It had a video which featured just her in a swirl of fog and choreographic movement. She was completely in control at the age of 19.

Behind the scenes, Bairnson and Paton recorded the majority of the tracks for both The Kick Inside – which went platinum – and the follow-up Lionheart. There was great work on such songs as The Man with the Child in His Eyes, Strange Phenomena (long before Stranger Things) and Hammer Horror.

And although they had departed by the time Bush released Running Up that Hill in 1985, that didn’t mean life was any less hectic. If anything, Bairnson seemed determined to prove he could hit his stride in any musical genre whether writing, recording or performing. During the 1980s, he worked with The Alan Parsons Project, Jon Anderson, Buck’s Fizz (he co-wrote their 1983 hit Run For Your Life), Elaine Paige, Mick Fleetwood, Bananarama, Kenny Rogers, David Sylvian, in addition to rejoining Kate Bush for her experimental 1982 album The Dreaming. Then, in the 1990s, he teamed up with the likes of Sir Tom Jones, Jim Diamond, Beverley Craven and Tam White, while touring with Alan Parsons.

Nobody could ever accuse him of being one-dimensional or lacking industry or innovation. And, meanwhile, Japan woke up to the delights of Pilot and their albums suddenly became popular again with a whole new fan base, who demanded fresh material from Bairnson and Paton.

However, his busy itinerary couldn’t carry on indefinitely or not once his wife, Leila, posted a message on Facebook in 2018. She said: “I and Ian’s family would like to make you aware that he has been diagnosed a while ago with a progressive neurological condition which affects his communication skills. As a result, he will not be playing in public in future, although he still plays guitar and piano daily for his own pleasure. We would like to thank you for your loyal support through the years and to assure you that he is otherwise very healthy and receiving good care”.

It’s sad that such a gifted musician can no longer perform on concert stages. But Ian Bairnson has left a rich legacy for future generations to savour. And that unforgettable, spine-tingling fade-out on Wuthering Heights!

Chicago Scots host 21st annual Kilted Classic golf tournament

Experience the most unique golf tournament on this side of the pond while enjoying performances from Highland Dancers, Scotland’s finest whisky, beer and food tastings, Scottish trivia and much more. Chicago Scots, the oldest non-profit organization in Illinois, is celebrating its 176th anniversary this year and recently hosted the 21st annual Kilted Classic golf tournament at Cantigny Golf Course. Players could enter the tournament as a foursome, pair, or single, and were matched with a group after registering online.

The most unique golf tournament this side of the pond

Dubbed the most unique golf tournament this side of the pond, Kilted Classic players enjoyed performances from Highland Dancers, got to taste Scotland’s finest with whisky, beer, and food stations, test their knowledge with Scottish trivia, participate in competitions like Beat the Scot and Longest Drive, plus got the chance to win a bottle of whisky on every hole.  “We’re thrilled to be able to host our annual golf tournament for the 21st year,” said Gus Noble, President of the Chicago Scots. “It’s something we look forward to all year and is tons of fun, all while supporting a cause we deeply care about.”

Following all the fun on the links, golfers and non-golfers were invited to stay for a causal dinner, cocktails and an auction to benefit Caledonia Senior Living & Memory Care, Chicago Scots’ primary beneficiary for over one hundred years that offers a range of outstanding services including Assisted Living, Sheltered Care, Memory Care, Intermediate and Skilled Nursing Care, and Respite Care.

For more information about the Chicago Scots, please visit:

Ian Rankin archive goes on display

A selection of items from Ian Rankin’s literary archive has gone on display at the National Library of Scotland. Rankin – a crime writer of international literary success and renown – donated his archive to the Library in 2019, and also paid for a post to catalogue the collection. Since then, the Library has made most of the archive available for consultation at the reading rooms, and the forthcoming ‘Collections in Focus’ display will highlight just a taste of what’s in store for anyone who wishes to delve into the archive.

Manuscripts Curator Dr Colin McIlroy said: “For more than 30 years, Detective Inspector Rebus and other recurring major characters have captured the minds of millions around the world. Rankin enjoys a loyal following of people who are in love with his version of Edinburgh. The sense of place he has created is profound – anecdotally, we know many readers feel they have an intimate knowledge of the city without ever having been here. The world of Rebus and other characters had their genesis in the Library’s reading rooms, and it makes it all the more fitting – and thrilling – that documents chronicling decades of this writer’s thought processes are back home at the Library. We look forward to sharing some of the highlights on display.”

The archive is substantial

The size of the archive is substantial – in Library shelving terms it equates to 21 feet of archival material. Alongside working drafts of his novels, the archive also contains Rankin’s correspondence with other writers, and unsurprisingly, correspondence with police officers. Almost as famous for his music tastes as his writing, the archive also contains clues as to what Rankin might have been listening to while working on a particular novel, or what societal conundrum he was seeking to make sense of at the time. But as a whole, the archive provides tremendous insight into the working mind of a novelist, from early career to the top of their game.

Dr McIlroy adds: “It contains what people would typically expect – drafts of novels with handwritten notes to help guide the next draft. But it also includes the unexpected, such as highly critical notes to self. We’re truly indebted to Ian for including this oftentimes personal material. Emerging writers should take note, and comfort, that – even for successful authors – the writing process invariably involves a degree of internal struggle and self-criticism. But from this, it compels a writer to push themselves further. Where Rankin is concerned, the results speak for themselves.”

‘The Rankin Files’ runs until 29 April 2023, at the National Library of Scotland, George IV Bridge, Edinburgh. Entry is free. The Library will host an event with Ian Rankin on 24 November at George IV Bridge, Edinburgh, which will be live-streamed via YouTube.

150th Waipu Highland Games

After a few years of cancellations due to covid the Waipu Caledonian Society are excited to be able to hold the annual Waipu Highland Games, welcoming visitors from all over the world to join in celebrating all things Scottish.

On January 1, 2023, the society will be proudly be celebrating their 150th Waipu Highland Games – a huge milestone in anyone’s history and they approach it with great anticipation. Activities and entertainment for all ages. There will be Highland dancing, solo piping and drumming competitions and traditional Scottish field events, kids’ events, adult tug o’ war, and a variety stage. A range of local stalls, food, and refreshments.

Celebrations start on the evening of the 31st of December with the Helen McGregor Memorial Trophy in the Celtic Barn Foyer at 7.00pm.  An opportunity for pipers to “flair their fingers” playing whatever they like – be it a medley or several pieces, a modern pop song or something composed by themselves.

On January 1st the day starts at 9.00am with the Street March and the grand entry of the band and clans with the salute to the chief.  The 2023 Chief is Bain McGregor and our host Clan for 2023 is Clan McLeod.

Competitions start from 9.00am.  and continue through the day, with a break for Lunch at 12.00pm for the official opening in the main arena.  The very popular and anticipated mass bands will form for the crowd to be entertained by pipers, drummers, and the Mass Highland Fling.  Finishing with the presentation of the Assynt Quaich.  

Competitions resume at 1.00pm with excitement in the Main Arena as heavyweights try and attempt to break records. The day finishes with a Ceilidh in the Celtic Barn at 7.00pm with special appearances and performances from our piping, drumming and dancing winners from the day throughout the night.

Waipu Highland Games take place on January 1st in Waipu, Northland, New Zealand. Waipu are one of the longest-running Scottish gatherings in the Southern Hemisphere, offering fierce competition, spectacular entertainment and a full day of family-friendly fun. For more information on the 150th Waipu Highland Games see: