Magical Harry Potter locations in Scotland

Treat yourself to wonderful Harry Potter experiences in Scotland by visiting spellbinding film locations and immersing yourself in the wizarding world. From the famous ‘Harry Potter Bridge’ to the site of Dumbledore’s grave, Scotland is home to lots of locations from the Harry Potter films. Here’s a little help in planning the perfect trip for keen-eyed Potter-spotters!

Glenfinnan Viaduct, aka ‘The Harry Potter Bridge’

The Glenfinnan Viaduct. Photo: VisitScotland.

With its iconic arches and stunning Highland surroundings, the Glenfinnan Viaduct carried the Hogwarts Express to the world’s most famous wizarding school. It features in three of the Harry Potter films, including the dramatic scene in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets where Harry and Ron land their flying Ford Anglia onto the tracks. If you time your visit right, you might see the Hogwarts Express train (in real life the Jacobite steam train) cross the bridge 30–40 minutes after it has left Fort William, leaving a trail of steam in its wake. You can also enjoy a walk down to Glenfinnan Monument on the shores of Loch Shiel; or a wander around the fascinating visitor centre, which tells the story of the Jacobite Rising of 1745.

Discover other film locations

Majestic Glencoe was used for various outdoor scenes in The Goblet of Fire, The Order of the Phoenix and The Half-Blood Prince. The Clachaig Gully, just above the Clachaig Inn, became the location for Hagrid’s Hut in The Prisoner of Azkaban. The hut was removed after filming, but the astonishing scenery remains. Thankfully sightings of Hagrid’s three-headed dog Fluffy are rare. There are plenty of other Harry Potter locations across Scotland to explore while you’re on your way to Trust places. Rannoch Moor, just a short drive along the A82 from Glencoe, was where the Death Eaters boarded the Hogwarts Express in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part I.

Steall Falls, a little way north of Glencoe, is where Harry battled the Hungarian Horntail dragon in the Triwizard Tournament in The Goblet of Fire. The island of Eilean na Moine in Loch Eilt, just past Glenfinnan Monument, was used as Dumbledore’s grave, before being digitally placed in a different location: Loch Arkaig. Loch Etive, to the south of Glencoe, was the setting for the camping trip in Deathly Hallows: Part I, and also where Harry and the gang are dropped by a dragon after fleeing from Gringotts Bank.

Edinburgh home of Harry Potter

As the place where the story of the boy wizard was first put to paper, and the home of his creator, Edinburgh is a Harry Potter hotspot and one of Scotland’s best places for magical experiences. Harry Potter’s creator, J K Rowling, spent time conjuring up some of her famous stories at The Elephant House, a café close to Edinburgh’s Royal Mile and just a 5-minute walk from Gladstone’s Land. From the upstairs windows you can look down into Greyfriars Kirkyard, where you may spot some familiar names carved into the tombstones, including Thomas Riddell and William McGonagall.

Want to make your time in Edinburgh truly magical? You can choose from a variety of immersive Potter-themed tours of the city or test your wizarding skills at a Potter-themed escape room such as The Department of Magic. And find somewhere to stay among the crooked cobbled streets in the city’s atmospheric Old Town – like the very own Gladstone’s Land flats or a Potter-themed holiday apartment. Edinburgh is also home to several shops selling every kind of gift, trinket and prop that Potter-lovers could want, from replica wands to sorting hats! For extra Potter points, visit the shops on the colourful, sloping Victoria Street, which some say was the inspiration for Diagon Alley.

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

Main photo: Incredible Glencoe. Photo: National Trust for Scotland.

Jamestown Regional Celtic Festival Gathering of the Clans & Mayville Highland Games

Back for 2022 with nine pipe bands (two from Canada and seven from the USA), Clan Row featuring up to twenty Clans, Scottish heavy events, Celtic vendors and more. Friday evening only starting at 6:30PM Tuatha Dea from Gatlinburg, Tennessee. The Mudmen from Canada will be performing Saturday along with Emerald Isle, Tuatha Dea, Celtic Creek, Waterhorse, Step n time, to mention a few along with an old fashion fiddle Session.

Coming August 26th and Aug 27th at Mayville Lakeside Park, Mayville, NY. For details see: or

Residents and artists breathe new life into Edinburgh’s historic closes

Edinburgh World Heritage has announced the completion of the first batch of its Twelve Closes Project. Edinburgh’s closes, the narrow, often steep alleyways branching off from the Royal Mile, are an important characteristic of the Old Town, and a reminder of the city’s medieval origins. However, Edinburgh’s closes are often perceived as being unclean and unsafe, particularly at night.   This innovative co-design project aims to renew and reinterpret some of Edinburgh’s most historic closes, creating safer and more attractive spaces for residents, businesses and tourists to explore. 

The project partnership between Edinburgh World Heritage and the City of Edinburgh Council, working with Edinburgh Napier University, has sought to tackle local problems such as anti-social behaviour through alternative forms of street lighting; brightening and enhancing the historic alleyways. This has been achieved by bringing together members of the local community and enabling participation in the design process, supporting them in selecting themes and historic stories to interpret and present.  The first batch has seen the completion of new lighting, art installations and interpretation panels in Carrubber’s Close, Chessel’s Court and Stevenlaw’s Close as well new lighting for the community-led interpretive art project in Pirrie’s Close.

Fiona Rankin, Edinburgh World Heritage Project Manager, commented:  “It is fantastic that each of these closes have been transformed by working in partnership with local communities and we are delighted with the finished result. The co-design process has empowered communities to tell their stories, and the alternative way of lighting historic streets complements the heritage, and will encourage more people to get out and explore the Old Town.”

Scotland’s Year of Stories 2022

As we are now in the midst of Scotland‘s Year of Stories 2022, the Scottish Banner caught up with Marie Christie, Head Of Development, Events at VisitScotland – Scotland’s national tourism organisation – to hear more about this Themed Year, and how it is inspiring locals and visitors to discover more of Scotland’s stories.

What are the main themes of Scotland’s Year of Stories 2022?

Marie Christie: Year of Stories aims to embrace the widest range of activity and content aligned to the theme, with a focus on inclusivity and diversity. In terms of experiences, events and activity, this has been developed across five cross-cutting strands:

•Iconic stories and storytellers – a celebration of Scotland’s wealth of treasured and iconic stories and storytellers from classics to contemporary.

•New stories – shining a light on emerging, fresh and forward-looking talent.

•Scotland’s people and places – our people and places have inspired the widest range of stories and storytellers across the world. The year promotes how Scotland’s diverse culture, languages, landscapes and ways of life provide a source for all types and forms of stories.

•Local tales and legends – every community has its distinct tales to tell; stories of now as well as those passed through the generations.

•Inspired by nature – our encounters with nature are an unfailing source of stories old and new. These stories define our place in the natural world and help to create a more sustainable future

What role do stories play in attracting visitors to Scotland?

The Jacobite steam train passing over the Glenfinnan Viaduct at the head of Loch Shiel, Lochaber, Highlands of Scotland. Photo: VisitScotland/Kenny Lam.

Marie Christie: The love of stories is hardwired into us all; it is one of the strongest ways we connect with one another and share our experiences. Great stories, well told, can evoke indelible images in our minds and bring contemporary and traditional cultures to life.

We know that one in five people are inspired to visit Scotland, having seen the destinations on film or TV. Every community has its own tales to tell and places to highlight as inspiration for well-known books and films, as well as visitor attractions that showcase our literary and storytelling heritage. Our Year of Stories events programme is animating places and spaces all over Scotland, creating memorable moments for visitors to enjoy.

The year is shining a spotlight on our diverse stories and creative talent, literary visitor attractions, festivals and bookshops. It’s also encouraging people to explore Scotland’s rich tradition as a backdrop for film and TV. New stories are being created every day and we hope that visitors to Scotland that are joining us in celebrating the Year of Stories, capture and share their own #TalesOfScotland.

It’s a theme with far-reaching appeal and we hope it will resonate with locals and visitors alike, encouraging them to experience all kinds of stories for themselves.

What Year of Stories events can visitors to Scotland enjoy for the remainder of 2022?

Abbotsford Sir Walter Scott’s 1800s baronial mansion. Photo: VisitScotland/PRImaging.

Marie Christie: There are some really exciting events taking place across the country that will bring Scotland’s stories to life in creative ways.  In Scotland’s capital city, from 13-29 August Edinburgh International Book Festival will showcase Scotland’s Stories Now with both in-person and online events. Stories take centre stage at Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh and the Regional Gardens at Benmore, Logan and Dawyck Botanic Gardens until 15 October where visitors can enjoy an enriched visit to the gardens through audio trails inspired by words and nature in Of Scotland’s Soils and Soul. In September, Findhorn Bay Festival runs from 23 September – 2 October in a dramatic Moray setting while in the south, Scotland’s Book Town, Wigtown, is the setting for the annual Wigtown Book Festival on the same dates (as well as offering a dozen bookshops to explore).

Moving into autumn, the Northern Stories Festival from 7 to 16 October will be a spectacular celebration of the stories of the far north of Scotland, taking place across Caithness in celebration of Scotland’s ancient Nordic connections and close ties to North America. The annual Scottish International Storytelling Festival, runs from 14 to 30 October, and this year it will include the Map of Stories – a specially curated project for Year of Stories with ‘film ceilidhs’ celebrating the most iconic voices – past and present – from Scotland’s oral storytelling traditions. As the nights get darker visitors have the chance to immerse themselves in Scotland’s history at Stirling Castle at the atmospheric Tales from the Castle storytelling events, taking place after hours on 21 and 22 October.

What do you expect the legacy of this Themed Year to be?

Marie Christie: The Themed Year has helped shine a spotlight on our wealth of storytelling attractions, locations, events and festivals across the country and we hope that it will encourage people to return for future visits. There are so many attractions across Scotland which all have great stories to tell and are well worth a visit during any year. As part of the Year of Stories, we have been shining a spotlight on new stories, which will be a legacy for the future. The regional Community Campfires events organised by Scottish Book Trust generated a wealth of local residents’ stories, and the Edinburgh International Book Festival encouraged people across Scotland to share Scotland’s Stories Now by responding to the prompt ‘On this Day’. The year has highlighted how discovering our rich stories enhances a visit to Scotland – whether that be through a tour guide with their storytelling skills and expert knowledge, or hearing about local tales and legends of the region you are visiting. As part of the Year of Stories, we have encouraged communities to share the stories that are special to them, and we hope that becomes something they can build on in years to come.

A main focus during the Year of Stories is the celebration of Scotland’s iconic stories and storytellers, both past and present. Can you tell us about some of the attractions and experiences associated with them which visitors can enjoy?

Burns Cottage – The birthplace in 1759 of the poet Robert Burns and now museum in Alloway. Photo: VisitScotland/Kenny Lam.

Marie Christie: Ayr is where our great national Bard, Robert Burns, was born and it is home to the Robert Burns Birthplace Museum managed by the National Trust for Scotland. Visitors can explore the humble cottage where Burns was born and spent the first years of his life. The Museum houses more than 5,000 Burns artefacts including his handwritten manuscripts.

Abbotsford, the charming home of celebrated author Sir Walter Scott, sits on the bank of the River Tweed in the Scottish Borders town of Melrose, and stands as an enduring monument to the tastes, talents and achievements of its creator.

The Writers Museum, situated just off Edinburgh’s Royal Mile, pays tribute to Burns, Scott and Robert Louis Stevenson, the Edinburgh-born author of such classics as Treasure Island and Kidnapped.

The TV series Outlander and the novels by Diana Gabaldon on which it is based have drawn worldwide attention to one of the most famous periods in Scottish history – that of the Jacobite Uprisings. As well as the real-life history locations featured in the story, visitors can explore the locations used in the show, ranging from Culloden Battlefield near Inverness and the delightful Kingdom of Fife conversation villages of Falkland and Culross to the Glasgow Cathedral, Callendar House in Falkirk, and the spectacular Drumlanrig Castle in Dumfries & Galloway.

For fans of JK Rowling’s Harry Potter series, a range of tours are on offer, from walking tours of Edinburgh to discover the city locations which inspired the author, to atmospheric Glen Coe, and the iconic Glenfinnan Viaduct over which the Jacobite Stream Train runs between Fort William and Mallaig.

Many stories from around Scotland of course come from folklore stretching back for hundreds of years, often derived from our landscapes and seascapes, as well as the culture and ways of life that emerged from these locations. In our most northerly island groups of Orkney and Shetland, there are many folk tales of ‘The Hill Folk’, and the Norse history of these islands can be traced today in local place names. In the Outer Hebrides, tales of mermaids, selkies and other sea monsters were handed down in Gaelic through the generations.

Those exploring their Scottish ancestry can gain an insight into the story of how their ancestors lived and the tales they would have grown up with by visiting local history museums, or those which focus on lifestyles in years gone by. These include Auchindrain Historic Township near Inveraray, Argyll and the Highland Folk Museum in Newtonmore at the heart of the Cairngorms National Park, both of which give an insight into Highland farming life, and touch on the story of the Highland Clearances which caused so many Highlanders to leave Scotland, seeking a new life elsewhere.

Find out more about the Year of Stories 2022 at:

Main photo: The Writer’s Museum is located just off the Royal Mile and tells the stories of famous Scottish writers such as Robert Burns, Sir Walter Scott and Robert Louis Stevenson. Photo: VisitScotland/Kenny Lam.

Within 60 minutes from Edinburgh

If you’re coming to Scotland’s capital, Edinburgh, to enjoy one of its many festivals this month, you’ll soon see why it’s a UNESCO World Heritage Site, as well as one of Britain’s greatest foodie and nightlife hotspots. And with gorgeous beaches, romantic castles and the vibrant buzz of Glasgow all only an hour away, you’ll be able to experience the country’s diverse landscapes, history and culture too, all within easy reach of a day trip.

The Borders

Picturesque coastlines in the east and rugged hills and moorlands in the west greet you at the Scottish Borders (bordering northern England), all of which is easily reached thanks to the Borders Railway, which connects Edinburgh and the Borders town of Tweedbank in less than an hour. Have your camera at the ready on this lovely rail journey as you pass by iconic architectural gems such as the Lothian bridge and Redbridge viaducts. Alight at Tweedbank to visit Abbotsford House, the home of famed writer Sir Walter Scott. This romantic mansion was built during the early decades of the 19th century and very much reflects the tastes of one of this era’s most prominent authors. Close by is the attractive town of Melrose, which is not only the home of the magnificent 12th century Melrose Abbey, but also to two National Trust for Scotland gardens. Priorwood Garden houses Scotland’s only dedicated dried flower garden and Harmony Gardens features a beautiful walled garden with breath-taking views over the abbey and the nearby Eildon Hills.


Gallery of Modern Art.

Did you know that Edinburgh, the capital, and Scotland’s largest city, Glasgow, are only an hour apart? A lively, creative city, Glasgow is renowned for its mighty industrial heritage and world-class shopping as well as its vibrant arts, culture and music scene; it’s even a designated UNESCO City of Music! Discover why it won this status on a Glasgow Music City Tour, while fans of street art should check out Glasgow’s first dedicated tour to the genre, the City Centre Mural Trail. Football lovers can take tours of the world-famous Rangers and Celtic Football Clubs, while you can discover the city’s artistic and industrial legacy at a host of inspirational museums such as the Kelvingrove Art Gallery & Museum, the Hunterian Museum and Art Gallery at the University of Glasgow and the Riverside Museum of Transport and the Tall Ship on the banks of the River Clyde.

North Berwick

In just half an hour by train you can swap Edinburgh’s cityscapes for coastal relaxation. North Berwick and its stretches of golden sands are spectacular – and if it’s glorious views you’ve come for, you won’t be disappointed. Sweeping vistas look out to Bass Rock, home to the world’s largest northern gannet colony, and to the Forth Islands. Take a boat trip out to the islands for an even closer inspection, while bird lovers should also pay a visit to the town’s Scottish Seabird Centre. Alternatively, if you fancy a game of golf overlooking these wonderful coastal scenes, tee off at either of the town’s excellent links courses, the Glen Golf Club and the North Berwick Golf Club.

The town itself is home to a fine collection of cafés, bars and shops, from vintage-style tearooms to stylish coffee shops…also make sure you hit the fish and chip shops and ice-cream parlours, it’s tradition at a British seaside resort! For heritage seekers, don’t miss the 14th century fortress Tantallon Castle and Dirleton Castle, which houses some of the oldest castle architecture in Scotland.


Stirling Castle.

If you’ve ever watched the film Braveheart, you’ll want to visit Stirling. The iconic National Wallace Monument, which overlooks the scene of Scotland’s victory at the Battle of Stirling Bridge, gives a fascinating insight into the world of Scottish hero William Wallace. History pulsates through every inch of Stirling; explore the streets of the medieval old town, encounter intriguing royal history at Stirling Castle, and even see the world’s oldest football at the Smith Art Gallery and Museum. Perhaps one of the most absorbing attractions that tells the stories of the area’s past is the Battle of Bannockburn Experience. This 3D, immersive exhibition takes you into the heart of one of Scotland’s most historic battles, ending with a visit to the Battle Room where visitors can take part in the interactive battle game. And, if you’re a fan of the hit TV show Outlander, take the time to visit Doune Castle. Located around 15 minutes out of town, multiple scenes from the popular series were filmed at this splendid castle, as they were for Game of Thrones and Monty Python and the Holy Grail.


South of Edinburgh, on the banks of the River Tweed, lies Peebles, a small, attractive town with a distinctly artistic vibe, that’s framed by gorgeous countryside scenery. Scottish novelist John Buchan, author of The Thirty Nine Steps, made his home here and a picturesque 13-mile walking route is named after him, the John Buchan Way. Alternatively, head out hiking in Glentress Forest, which is also brilliant for mountain biking, as its trails are one of Scotland 7stanes (seven mountain biking centres in southern Scotland). Despite its size, Peebles boasts a number of art galleries and studios and its historic past is prevalent on every corner; ancient relics are dotted across town, from the ruined Cross Kirk to an old Mercat Cross (which depicts a town’s right, granted by a monarch or baron, to hold a regular market).

Don’t forget

Rosslyn Chapel.

Rosslyn Chapel – Discover intricate carvings and unique stonework at one of the most intriguing places of worship in Scotland, in the village of Roslin, 30-minutes’ drive from Edinburgh. Discover its story from its founding in the 15th century to its depiction in the novel and subsequent film The Da Vinci Code.

Musselburgh – Step into the past at this historic market town that derives its name from the mussel beds found on nearby shores. It’s also home to the oldest racecourse in Scotland – which hosts many race meets throughout the year – as well as to the historic nine-hole Musselburgh Links golf course, which has royal connections going back to the early 16th century.

Linlithgow Palace – Explore royal history at the birthplace of Mary Queen of Scots, a palace that was once a stopping point for royalty enroute between Edinburgh Castle and Stirling Castle. Visit in the summer to enjoy its annual jousting spectacle.

Main photo: Abbotsford House, Scottish Borders.

Text and images courtesy of VisitBritain.

Milestone reached as Scotland’s flag centre re-opens

Scotland’s flag heritage centre has re-opened in the East Lothian village of Athelstaneford the birthplace of Scotland’s flag. The centre, housed in the 16th  century Hepburn doocot, tells the story of the battle of Athelstaneford where legend has it a white saltire appeared above an army of Picts and Scots inspiring them to victory. The successful £100k restoration has secured the building for the future with extensive exterior repairs carried out by specialists using traditional techniques.

The project is the first in a series of major improvements planned for the birthplace of Scotland’s flag. David Williamson chair of the Scottish Flag Trust said: “This has been a major project and great to see the building restored and looking its best. With the building secure we hope the public will get behind our funding drive at to radically improve the birthplace of Scotland’s flag.”

The St Andrew’s Cross or Saltire is Scotland’s national flag. Tradition has it that the flag, the white saltire on a blue background, the oldest flag in Europe originated in a battle fought in East Lothian, near the village of Athelstaneford. Today the flag flies proudly all year round from the Saltire Memorial in Athelstaneford Parish Churchyard to celebrate this special connection. The history of the battle and the adoption of the Saltire as the symbol of Scotland is told in the Flag Heritage Centre through a unique audio-visual presentation. The Scottish Flag Trust promotes the Saltire as a welcoming symbol for all Scots whether they are Scots by birth, by choice or through their family roots.

Restoration and renewal

Athelstaneford, East Lothian, Scotland, UK, 27th June 2022. Re-opening of National Flag Heritage Centre: the Hepburn Doocot has been renovated over the last 3 months with £98,000 funding from Historic Environment Scotland, East Lothian Council & other Trusts. Pictured: Credit: Sally Anderson

The Scottish Flag Trust is a registered Scottish charity which maintains the Saltire Memorial and the Flag Heritage Centre at Athelstaneford and promotes the proper use of the Saltire. The restoration and renewal project will see a new accessible pathway with interpretive timeline telling the history and adoption of Scotland’s national flag from 834AD to the present.  New landscaping and engraved paving around the Saltire Memorial will tell the story of St Andrew’s and Scot’s societies across the globe.  A new immersive audio-visual experience telling the story of the Battle of Athelstaneford and the creation and adoption of Scotland’s national flag.

Legend of the Saltire

The St Andrew’s Cross or Saltire is Scotland’s national flag. Tradition has it that the flag, the white saltire on a blue background, as the oldest flag in both Europe and the Commonwealth, it originated in an East Lothian battle which took place in the year 832AD. An army of Picts under Angus mac Fergus, High King of Alba, and aided by a contingent of Scots led by Eochaidh (Kenneth mac Alpin’s grandfather) had been on a punitive raid into Lothian (then and for long afterwards Northumbrian territory), and were being pursued by a larger force of Angles and Saxons under one Athelstan.

The Albannach/Scots were caught and stood to face their pursuers in the area of Markle, near East Linton. This is to the north of the modern village of Athelstaneford (which was re-sited on higher ground in the 18th century), where the Peffer, which flows into the Firth of Forth at Aberlady forms a wide vale. Being then wholly undrained, the Peffer presented a major obstacle to crossing and the two armies came together at the ford near the present-day farm of Prora (one of the field names there is still the Bloody Lands).

Fearing the outcome of the encounter, King Angus led prayers for deliverance and was rewarded by seeing a cloud formation of a white saltire (the diagonal cross on which St Andrew had been martyred) against a blue sky. The king vowed that if, with the saint’s help, he gained the victory, then Andrew would thereafter be the patron saint of Scotland. The Scots did win, and the Saltire became the flag of Scotland. When Kenneth mac Alpin, who may have been present with his grandfather at the battle, later united Picts and Scots and named the entity Scotland, Andrew did indeed become the patron saint of the united realm. Kenneth mac Alpin, King of Scots and Picts, Ard-righ Albainn, was laid to rest on Iona in 860AD.

Duncan Lacroix and Diana Gabaldon to attend the Fergus Scottish Festival

The Fergus Scottish Festival features the best of Scottish athletics and heritage but it is also known for showcasing famous guests including authors, actors, and musicians. Duncan Lacroix and Diana Gabaldon will be featured guests at this years Festival. Duncan has starred as Murtagh in Outlander, Henry De Percy in Outlaw King, Ealdorman Werferth in Vikings, and more.

Diana Gabaldon is the world famous author of the Outlander books and a favourite visitor to the Fergus Scottish Festival. Also this year, the Red Hot Chilli Pipers are back by popular demand for a concert Friday August 12, 2022 following the traditional Tattoo.

The Fergus Scottish Festival & Highland Games is an annual three-day event that celebrates local Scottish heritage and features world-renowned talent and entertainment in the beautiful town of Fergus, Ontario August 12-14.  See:

The return of the Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo

This August, The Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo will make its highly anticipated return with this year’s show, Voices. Staged on the iconic Edinburgh Castle Esplanade, the show will be a celebration of expression, giving a stage to performers and acts from around the globe to share their voice. Voices draws inspiration from people across the globe who, despite physical separation, continue to connect and share their voices creatively through spoken word, song, music, and dance–languages common to all.

Over 800 performers

Over 800 performers from across the globe will take part in in this year’s Tattoo, bringing with them incredible music, dance, and performance talents. There will be cultural showcases and musical presentations by performers from Mexico, The United States, Switzerland, Germany, Canada, Australia and New Zealand, along with homegrown talent from the UK. Military acts will continue to play a central role in the performance, with the Army confirmed as the lead service this year. Audiences can expect to hear the legendary sound of the Massed Pipes and Drums that will echo around the Esplanade as part of Voices, supported by Tattoo Pipes and Drums, Tattoo Dancers, Tattoo Fiddlers and musicians from UK Military Regiments.

The Show will run from 5-27 August 2022. Tickets are on sale now and can be purchased at or on the phone on +44 (0)131 225 1188.

The Northern Meeting Piping Competition launches first-ever live stream

The Northern Meeting Piping Competition, held at Eden Court in Inverness and renowned as the most prestigious piping competition in the world, will be live-streamed for the first time ever on Thursday 1st September 2022. Several of the events from world’s greatest non-invitational indoor solo piping competition will be available to watch for just £15 from the comfort of your own home, including the Gold Medal and The Former Winners March, Strathspey and Reel with more events over the two days planned to be added in future years. The Gold Medal will start at 8.30am (GMT) on Thursday 1st September followed by The Former Winners March, Strathspey and Reel at around 5pm (GMT) on the same platform.

Piping is at the heart of Scotland’s identity

Sir Patrick Grant, from The Northern Meeting Piping Competition, said: “We’re delighted to unveil this new ticketed live stream option for this year. The piping community is international, and we hope by making this prestigious competition more accessible to everyone more people will be able to enjoy it both at home here in Scotland and abroad.  Piping is at the heart of Scotland’s identity and the Northern Meeting plays a key part in promoting this rich musical heritage among Scots, and friends of Scotland, across the world – we believe this will only be improved with the introduction of this live streaming element this year.”

The Gold Medal for the classical piobaireachd music and the Gold Clasp for former winners are the most sought-after achievements for any piper. The honour attached to such success attracts pipers from across the British Isles, USA, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Northern Ireland and Europe.

The oldest musical competition in the world

Entry to the competition is restricted to those of the highest calibre and the bar is set high with only around 100 competitors selected to take part in the various events. These include the classic Piobaireachd, March, Strathspey and Reel and Hornpipes and Jigs. The competition also caters for younger players with around 30 to 40 young competitors each year. This year the Northern Meeting Competition will welcome young players from all over Scotland, as well as some from Canada and New Zealand. This will take be available to watch in-person on Friday 2nd September and won’t be part of the live-streaming option.  In-person tickets to the two-day event will be available to purchase at Eden Court on the competition days.

Held in Inverness since 1841, the Northern Meeting is the oldest musical competition in the world. It’s dedicated to Scotland’s unique form of theme and variations played solely on the Highland Bagpipe, known as piobaireachd or pibroch.

Live stream tickets are priced at just £15 and once purchased they will provide access live on the day and for the month of September. They are on sale now at

19 World Records Topple at Moncton Highland Games

Moments of reverence were found among the revelry at the 16th annual Greater Moncton Highland Games & Scottish Festival, host of the 2022 SMAI Masters World Championships. The return to in-person events after a two-year hiatus touched each part of the international event with a tinge of celebration. The heavy events athletes and their fans cheered again and again as personal bests and world records were set. The crowd grew silent and touched by solemnity when Elsipogtog tradition bearer Joan Miliea welcomed them in Mi’kmaq with the Humbling Song and Honourary Chieftain Michael Yellowlees called on them to join him in the battle against climate change.

The largest Masters World Championships

Hosting the largest Masters World Championships to date was an ambitious endeavour for an organization that only had 13 full in-person Highland Games under its sporran before now – but with true Scottish tenacity, a small and dedicated group of volunteers (with one part-time paid event manager) created a world-class event that celebrated art, music, culture, and the best of Maritime hospitality.

On one side of the complex, attendees watched as Midas Well Creations painted a reimagined Loch Ness monster while musical group after musical group took to the Lowlands Stage. Nearby, historical sword fighting techniques were tested in competition while blacksmiths Dave Bell and Kyle Strutt showcased their craft. Across the parking lot filled with food trucks, craft beer tents, and the Highlands Stage humming with musical performances, vendors filled the spaces between Clan tents, fly tying and archery demonstrations. The workshop tent was filled with learning for two days. Sheep shearing and spinning took place nearby, and local authors read from their Scottish-inspired children’s books. Enterprising families enjoyed horse & wagon rides around the property to get an overview before diving into their favourite activities.

Eight East Coast pipe bands competed, with Dartmouth & District’s Grade 4 band capturing the Merrill Henderson Trophy for Band of the Day. Cameron MacNeil of the Cape Breton University band was Piper of the Day, while College of Piping’s Austin Trenholm won Drummer of the Day honours. In the highland dance tent, 125 dancers competed, with local perpetual awards presented to Nara Cooke (the Ferris Leanne Tweedie Memorial Trophy) and Hannah Clarke (the Wallace & Corena Tweedie Memorial Trophy).

Scotland’s Michael Yellowlees presided over the Games as Honourary Chieftain, a recognition of his journey across Canada in 2021, during which he and his canine companion, Luna, raised £50,000 for the Scottish rewilding charity Trees for Life. In true Chieftain fashion, Yellowlees used the opportunity to recruit followers for his next battle: he and Luna are again travelling across Canada, this time to raise money for the Nature Conservancy of Canada.

International World Records

Musical acts, including the ever-popular American Rogues, entertained at the 2022 Greater Moncton Highland Games and Scottish Festival. Images courtesy of Heidi-Lyn O’Connor.

On the heavy events field, athletes from around the world set personal bests and brought down 18 Scottish Masters Athletics International World Records. Competing for the 10th time at the Masters, Larry Sisseck represented the 70+ class alone, setting world records in that class for the Light Hammer (88’), Weight over Bar (13’4”), Light Weight for Distance (50’3.5”), and Heavy Weight for Distance (34’4”). Hall of Famer Sue Hallen set three world records for the Women’s 65-69 class, in Open Stone (24’4.5”), Heavy Hammer (61’9”), and Light Hammer (76’10”). New Brunswick’s Dirk Bishop, who came out of retirement to compete, set world records in the Men’s 55-59 Lightweight for Distance (64’3″), Light Hammer (109’8”), and Heavy Hammer (85’8”).

In the Men’s 65-69 class, Mark Buchannan set world records in Weight over Bar (16’), Heavyweight for Distance (39’1.5”) and Lightweight for Distance (52’5.25”). Dale Gehman set a Lightweight for Distance record of 61”5.5” in Men’s 60-64 and Mike Zolkiewicz’s 22’4” in Weight over Bar set a new record for Men’s 40-44. Teresa Nystrom set a new record for Heavyweight for Distance for Women’s 55-59 at 44’5” and Sylvana Bomholt set an Open Stone records of 34’5.75” for Women’s 45-49. Women’s Lightweight saw Nicole Davis with a record-setting 18’6” in Weight over Bar, and Hall of Famer Denise Houseman set an Open Stone record of 29’3” in Women’s 60-64.

There were five Caber Toss scores of 12 during the Masters (Andrew Hobson, Mark Howe, John Jans, Bill Waddell, & Mike Zolkiewicz), and eight between 12:02 and 12:15 (Doug Berry, David Marble, Zechariah Whittington, Kevin Rogers, Chris Nickell, Stacy Green, Denise Houseman, and Moncton Athletic Director Bryan MacLean).

The 16th annual Greater Moncton Highland Games & Scottish Festival, host of the 2022 SMAI Masters World Championships, included 25 hours of live music over two and a half days, culminating in the American Rogues playing an acoustic set during a lobster dinner for athletes and their families where the region’s seafood ambassador, Kilted Chef Alain Bossé, showed everyone how to dig into the crustacean on their plate. The event certainly made good on its promise to showcase feasts of strength and feasts of lobster!

SMAI Masters World Champions 2022
Full results at

Women’s 40-44: Janine Tessarzik, USA
Women’s 45-50: Sylvana Bomholt, GERMANY
Women’s 50-54: Adena Robinson, CANADA
Women’s 55-59: Teresa Nystrom, USA
Women’s 60-64: Denise Houseman, USA
Women’s 65-69: Sue Hallen, USA

Women’s Lightweight: Nicole Davis, USA

Men’s Lightweight 40-44: Davin Boydstun, USA
Men’s Lightweight 45-49: Petrus Sundevail, SWEDEN (tie)
Men’s Lightweight 45-49: Scott Verbus, USA (tie)
Men’s Lightweight 50+: Chris Nickell, USA

Main photo: 2022 SMAI Masters World Championships took place June 17-19 in Moncton, Canada. Photo by Heidi-Lyn O’Connor, East Track Mind.

Patterns of the Past: rock art in Kilmartin Glen and far beyond

By: David C. Weinczok

Motifs and symbols are some of the most enduring and intriguing remnants of the past for historians and archaeologists to study. Unlike structures, they can endure long after any individual site has been reduced to dust. Deciphering a motif’s meaning keeps many such experts up at night, but there is more to it than just the ‘how’ or ‘why’. Understanding and reinterpreting past symbols, I believe, brings us close to the essence of ancient lives precisely because we can’t help but make them our own, just as past peoples would have.  

Ring rock art

Ormaig rock art.

One of the most prevalent types of motifs in Scotland are variations on cup and cup-and-ring rock art. These simple designs consist of a ‘cup’ or bowl-like depression carved into a stone surface, sometimes surrounded by layers of ‘rings’. These symbols pop up around the world. While they’re most strongly associated with the north-west seaboard of Atlantic Europe, they can also be found in Scandinavia, Alpine valleys, and the Aegean Sea. Similar patterns of rock art, though with important distinctions, have been found in Australia, Central Asia, Hawaii, India, Mexico, and more.

More than 3,000 rock art sites, many of them bearing cup or cup-and-ring marks, are known in Scotland today. They were made between 4,000 – 2,500 BCE, and re-used in various ways well into the Bronze and Iron Ages (and, as we’ll see soon, much more recently). There are several especially dense clusters, including around Loch Tay, but no historic landscape quite brings them to life like Kilmartin Glen in Mid-Argyll. Specific locations of note in the area include Achnabreac (also spelled Achnabreck), Ormaig, and Kilmichael Glassary.

Recent research by Scotland’s Rock Art Project (ScRAP) has shed light on the relationship of rock art to the wider landscape. Most rock art sites are located on gentle slopes facing south, ensuring greater sun coverage and coinciding with areas most favourable for prehistoric settlement and agriculture. As in Kilmartin, many instances of rock art are not visible from far away. In fact, they are often found away from obvious paths, suggesting that they were not intended to be landmarks or obvious statements of power but were perhaps more intimate, with only those in the local community or those bearing special knowledge knowing their location.

A handshake between tiers of the cosmos

Nether Largie Mid Cairn.

Creating cup-and-ring marks was laborious, but not as intensively as you might think. Experimental archaeology has shown that a simple cup-and-ring design can be made on the surface of softer rocks like sandstone using stone and bone tools in thirty to ninety minutes. Softer stones don’t last as long against the forces of erosion, however, so most examples of rock art found in Scotland today are ‘pecked’ into harder rocks like schist. Pecking marks on tougher rocks takes longer, but a single cup-and-ring mark can still be made within a single day. The act of creating rock art was likely itself ceremonial, an event meant to create a common memory and spectacle for the community. While standing around listening to the repeated tap-tap-tapping of someone pecking a design into stone might not sound like thrilling entertainment to us today, a greater appreciation can be gained for such communal events by considering prehistoric cosmology.

A common way of perceiving existence in prehistoric societies the world over was as a three-tiered universe: the realm above (sky), the realm here (earth), and the realm below (netherworld). Within this cosmology, certain stones, metals, and minerals like quartz were considered ‘alive’ in the sense that they were believed to have come from one tier into another, ours. In this way, pecking designs into stones can be understood an interaction with another realm. The rhythmic sounds produced are not so different from shamanic chanting or drumbeats. The morphing of the raw material of stone, and even things like the bright green colour produced fleetingly by striking quartz, were expressions of that relationship – a handshake between tiers of the cosmos.

In a 1971 article in the Proceedings of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland, Ronald Morris makes a fascinating observation about how symbols change their form and meaning over time. The cross has been a symbol of Christianity for 2,000 years, but a red cross now means ‘medical aid’; a white cross on a red background means ‘Switzerland’; a Victoria Cross means ‘bravery’, and so on. Like crosses, cup-and-ring rock art has variations in form, context, and position – the precise meaning of each is simply unknown to us. A cup-and-ring mark on a south-facing slope may or may not have meant something different than a cup-and-ring mark etched onto a standing stone, which may or may not have meant something different than one removed from its original location and added to a later cairn, boundary fence, or domestic hearth.

Timeless symbol

In Kilmartin Glen, something I found fascinating is how the modern community has clearly embraced the motifs. They are seen everywhere from children’s drawings in chalk to decorations in windows to signposts for local companies on roadsides. Symbols first created up to 6,000 years ago are still being created, displayed, and innovated upon – isn’t that extraordinary? One particular example of this stands out. The focal point of Kilmartin Glen is the ‘Linear Cemetery’, a series of burial cairns laid out in a line across the floor of the glen. One of these cairns, Nether Largie Mid Cairn, was almost wholly reconstructed following excavations in 1929. To enter the cairn – which, historically, was not intended to be entered – you must climb atop the pile of stones and go in through a metal hatch and ladder. The stone ledge in front of the ladder is adorned with a cup-and-ring motif likely carved at the time of reconstruction.

The ‘original’ cairn had no such marking, but now it does. The design was familiar to the cairn builders, but used here in a new way as an entrance marker. It’s not strictly accurate to how cup-and-ring marks were once used, but it speaks to the spirit of the place in a way that makes visitors dwell on the connective themes of ancient Kilmartin. It was made by people a century ago, and now seen and stepped over by people today and photographed by smartphones. Each person who sees it decides for themselves how to interpret it, and it’s this adaptability that makes the cup-and-ring design such a timeless symbol.

Back home in central Edinburgh following a week-long stay in Kilmartin Glen, a funny thing began happening. I started seeing cup-and-ring marks everywhere: in the vaguely concentric pattern on a coffee shop’s napkins; on a fence cordoning off a building site adorned with the builders’ ripple-like logo; and in the splashes made by raindrops in the pools forming in pockets along the street outside my flat.  The universal simplicity of the design means it can manifest just about anywhere, far from any stone that bears them. They linger not just on smooth stone canvases, but in the mind. That, ultimately, is where the stuff that connects us all as humans dwells. So, wherever you may be in the world, look out for cup-and-ring marks – in the clouds, in the foam of your coffee milk, in the ethereal moments between sleep and wakefulness – and in doing so, become part of a more than 6,000-year-old tradition of motifs and imagination.

Editorial – The Scottish Banner Says….

August – 2022 (Vol. 46, Number 02)

Torin McEwan experiencing the joy of the Aberdeen Highland Games. Photo: Amanda Ray Images

The Banner Says…

Edinburgh-Flowering of the Human Spirit

It would have been the late 1980’s when I first visited Edinburgh in August, and during the buzz of Edinburgh festival season. That summer I managed to make it to a couple of Fringe shows and also my first Edinburgh Military Tattoo (it was not titled ‘Royal’ until 2010).

Though I had been to Edinburgh before, never had I experienced the buzz and energy of August.

A world leading festival city

2022 is the 75th anniversary of Edinburgh’s evolution as a world leading festival city. The concept for the very first Edinburgh International Festival (EIF) began soon after World War Two finished and it was an Austrian, Sir Rudolf Bing, who had fled Nazi occupied Germany and thought that the UK should have an international cultural festival and Edinburgh was put forward. The first EIF took place in August 1947, and so too did the first Edinburgh Fringe which is today the world’s largest arts festival and also the Edinburgh International Film Festival (originally called the International Festival of Documentary Films), which is the oldest continually running film festival in the world.

The Fringe however has its roots as an unplanned festival with theatre companies and performers staging shows in Edinburgh at the same time and not part of the official EIF program, these would become known as “Fringe Adjuncts” or those on the fringe of the main festival. These fringe acts soon became sought after by audiences and its very own festival was born. By 1950 the first Edinburgh Military Tattoo also joined Edinburgh’s August program and during the 1980’s the Edinburgh International Book Festival was added to the calendar.

These events now host tens of thousands of performers, who put on thousands of shows across Edinburgh for a global audience who converge on the streets of Auld Reekie just as I first did all those years ago. For those who may not know Auld Reekie is the term Edinburgh is affectionately known as. Auld Reekie is Scots for ‘Old Smokey’, a nickname which was given back when smoke from open coal and peat fires filled the city air like a fog. Some may also know Edinburgh as the ‘Athens of the North’, a term which was used more as the New Town was developed and the various monuments which followed.

In this issue

For those lucky enough to be in Edinburgh this month we feature some of the incredible and open spaces the city has to offer around Holyrood. At the opposite end of the Royal Mile to Edinburgh Castle lies some beautiful and rugged spaces. I have gone ‘walkies’ with friends and their dogs in Holyrood Park and also made it to the top of Arthur’s Seat for some amazing views of the capital. Though the latter certainly requires some level of fitness. This month’s feature by David McVey reminds us that Edinburgh does in fact rest on the remains of an extinct volcano that erupted 350 million years ago!

2022 is Scotland’s Year of Stories and the activities are continuing throughout the year. Stories make up so much of Scotland’s history, folklore and tradition. From that in the printed form to passed down verbal tales that help make up how Scots see themselves. Scotland has a particularly rich heritage of stories and storytelling to spotlight and celebrate and we hear from VisitScotland who are managing this fantastic year of events. For those not visiting Scotland in 2022 remember many of the locations being highlighted will be there waiting for when you can next travel.

The Panama Canal is a 51 mile/82km waterway that connects the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans and is considered one of the greatest engineering feats of the 20th century. Some may be surprised, like me, that a Scottish vessel from Renfrew was a key part of its construction. This is just one other example of how ‘Clydebuilt’ went on to shape the world.

Edinburgh named best city to visit in the world

Just in time for the summer tourist season Edinburgh has also been ranked as the top city to visit in the world in a recent poll. The Scottish capital has topped a list of 53 cities based on interviews with more than 20,000 people about life in their hometowns by Time Out magazine. Edinburgh scored highly across the board, coming top for both the number of residents who thought the city was beautiful (95%) and those who deemed it walkable (93%), as well as 88% saying it is easiest to express who you are.

The very first Edinburgh International Festival was born as Europe healed after war and its aim then was to ‘provide a platform for the flowering of the human spirit’. As Scotland’s capital welcomes the world to its cobbled streets this month and after the last couple of years of the pandemic across the world and as war is again on Europe’s door, its original purpose rings just as true as it did 75 years ago.

Have you been to Edinburgh for Festival season? Do you have you any comments from the content in this month’s edition? Share your story with us by email, post, social media or at:

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Canmore Highland Games-How to savour your inner Scot

September 3-4, 2022 brings back the full experience of Celtic culture at Centennial Park in Canmore – so you’ll want to witness the colours of the tartans and the thrill of the pipes at the 31st Annual Canmore Highland Games. Here’s how you can awaken your inner Scot with some big fun – the Taste of the Highlands, the Canmore Highland Games and the Canmore Ceilidh, beneath the scenic peaks of the Rockies on Labour Day weekend.

Taste of the Highlands, Sat Sept 3, 5 to 9 pm: Enjoy an evening of wines and whiskies, meads and ale with local and international beverages and brews from some of the world’s most celebrated producers. The Celtic lounge atmosphere features experts available to share their knowledge as you sip your way from booth to booth. Appetizers served up by some of Canmore’s finest restaurants.

Bring the whole family for the Highland Games

The Highland Games, Sun Sept 4, 8 am to 5pm: Bring the whole family for the Highland Games – visit the clans, see the heavy sports, shop the Celtic market, watch the sheepdogs at work, observe the intense competitions of highland dancing and piping and drumming, enliven your palate with a Scotch tasting, sample the foods available, quench your thirst while enjoying live Celtic music in the beer garden, and discover the British automobiles on show.

The Canmore Ceilidh, Sun Sept 4, 6 to 11 pm: Let loose and expose your inner Scot at the Canmore Ceilidh – while celebrating kitchen-party style. Headliners this year are The Mudmen. Always entertaining and definitely unique, The Mudmen are a blast of Celtic energy whose members are known to be characters both on and off the stage. The Mudmen are building a legion of fans from young to old with career highlights in national sporting events and at television appearances and festivals across the country. Irish and Highland Dancing and a guest pipe band round out the roster.

Are you feeling the pull to attend Canmore Highland Games?

“The Highland Games has become a signature summer event in our small mountain town. Every year we entertain the attendees at the Games while showcasing the many facets of our culture in our community. The large number of visitors creates economic support and benefit for many local businesses,” says Three Sisters Scottish Festival Society president, Sandy Bunch. Always an affordable event, there are advance tickets and bundles to choose from.

Tickets and event information can be found at:

Merlin Fact & Fake

The Dark Age in Southern Scotland rarely merits more than a passing reference in our history books.   The Oxford History of Britain states that “the turbulent, fractured, schizophrenic history of the Celtic nations, comes out as little more than a myth, fit for the refuse heap of history”! 

The time between the departure of the Romans and the arrival of St Columba was far from being “a myth”.  It was a dynamic and dramatic time in our history when the elements, which eventually formed Scotland, were beginning to come together.  Emerging kingdoms and politics, international trade, Christianity and new peoples – the Angles of Northumbria and the Scots of Dalriada – were changing the face of northern Britain

This will be the subject of an international conference in Moffat on 7th September 2022 (postponed since 2020 because of Covid).   It will bring together archaeologists, historians, philologists, topologists, literary scholars, geographers, geo-archaeologists, art experts and anthropologists in a multi-disciplinary meeting of minds.

The historic Merlin story

The 6th century AD is the background for the historic Merlin story, not as the wizard of legend but a man of learning – a free thinker who was suddenly subjected to horrors not so different to the present Russian invasion of Ukraine. His world was shattered in a bloodbath of pillage and genocide and his beliefs exterminated by the imposition of an alien Christian religious dogma.  Suffering post-traumatic stress disorder, he took to the hills as an outlaw, surviving on what nature could provide until he was finally assassinated and buried on the banks of the weed..

Over the centuries that followed, history evolved into legend.  His story was adapted, to champion new ideals and changing times.  What is fact and what is fake?  Where does story-telling and history connect?  The conference will examine and debate the evidence.  A programme of archaeological investigation starting in August in the Upper Tweed will explore the unknown.   A hidden heritage is at last gradually being unearthed.

For an outline of the Conference programme see   It is open to the public (£35 including buffet lunch) with a field trip to the excavation site the next day).  Entry will only be available by advance booking. 

TransPennine Express celebrates first service to call at Reston in more than 50 years

Communities from East Berwickshire in the Scottish Borders were connected by rail for the first time in more than 50 years thanks to TransPennine Express (TPE). The first service took place in May from Edinburgh stopped at the newly constructed Reston Station, marking the first passenger service in the village since 1964. To mark the historic occasion, the first train to call at the new station was named ‘St Abb’s Head’ after the picturesque Scottish National Trust reserve located just a few miles away.

Matthew Golton, Managing Director of TransPennine Express, who was among TPE customers on the first rail journey to Reston, said: “This is a landmark day for Reston – and for TPE – and we’re delighted we’ve been able to work with our partners to help connect communities in the Scottish Borders. Our customers are at the heart of everything we do, and it was fantastic to see so many using our newly named ‘St Abb’s Head’ Nova train this morning. We’re excited to welcome the hundreds of future travellers who have already purchased advanced tickets and look forward to the part TPE will play in providing new leisure and commuting opportunities for the local community.”

Transport Minister, Jenny Gilruth MSP, who travelled on one of the first TransPennine Express services from Edinburgh said: “Thanks to the Scottish Government’s investment of £20 million, rail services are returning to Reston station. I am delighted to be celebrating the re-opening of Reston, connecting another part of the Scottish Borders to Scotland’s rail network.  For the first time since 1964 the people of Reston and Berwickshire will have rail connectivity.  We know that reconnecting communities to rail isn’t just about transport; it’s opening up employment opportunities, it’s driving investment & it’s creating opportunity for future generations. This investment will change the lives of the people of Reston for the better.”

The new services operate in each direction seven times per day between Edinburgh – Berwick-upon-Tweed (calling at Dunbar and Reston) and five times per day between Edinburgh – Newcastle (calling at Dunbar, Berwick-upon-Tweed, Alnmouth, Morpeth and Reston, with limited calls at Cramlington). Passenger volumes on these services grew by 50 per cent in the past four months as customers took advantage of the new connectivity.

The Thistle – Scotland’s national flower

By: Rheanna-Marie Hall,
The National Trust for Scotland (NTS)

The thistle is the flower of Scotland and one of its most recognisable symbols. Since King Alexander III, it has been Scotland’s national emblem. No-one is truly sure of how the thistle came to be Scotland’s national flower. A well-known story though attributes the thistle being chosen as the emblem of Scotland to the Battle of Largs (a coastal town in Ayrshire) in the 13th century. A Norse army journeyed to Scotland, intent on conquering the land.

The legend has it that they left their ships under cover of night, and were planning to ambush the sleeping Scottish Clansmen. In order to be as quiet as possible, the Norsemen had removed their shoes. However as they crept across the countryside, one of them stepped onto a thorny thistle. His cry of pain roused the Scots, and the warriors rose up and defeated the invaders.


Silver coins in Scotland and later Britain have long featured a thistle, and the first coins to do so were as early as 1474, issued by King James III in Scotland. The most recent design to feature the thistle plant was the British 5p coin (which stopped being minted in 2008), which was impressed with ‘The Badge of Scotland, a thistle royally crowned’. In 1687 King James VII and II founded the Order of the Thistle. Its heraldic emblem was, of course, the thistle. Its full title is the Most Ancient and Most Noble Order of the Thistle, and it is an order of chivalry, the highest honour Scotland can bestow on an individual. The motto of the Order, Nemo me impune lacessit, ‘No one provokes me with impunity’, pairs well with the prickly thistle which cannot be picked without difficulty.

The symbol of the thistle can also be seen in combination with other national flowers and symbols. Below is a flag gifted to Falkland Palace in 1950, to mark the 300-year history of the Scots Guards. The emblem represents the Crown and the rank of Colonel, showing the Scottish thistle, English rose and Irish shamrock with the words Unita Fortior, ‘stronger in unity’. The military colours were presented to George VI when he was Colonel-in-Chief of the Scots Guards from 1932–7.

The thistle flower

Alpine blue sow thistle alongside melancholy thistle.

Thistles can be found right across Scotland, from the Lowlands to the Highlands, and even on the islands! There are a number of different types which grow in the UK, and a variety of thistles can be found in the wild around Scotland, the most common being the spear thistle, the creeping thistle, and the marsh thistle. It is the native spear thistle, Cirsium vulgare, which is thought to have been used as the national emblem. They are abundant in Scotland, and the imagery on coins, flags and other symbols through history closely matches this particular variety.

There is another type of thistle known as the ‘Scotch thistle’ or cotton thistle, Onopordum acanthium, but this is non-native. It was likely introduced from Europe sometime before the 16th century, and is most abundant in the United States of America and Australia. Different varieties of thistle can be seen at NTS countryside and garden properties across Scotland, such as Mar Lodge Estate National Nature Reserve.

At Mar Lodge Estate, where over 600 plant species have been recorded, since 2018 a rare plant conservation project has been underway for two species which are at risk of extinction in Scotland. One of these is the alpine blue sow thistle (Cicerbita alpina). At Mar Lodge it can be seen growing beside the more traditional-looking varieties of thistle, here a melancholy thistle, Cirsium heterophyllum.

A popular symbol

The thistle is now well ingrained into the cultural identity of Scotland, and you can find it everywhere. Amongst other things, it is the logo of Scottish Rugby, adorns the crest of Scotland’s national football team, is a core component of the Police Scotland logo, and is a popular choice for any number of Scottish businesses. For visitors to Scotland, a keepsake decorated with a thistle flower is often a must-have!

Thistle plant extract can also be found in beauty products, particularly soaps and face creams, as in recent years it has been found to have anti-inflammatory properties and be a beneficial ingredient in skincare.

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

Fang-tastic! Scotland’s link to Dracula

VisitScotland is celebrating Scotland’s surprising links to Dracula and its famed author Bram Stoker on the iconic book’s 125th anniversary. Scotland is said to have played a crucial role in the creation of the classic story with Stoker holidaying north of the border as he wrote it. Visitors and locals alike are being encouraged to indulge in some literary tourism, whereby people are inspired to visit the locations depicted in literature, and delve into the country’s connections to Dracula, following in Stoker’s footsteps.

Slains Castle

Locations in Edinburgh, the Scottish Borders and Glasgow all have links to Stoker,  but it is perhaps the striking cliff top castle in Aberdeenshire that is best known for its links to the story. Slains Castle, near Cruden Bay, is believed to have inspired Dracula’s castle – specifically a unique octagon-shaped room described in the book, which Slains boasts. Stoker began writing Dracula – which was published in 1897 – while staying at the nearby Kilmarnock Arms Hotel, with his signatures from its guestbook in 1894 and 1895 surviving to this day.  Now in ruins, the castle is best admired from nearby and should not be entered due to safety reasons.

The 125th anniversary of Dracula is fittingly marked during Scotland’s Year of Stories which celebrates and promotes the wealth of stories inspired by, written, or created in Scotland. Recently, the national tourism organisation co-hosted a special event with Blackwell’s bookshop in Edinburgh to mark the anniversary attended by Stoker’s great-grandnephew Dacre Stoker, who took part in a Q&A and book signing attended by fans of Dracula and horror literature. Jenni Steele, VisitScotland Film and Creative Industries Manager, said: “This anniversary is a fantastic opportunity to highlight Scotland’s connections to this world-renowned book and character.  Dracula holds such a sense of intrigue and mystery, so it is not surprising that Bram Stoker’s writing is said to have been influenced by the country’s magical landscapes and locations while on his travels. It was pleasure to co-host the special event in Edinburgh and have Dacre involved in sharing his passion and knowledge about Dracula in Scotland. 2022 also marks Scotland’s Year of Stories – so this anniversary is a perfect fit to celebrate our links to this world-famous tale. And we hope that by shining a light on those ties, people will come and see the inspirational places that arguably helped created one of the most famous pieces of literature ever written.”

Scotland’s literary tradition

Dacre Stoker, great grandnephew of Bram Stoker, said: “It is a great privilege to part of this special anniversary, and even more so to be celebrating it in what is arguably the birthplace of Dracula; Scotland. The rich culture and heritage clearly left its impact on Bram; from the ruins of Slains Castle clearly inspiring the gothic setting of Dracula’s castle, to the vast landscape of Aberdeenshire’s coast to his links to Edinburgh and the Scottish Borders, including his friendships with writers such as Arthur Conan Doyle and other writers that make up the fabric of Scotland’s literary tradition. Scotland has inspired many writers and artists for centuries and its stories and landscapes hopefully will continue to inspire many more to come.”

Scotland has world-class literary links. Our landscapes, history and people have inspired writers for centuries, helping to bring to life enduring characters that capture the imagination. From Dracula to Outlander, Harry Potter to Sunset Song, Scotland has inspired some of the world’s best-loved literary creations. Pre-Covid19 there were over three million visits to literary attractions across Scotland (2013-2019). Figures released by the Moffat Centre for Travel and Tourism Business Development at Glasgow Caledonian University detail visitor numbers to places with literature links including Abbotsford – The Home of Sir Walter Scott, Robert Burns Birthplace Museum, the Grassic Gibbon Centre, the Writers’ Museum, JM Barrie’s Birthplace, Scott Monument and Burns Monument Centre.

And there are several Scottish locations with Dracula and vampire ties for visitors to discover:

Glamis Castle, Angus.

Renfield Street, Glasgow – It is believed Bram Stoker supported the staging of plays at the Theatre Royal in Glasgow and that the name of RM Renfield, the character featured in the novel, was taken from Glasgow’s Renfield Street.

Edinburgh – Before writing Dracula, Bram Stoker worked as a theatre manager, which saw him heavily involved in the opening night of the Royal Lyceum Theatre in Edinburgh in 1883.

Glamis Castle, Angus – There is said to be a ‘vampire child’ who was born in the castle and kept in a secret room. Another vampire legend tells of a woman who worked in the castle and was caught drinking blood from a body and was punished by being walled up alive in a secret room, where she remains to this day.

Melrose Abbey, Scottish Borders.

Melrose Abbey, Scottish Borders – Reportedly, during the 12th century an unpopular priest lived at the abbey. He was a rule-breaker and nicknamed Hunderprest because he preferred hunting with dogs rather than serving God. After he died and was buried on the grounds, it’s alleged Hunderprest rose from his tomb, wailing and drinking the blood of the nuns. One night, as the undead priest rose again, the other priests beheaded him, cremated him and scattered his ashes to the wind.

Blair Atholl, Perthshire – A local tale describes how two poachers were attacked by a blood sucking creature while they slept in a bothy near Glen Tilt. The pair fought the creature off after which it flew away into the night or accounts claim it simply vanished.

Another interesting Dracula connection is through Emily Gerard, an author born in Jedburgh, Scottish Borders and lived in Airdrie, North Lanarkshire. She was the first person to bring the word “nosferatu” or “vampire” into use in western Europe. She studied and wrote about Transylvanian folklore having married an Austro-Hungarian chevalier, who was stationed in a small town there. Gerard’s collection of Transylvanian myths and legends are known to have influenced Stoker’s Dracula.

Text and images courtesy of VisitScotland. For more information about Scotland’s Year of Stories 2022 visit:

Main photo: Slains Castle in Aberdeenshire is said to have inspired Dracula author Bram Stoker.

Glengarry Highland Games 2022-Celebrating McLennan pioneers

This year’s Glengarry Highland Games will be a special time to recognize the McLennan pioneers of south-east Ontario.  In attendance will be the Chief’s Commissioner in Canada, Clan Genealogy worldwide Coordinator and many researchers who have been documenting the Pioneers of Glengarry. Farquhar McLennan, a native of Morvich, near Kintail on the west coast of Scotland, arrived in Canada in 1802 and became a prominent businessman in Glengarry.  It is understood that Farquhar migrated to Canada on the 1802 voyage of the Neptune

His grandson “Big Rory” McLennan (1842-1907) was a champion athlete, famous railway contractor, banker and politician.  In 1891 and 1892 he was elected the member for Glengarry.

McLennan pioneers of Glengarry

Monument to “Big Rory” McLennan and his parents at the Williamstown Church. Photo courtesy Clan MacLennan Genealogy.

Today there are thousands of descendants of the McLennan pioneers of Glengarry. The Clan MacLennan genealogy Glengarry research group is well advanced with documenting the pioneers in Glengarry and their descendants.  Many of the famous Glengarrians are buried at the Williamstown churchyard.  Their research results are available from Numerous members of the research group will be at the Games this year to meet descendants and connections in the Clans area. On the Thursday the MacLennans will be at the Tartan Ball and on Friday they will host a reception in the Clans barn. For more information about Clan MacLennan see the Clans pages in this issue of the Scottish Banner.

Main photo: “Big Rory” McLennan, MP (1842-1907) – Member for Glengarry, served for 3,516 days. Photo courtesy Parliament of Canada.

Study sheds light on life beyond Rome’s frontier

Archaeologists from Edinburgh have discovered more than 100 Iron Age settlements in south-west Scotland that date from the time of Roman occupation. The team has been surveying an area north of Hadrian’s Wall to better understand the impact of Rome’s rule on the lives of indigenous people. Researchers explored nearly 600 square miles around Burnswark hillfort, Dumfries-shire, where Roman legions campaigned as the Empire expanded northwards. Previous archaeological research in terrain between Hadrian’s Wall and the Empire’s more northerly frontier at the Antonine Wall had focused predominantly on the Roman perspective. It had concentrated on the camps, forts, roads and walls that the Rome’s empire built to control northern Britain – rather than sites associated with native tribes.

Immense firepower

The new study initially focused specifically on Burnswark – home to the greatest concentration of Roman projectiles ever found in Britain, and a testament to the firepower of Rome’s legions. The research team went on to scour an area of 580 square miles beyond the hillfort, using the latest laser-scanning technology. Although much of the area had been studied before, researchers found 134 previously unrecorded Iron Age settlements — bringing the total number known in the region to more than 700. The survey’s discovery of so many small farmsteads is a significant finding, researchers say. Such settlements offer key insights into how the majority of the indigenous population would have lived. Analysis showed sites were dispersed evenly across the landscape — with dense clusters in some places — suggesting a highly organised settlement pattern, researchers say.

Empire’s edge

Work on Hadrian’s Wall began in AD 122 and, for two decades, the defensive fortification between the Solway Firth and the River Tyne marked the northernmost border of the Roman empire. In AD 142, having made further gains north, the Romans built a second defensive line called the Antonine Wall between the Firth of Forth and the Firth of Clyde. A few decades later, however, this second wall was abandoned with the Empire drawing its frontier back south to Hadrian’s Wall. The findings of this latest study by the University of Edinburgh, Historic Environment Scotland and the Scottish Universities Environmental Research Centre have been published in the journal, Antiquity. The study is part of a wider project called Beyond Walls, which is seeking to shed light on ancient sites, stretching from Durham in the south to the fringes of the Scottish Highlands in the north.

Northernmost frontier

Study author Dr Manuel Fernández-Götz, of the University’s School of History, Classics and Archaeology, said: “This is one of the most exciting regions of the Roman Empire, as it represented its northernmost frontier. The land we now know as Scotland was one of very few areas in Western Europe over which the Roman army never managed to establish full control”.

Fellow author Dr Dave Cowley of Historic Environment Scotland said: “The discovery of so many previously unknown sites helps us to reconstruct settlement patterns. Individually, they are very much routine, but cumulatively they help us understand the landscape within which the indigenous population lived.”

Visit East Lothian launches new destination driving routes

Taking inspiration from over 40 miles of stunning coastline, an expanse of open countryside, rolling hills and fascinating stories, Visit East Lothian has re-developed three driving routes which cross the county. The routes encourage visitors and locals alike to explore 102 miles around East Lothian and discover scenic landscapes, uncover picturesque towns and villages, visit hidden gems and experience authentic Scotland.

With people looking for new ideas and places to go, these routes open up a world of new adventures and opportunities.  The routes can be broken down into smaller sections which make for ideal cycling too. The Driving Routes provide a unique insight into the region’s fascinating history and heritage and continue right up to date with modern East Lothian. There are three routes to choose from. Each has stopping points with interpretation boards which link to further information on things to see and do in the surrounding area via a QR code.

Neil Christison, Regional Director, VisitScotland said: “East Lothian is a fantastic place to visit and explore and with its breath-taking coastline, quaint villages and quality visitor attractions has something for everyone. These driving routes will encourage visitors to explore further, stay longer and discover the region all year round. The impact of tourism spreads far beyond the industry itself – it benefits our economy, our community and our wellbeing.”

Breath-taking scenery

The Driving Routes take in some of Scotland’s most breath-taking scenery and iconic landmarks including The Bass Rock, Tantallon Castle, Belhaven Bay and Concorde as well as less well-known treasures such as Preston Mill, St Mary’s Church, Whitekirk and Gifford. The three themed trails follow an individual route between Bilsdean, close to Dunbar on the main A1 route into Scotland travelling from England and Musselburgh which links East Lothian to Edinburgh.

The Coastal Trail is perfect for exploring rugged cliffs, sandy beaches, wildlife spotting and historical attractions. The Saltire Trail follows a central route through the county and delves into Scotland’s rich history, heritage and culture. East Lothian is birthplace of The Saltire, Scotland’s national flag and the story of its creation is just one of many told on this trail. The Hillfoots Trail meanders through glorious countryside, heads up into the Lammermuir Hills, passes through traditional villages and takes in panoramic views. There is a network of EV charging points in East Lothian and parts of the routes are also suitable for cycling and walking.

Elaine Carmichael, Visit East Lothian said: “With the increase in the staycation market and the desire from locals to become ‘hametown’ tourists, we felt the time was right to give our car touring trails a new lease of life.  The resulting Driving Routes are a great addition to the overall East Lothian product and experiences offer and we are sure they will appeal to many people who want to really soak up the essence of a place, slow down and make the most of their holiday or day out. ’”

The routes can be viewed at:

Dunfermline granted City status by The Queen

Dunfermline is celebrating its new, official status as a city. The ancient capital has won its bid to have official status city, as part of the civic honours competition to celebrate The Queen’s Platinum Jubilee in 2022. Provost of Fife Jim Leishman, said: “The official title of city will give Dunfermline the wider recognition that it deserves as one of the fastest-growing, urban areas in Scotland, offering all the amenities that any modern city could hope for. City status will help us grow economically and as a tourist destination and will have a positive impact on Dunfermline and the surroundings. Of course, the people of Dunfermline have always known that Dunfermline is a city, that’s why we have the City Car Park, the City Hotel and City Cabs but it’s great to finally get official recognition of this. “

Dunfermline and St Andrews were both put forward to the competition, keen to see their heritage recognised and their historical status officially restored, and both bids were supported by Fife Council. Both towns were strong contenders, with Dunfermline a growing urban centre and historical capital of Scotland, and St Andrews known worldwide as the home of golf and Scotland’s first university.

Provost Leishman continued. “I’d like to congratulate Dunfermline and say thank you to all those who put in so much effort with the bid to get Dunfermline recognised as a city. And commiserations to St Andrews and all those who pulled out all the stops to put forward an excellent submission. We look forward to being able to say ‘officially’ – Welcome to the City of Dunfermline! “

Floral Clock blooms in honour of HM The Queen’s Platinum Jubilee

Work has finished to complete this year’s design on the world’s oldest Floral Clock in Edinburgh’s West Princes Street Gardens. For 2022, the hugely popular landmark celebrates Her Majesty The Queen’s Platinum Jubilee.

A team of five gardeners took just four weeks to plant over 35,000 flowers and plants used to create the clock, which will be in bloom until October. There are nine different plants included in this year’s design such as Agaves, Echeveria, Sedums, Pyrethrum, Crassula, Kleenia, Antenaria, Geraniums and Begonias. To be ready for the recent Jubilee celebrations, the team at Inch Nursery brought the plants on earlier than previous years and the gardeners worked quickly to complete this in time. They will be in full bloom throughout the summer.  This year also marks 70 years since a cuckoo clock was added which still chimes every 15 minutes.

The oldest of its kind in the world

Edinburgh’s Lord Provost Robert Aldridge said: “I am delighted to once again see the city’s beautiful floral clock completed, and in perfect time for the Jubilee weekend. Each year the iconic clock marks special occasions and events in the heart of the Capital and this year it is a unique tribute coinciding with celebrations taking place around the country as the nation marks the Queen’s 70-year reign. My thanks and congratulations to the dedicated and creative parks team who have put together the design that I’m sure will be enjoyed by everyone who passes by it this summer.”

The Floral Clock was first created in 1903 by then Edinburgh Parks Superintendent, John McHattie, and is the oldest of its kind in the world. It initially operated with just an hour hand, with a minute hand added in 1904, followed by a cuckoo clock in 1952. Until 1972 the clock was operated mechanically and had to be wound daily.

Since 1946 it has been designed in honour of various organisations and individuals, including the Girl Guides Association, Robert Louis Stevenson and The Queen, for her Golden Jubilee. In the clock’s centenary year in 2003 it won a Gold Medal at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show.

Floral Clock-Did you know?

-The clock was created in 1903 and is the oldest floral clock in the world.

-It is housed in the plinth of the Allan Ramsay Monument at the north-east corner of West Princes Street Gardens.

-Planting begins in May each year.

-Up to 40,000 plants are used in the design each year (compared to 13,000 in the 1930s; 25,000 in the 1950s).

-In 1946 the clock began celebrating a different event or anniversary each year.

-In 1952 a cuckoo clock was added and still chimes every 15 minutes.

-The clock began being operated electrically for the first time in 1973.

-The clock won a Gold Medal at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show in 2003.

-Clock circumference: 36 ft.

-Clock width: 11 ft 10 ins.

-Weight of large hand (when filled with plants): 80lbs.

Weight of small hand (when filled with plants): 50lbs

Floral clocks are now distributed worldwide and many were made in Edinburgh, where the idea originated.

They can be found in India, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, South America, United States of America, Canada and many other European countries.

Photo: Floral clock 2022. Photo courtesy of Edinburgh City Council.

Hebridean study to explore disease and genes link

People with at least two grandparents from the Hebrides in Scotland are being asked to take part in a major genetic study. The distinctive Hebridean gene pool could shed light on the causes of diseases such as stroke, diabetes, heart disease and cancer and, in time, potentially point to new treatments for the general population, researchers say. The genetic make-up of people from the islands – which previous research has shown to be different from the rest of Scotland – will allow researchers to investigate how variations in Hebridean DNA influence the health of locals.

The University of Edinburgh study, which is aiming to recruit 2,000 people, will not be limited to people living in the Inner or Outer Hebrides, but will also include people with Hebridean grandparents who live anywhere in the world.

Viking Genes study

Participants will be asked to complete an online questionnaire about their health and lifestyle and to return a saliva sample by post, which researchers will use for genetic analysis. Volunteers who live in the UK can choose to receive specific genetic information from their saliva sample. This information, provided in collaboration with the NHS, could help prevent future disease. The MRC-funded research builds on the work of the Viking Genes study, which has recruited over 8,000 volunteers with Orkney or Shetland ancestry.

Professor Jim Wilson, lead researcher and Chair of Human Genetics, University of Edinburgh, said: “Expanding the Viking Genes study will allow us to explore the unique genetic heritage of the Inner and Outer Hebrides. We will explore how the distinct gene pools influence the risk of disease today and investigate the Norse, Scottish and Irish components of ancestry in the different Hebridean isles.” The study also involves the University of Aberdeen and NHS Grampian Clinical Genetics doctors Professor Zosia Miedzybrodzka and Dr John Dean.

Register your interest in the study at:

Main photo: The village of Tobermory, Isle of Mull. Image: via Getty Images/University of Edinburgh.

When the Pipers Play

The Scottish Banner speaks to Finlay MacDonald, Artistic Director of Piping Live! Glasgow International Festival of Piping

The world’s biggest piping festival celebrates its return to the full in-person programme for the first time since 2019, offering a blended showcase of in-person gigs and online events, so both local and international audiences can enjoy the array of world-class performances. Finlay MacDonald, Artistic Director for Piping Live! Took the time to speak to the Scottish Banner on the festival which annually attracts over 30,000 attendees to Glasgow.

Finlay MacDonald.

Finlay you learned to play the pipes from your father and piping has been a huge part of your life. What is it about the instrument that you find so iconic and timeless?

FM: For me when I was younger it was simply the sound of the pipes that drew me. When I grew up my dad was a Pipe Major, and I was exposed to pipe bands from a very young age. That sound of standing by a pipe band is incredible, there is no recording that can capture what it is like to hear live pipes and drums. The visceral sound and the unique feeling you get when you hear those sounds, for me cannot be replaced. The pipes were so prevalent in my house, my father, sister and cousins all played, and it was very much in the family.

Piping Live! Is the world’s biggest piping festival and returns to venues across Glasgow this August. Can you tell us about some of the highlights at this year’s event?

FM: The highlight for me is getting PipingLive! back as an in-person event again. It has been a tough couple of years, but we have made things happen online and we are so grateful for everyone who has supported us through that and bought tickets for our online events. And while we still are doing an online element this year, which I think is still important in many ways as it keeps us connected to our digital supporters and those who cannot travel to Glasgow this year. Musically though getting people back is so important and obviously there is the atmosphere of a live crowd, there is nothing like it.

Attendees can meet with friends, enjoy a drink and listen to live music, and for me that is a really big thing. Musically we have some great acts coming, our headline act is Rura a really great Scottish folk band and one thing that makes that special is the band actually formed about 12 years ago just to play at PipingLive!, at the time at the emerging talent stage and I was actually teaching the guys over at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland here in Glasgow and I encouraged them to get together musically and we gave them their first gig.

Scotland is known the world over for bagpipes; however they truly are a global instrument. Can you tell us how does PipingLive! champion international piping performers and sounds?

FM: The pipes themselves have always been true to our core and it really is an international piping festival. We are lucky to travel around a bit and I am always on the lookout for different piping sounds in order to bring performers to Glasgow to showcase their sound. This year we have a great international element with pipers from Ireland, Estonia, Brittany, America, New Zealand and amazingly the first ever professional Iranian female piper Liana Sharifian.

Young composers Ellie McLaren (left) and Anna Scott (right) announce the return of Piping Live!

PipingLive! includes a great initiative for young people called Pipe Idol. Can you tell us more and why you find it so important to engage with and celebrate the next generation of great pipers?

FM: It has been part of our festival since we started and it is a great way to encourage younger plays to get up on a stage in front of an international audience, which can be a bit daunting. We do it in a very supportive and encouraging way, it is not like the formal judging panel; some may be used to. We pick judges who are in Glasgow, so an international panel, and they are seated amongst the audience, and we very much encourage it as a performance rather than a competition.

The contestants get to meet their peers from different countries and perform on the same stage as them, it really is a real positive thing for those taking part and gives them a platform and experience they otherwise may not have had before. When you give young musicians a platform like that, they generally go for it.

Piping Live! takes place at the same time the World Pipe Band Championships are also on in the city. For those that have yet to attend can you tell us just what the buzz in the city is like for pipe band fans?

FM: There is nothing like it, it really is piping heaven in Glasgow. If you are into piping or pipe bands, then Glasgow is the place to be in August. The music is one thing, that goes without saying, but there is also the social side to all this. Piping is a very friendly machine. At our festival we try to encourage a social side to the music where people can come together and meet each other from across the world, Glasgow itself really is alive with piping at this time and it is a great place to be.

Multi award-winning band RURA (Steven Blake – pipes/ Jack Smedley – fiddle/ Adam Brown – guitar/ David Foley – bodhrán) . The band RURA will headline Piping Live! 2022, 12 years on since first forming at the festival. Since launching at Piping Live! over a decade ago, the 4-piece have gone on to tour the world.

Glasgow is a UNESCO City of Music. How important do you feel it is to make sure the bagpipes are celebrated in Scotland’s most musical city?

FM: Glasgow is a year-round music city and great music can be had all over. Music can find you in this city from the great live music scene in clubs and venues to the simple pub scene there is always so much on offer. We have not just PipingLive! and The World’s here but great music events such as Celtic Connections which brings a great array of artists from across the globe. We are obviously passionate about showcasing and the celebrating the pipes and can think of nowhere better to do it than Glasgow.

The pandemic has been quite hard on pipe bands the world over, with practices and performances cancelled. How have you found the spirit, resilience, and comradery of the pipe band movement has helped players get through the isolation and tough times?

FM: It has been really tough for most bands, and some have found other ways to keep going like through online practices. It is so difficult to recreate the live sound of a band online when each member is Zooming in from a different address, but many bands have stuck with it and have also been creating new music during lockdown.

For some bands they have used the time to develop new material and really been massively resilient and come out stronger. We recently had our first in person competition here in Scotland in Gourock and there was a real amazing atmosphere and people were in fact joyous to be able to play the pipes again.

Finlay MacDonald performing at PipingLive!

And finally, Finlay what message do you have for anyone, regardless of age, interested in taking up the pipes or drums and joining a pipe band?

FM: Just do it! People in the pipe band movement are very welcoming and here at the National Piping Centre we teach people from the age of 8 to 80 and you are never too young or too old to learn. There is also all the added benefit of the experience that has been gained during the pandemic of online learning for those who are not near a pipe band.

You can start off online for those that can’t travel, and I know that online tuition works as I have seen students flourish through our online courses. Pipe bands really connect people and offers a huge range of opportunities and experiences that most would not have otherwise, like I said just do it!

Piping Live! Glasgow International Festival of Piping, will return to Glasgow from 6th – 14th August 2022. For details see:

2022 Balmoral School Summer Camp

Balmoral returns to its roots, hosting 2022’s summer camp at the university campus in Edinboro, Pennsylvania! July 17-21, join pipers and drummers from around the world for classes in an intimate setting, or register to sit-in on classes via Zoom. The week will include instruction and performances by some of the world’s leading educators and performers, with opportunities for both individual and group instruction as well as camp-wide activities suitable for all ages and ability levels.

Guest instructors

Guest instructors for 2022 include: Roddy MacLeod, MBE, of Glasgow, Scotland, who won his first Gold Medal at the Northern Meeting in 1986, Argyllshire Gathering Gold Medal in 1988. He is a 10-time winner of the Piobaireachd at the Glenfiddich Solo Piping Championship and has won the overall title five times. While Pipe Major of the Scottish Power Pipe Band, he led it to over 45 Grade 1 Championship prizes including the Cowal Championships and All Ireland Championships. He was Principal of The National Piping Centre from 1996 -2020.

Originally from Northern Ireland, now a resident of Pittsburgh, Andrew Carlisle who has won numerous top awards: A Grade Strathspey and Reel at Oban, the A Grade Piobaireachd & Overall at The Cowal Highland Gathering, US Gold Medals for both Light Music & Piobaireachd, and three All-Ireland titles at Senior level. He’s 3-time winner of the Macallan Trophy at Lorient, Brittany, France. Andrew holds the prestigious positions of Professor of Music and Director of Piping at Carnegie Mellon University.

Terry Tully, of Dublin, Ireland, who is one of the most influential composers of bagpipe music in Ireland and a former Pipe Major of St. Laurence O’Toole Pipe Band. Under Tully’s leadership, SLOT was the first pipe band from the Republic of Ireland to win the Grade One World Championship, also winning prizes in Ireland, as well as the Scottish and British 2008 Championships. Tully has performed with the Chieftains at Carnegie Hall and has appeared on three of the band’s albums.

All aspects of Highland Piping

Balmoral Staff Instructors include: Snare drumming instructor Ian McLeod and Bagpipers; George Balderose, Richmond Johnston and Sean Patrick Regan. Executive Director and Co-Founder of the Balmoral School George Balderose says: “The 2022 Balmoral Summer programs have a variety of offerings from professionals in the field that cover all aspects of Highland Piping, from beginning to advanced pipers and drummers, including a course on playing the pipes in ensembles with other types of instruments.”

Registration is currently open and will close July 5th, 2022. Join in person in Edinboro, PA or online. For more information or to register, please visit:

Multiverse celebrates the Summer Solstice

Crawick Multiverse held a special sunrise-to-sunset summer solstice celebration – a chance to enjoy the longest day amidst a spectacular 55-acre environmental artwork inspired by the sun and stars.  The site features standing stones, a great avenue, huge mounds and the beautiful Sun Amphitheatre. Summer Solstice at the Multiverse held activities that gently enhance the experience of being in a place specifically designed to link us to the cosmos.

Events included music, outdoor theatre, tai chi and yoga sessions around various parts of the Multiverse – with a special performance from the top of the mounds that represent the Milky Way and Andromeda galaxies.

The idea was for visitors to have the time and space to mark the solstice in their own way, enjoying a site that many feel has a sense of spirituality akin to ancient henges and stone circles. It also represents the next stage in the emergence of the art installation, created by the late Charles Jencks, into an outdoor events and performance venue. 

A cosmic landscape worthy of the ancients

Sharon Glendinning, Crawick Multiverse General Manager, said in the lead up to the event: “Crawick Multiverse was created by Charles Jencks to be ‘a cosmic landscape worthy of the ancients’ and is the perfect place to celebrate the solstice. The events and activities we have planned are intended to be engaging and fun, while bringing people closer to the tranquillity of the natural world around us, and the wider universe.”

Crawick is situated in the hills between Sanquhar and Kirkconnel, on the border of Dumfries and Galloway and Ayrshire. Crawick Multiverse is a spectacular land art installation created and inspired by Charles Jencks thinking about space, astronomy and cosmology. It was a major land restoration project, transforming 55 acres of former open cast mining into an inspirational landscape, unique destination and visitor attraction.

Crawick Multiverse reflects both the ecology and geology of the region where it stands. It has many spectacular features for visitors to enjoy which include 2,000 boulders were used to create Crawick Multiverse, the Northpoint provides a 20-mile 360-degree panoramic view and the Sun Amphitheatre at the heart of the Multiverse and can hold approximately 3,500 spectators.

For more information on Crawick Multiverse see:

Editorial – The Scottish Banner Says….

July – 2022 (Vol. 46, Number 01)

Scottish band Rura and members from PipingLive! celebrate the return of the Glasgow Piping Festival.

The Banner Says…

Scotland rolls out the welcome mat for summer

As we finish off the July issue the summer solstice is taking place across Scotland. Those long days allow visitors to Scotland to take in so much as some regions of the country can experience up to 19 hours of day light per day.

The summer solstice occurs each year when one of the Earth’s poles has its full tilt towards the sun, bringing the longest period of daylight in the Northern Hemisphere. Scotland has traditions dating back to the Stone Age during the summer solstice which included the use of fire to ward off evil spirits and bless crops and livestock.

An exciting summer of events

One thing that summer certainly brings to Scotland are events and after the last couple of years of cancellations and Covid protocols it is fantastic to see Scotland is again ready to welcome people from across the world for an exciting summer of events. The return of Highland Games and music festivals has already begun across Scotland and from next month major events such as the Edinburgh Festival’s, the World Pipe Band Championships and the Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo are all making a very welcome comeback.

In addition, 2022 is Scotland’s Year of Stories and events are taking place throughout the year celebrating the nations rich heritage of storytelling and the stories inspired by, written, or created in Scotland. Please check our events page for just some of the great events taking place this summer not only in Scotland but across the Scottish ex-pat world. For those who can’t get back to Scotland in 2022, next year will again be filled with some great events to take in on your visit.

Regardless of the time of year there is always something to enjoy in Scotland, just plan your wardrobe for all the weather Scotland can bring! Closer to home Scottish events are already back into full swing with Scottish community members filling their calendar each month with an array of outings which celebrate our common love of Scotland.

In this issue

Another major event returning this summer is Glasgow’s PipingLive! There is no sound that shouts Scotland more than the bagpipes. This month it is great to have Finlay MacDonald the Artistic Director of Glasgow’s International Piping Festival PipingLive! speak to us about the return of the world’s largest piping festival. Finlay and his team at the National Piping Centre in Glasgow promote, teach and celebrate pipes and drums year-round. PipingLive! is a celebration of global bagpipe sounds from across the world. Next month will be the place to be if you are into pipes and drums with both PipingLive! and the World Pipe Band Championships returning to Glasgow after the pandemic.

The City of Edinburgh has recently unveiled the city’s iconic Floral Clock. A sure sign of summer for the locals and visitors alike to enjoy and if you happen to be heading to the Scottish capital this summer and into early autumn, please do yourself a favour and check it out. The clock is the oldest floral clock in the world and is located in the heart of Edinburgh’s tourist scene. I have been to the clock in summer before and been amazed by the many thousands of plants used to create the annual spectacle with this year’s celebrating The Queen’s Platinum Jubilee.

Rock art can be found around the world and often has been used by our ancestors to tell their story. Scotland happens to have thousands of these mysterious carvings dating back thousands of years. One of the areas which has those in abundance is Kilmartin Glen which has the greatest concentration of prehistoric carved stone surfaces to be found in Scotland.

Happy Birthday Scottish Banner!

This month also sees the Scottish Banner notch up another anniversary year and celebrate our 46th birthday. They say for dogs one year is like seven, well for small independent publications like ours one year must be at least a decade! As with so many businesses we have had some tough months recently and I did wonder how the Banner could continue
through those pandemic days when we lost so much revenue. I am so thankful to those who continued to buy their copy each and every month and our wonderful advertisers who stuck with us.

Whilst we are not yet back to ‘normal’ and of course I realise, like so many, that actually a new normal may be what we have for some time. The support of the readers and advertisers has meant we march into our 46th year with a sense of hope and gratitude for the support.

So please join me in celebrating another year, as it is an achievement, we have all contributed to and here’s to many more to come!

Are you attending any events in Scotland this year or planning on returning next year? Do you have you any comments from the content in this month’s edition? Share your story with us by email, post, social media or at:

#ScottishBanner, #TheBanner

Covid-19 is having a major impact on many of our regular advertisers, with events being cancelled and businesses suffering. The Scottish Banner is more reliant than ever on our readers helping us to provide you with our unique content by buying a copy of our publication, regardless if by print or digital subscription or at a retail outlet.
We appreciate your support and hope you enjoy this edition.

A Celebration of Scotland’s Treasures Gala honours Outlander author Diana Gabaldon as Great Scot

The National Trust for Scotland Foundation USA’s annual gala, A Celebration of Scotland’s Treasures, drew tartan-clad philanthropists to New York City’s The Metropolitan Club in April, when American author Diana Gabaldon was honoured as the 2022 Great Scot. Gabaldon’s bestselling Outlander novels have brought the romance and drama of Scottish history to life for more than 50 million readers worldwide. They are also the inspiration for the Starz television series of the same name.  The presentation of the Great Scot Award was the highlight of the event, which this year raised $375,000 to support the conservation of heritage sites in the care of the National Trust for Scotland, including Culloden Battlefield and Robert Burns’ birthplace.

Chair of NTS USA Helen Sayles, CBE, Diana Gabaldon, and NTS USA Executive Director Kirstin Bridier.

Actors Sam Heughan and Graham MacTavish, stars of the Starz television series Outlander, presented the award to Gabaldon virtually from the United Kingdom, where they were filming. MacTavish noted, “Now it’s true that Diana herself is not Scottish, but I don’t think any of us can deny that Diana has done more than almost anyone to promote Scotland, its history and culture, on the world stage over the past decade. For that reason, I think, and I am sure you will agree, that Diana is surely an honorary Scot – and now a Great one at that.”

In accepting the award, Gabaldon made humorous and heartfelt remarks about the origins of her first novel, public reaction to the series, and her unanticipated role in preserving Scottish culture. Gabaldon had never been to Scotland before writing Outlander, and she shared that the Gaelic phrases used in her early books came directly from a Gaelic-to-English dictionary. After a Scottish scholar suggested as much, Diana developed a close relationship with him and incorporated more authentic phrasing in her later novels. Today, the Outlander series is recognized as contributing to a revival of interest in the Gaelic language and Highland culture.

An evening in true Scottish fashion

Kirstin Bridier, Executive Director of the Foundation, noted the parallels between Gabaldon’s role in promoting Gaelic and the work of 20th century American folklorist Margaret Fay Shaw who, together with her British husband John Lorne Campbell, made early audio and video recordings of daily life in the Hebrides in order to capture the language, folksongs, and traditions of the islands before they were lost to time. Providing access to Shaw’s remarkable collection, which is housed in her former home on the Isle of Canna, southwest of Skye, is the focus of the Foundation’s fundraising efforts this year.

A Celebration of Scotland’s Treasures was chaired by arts philanthropist Naoma Tate, whose great-grandfather was a master stonemason at Drumlanrig, home of the Duke of Buccleuch. Mrs. Thomas H. Hubbard and Jeannie Redpath Campbell Becton served as honorary co-chairs in recognition of their leadership support for the Isle of Canna over the past decade.  Guests were welcomed with a cocktail hour, including tastings by The Macallan, the official whisky of NTSUSA, and Rock Rose Gin, a multi-award-winning gin created by Dunnet Bay Distillers and with music by Skye Trio and Special Guests.  A silent auction featured opportunities to stay at luxury hotels The Fife Arms and Schloss Roxburghe; Scottish textiles from Begg X Co and Araminta Campbell; fishing with Orvis; jewelry from Edinburgh’s Hamilton & Inches; and a signed, hardbound set of the entire Outlander series.

Alasdair Nichol, Chairman of Freeman’s auction house and a frequent appraiser on PBS’s Antiques Roadshow, charmed 200 guests with a rousing live auction that included a week-long stay at Tulach Ard, a Highlands country house lovingly restored by ANTA designers Lachlan and Annie Stewart; a bronze maquette of sculptor Andy Scott’s Equus Altus; and an exclusive 50cl replica of The Intrepid—officially the world’s largest bottle of whisky.  In true Scottish fashion, the evening culminated in a cèilidh, at the end of which guests joined hands to sing Robert Burns’ Auld Lang Syne.

The National Trust for Scotland Foundation USA is an independent non-profit organization that exists to support the work of the National Trust for Scotland’s most urgent conservation priorities. For further information see:

Beyond The Burrell

By: David McVey

In March 2022 Glasgow’s world-famous Burrell museum, The Burrell Collection, welcomed visitors once more. Originally opened in 1982 (and ceremonially opened by the Queen the following year), it had been closed since 2016 for an extensive programme of renovation to repair faults and enlarge the available display space.

Naturally, the first weeks of reopening, which partly coincided with the Easter school holidays, saw vast numbers converging on the shiny new Burrell. I’ve been there and it’s still a jaw-dropping experience, unforgettably showcasing the enormous, eclectic collection of art and artefacts amassed by Glasgow shipowner Sir William Burrell, and subsequently gifted to the city. However, the crowds are likely to continue as we move across the summer months and as travel restrictions are relaxed. I’d suggest putting the Burrell aside for now, until numbers plateau a little. The Burrell has a leafy location in Pollok Park, and there are other good reasons for going there.

Glasgow’s largest park

Pollock Highlander. Photo: David McVey.

Pollok Park is Glasgow’s largest. It was voted Europe’s Park of the Year in 2008 but it didn’t start out as an urban park. It didn’t start out as urban at all. In the 1700s this was all countryside and, in some parts, it feels like countryside still. The best way to arrive is by train to Pollokshaws West Station from Glasgow Central; an electric shuttle bus runs from there to the park and its attractions, but I prefer to walk. Once you pass the Burrell car park you have fields on either side in which graze Glasgow’s very own herd of Highland cattle. In spring there will be a few of the teddy bear-like calves. The path starts to drop downhill to the left and suddenly you’re faced with the stunning frontage of Pollok House.

The Maxwell family have been linked with this area as far back as the 13th century but it was in the 1740s that a series of smaller pre-existing houses (or castles) were replaced by the present building, commissioned by Sir John Maxwell. The legendary William Adam is known to have drawn up plans for a house here but it’s unlikely that his designs were followed. The original house was a simple, four-storey structure outside but more lavish inside, with extensive decorative plasterwork.

In the 1800s the family line was merged with the Stirlings of Keir and the combined name of Stirling Maxwell was adopted. Sir William Stirling Maxwell (1818-78) was an expert in, and collector of, Spanish art. From his time onward the house became a focus for Spanish paintings and what’s now known as the Stirling Maxwell Collection is one of the highlights of a visit to Pollok House. There are two El Grecos on display.

Sir John Stirling Maxwell (1866-1956) inherited the estate in 1878 and was responsible for enlarging the house by adding two wings; you’ll probably start your visit in the east wing, in the breath-taking library. This Sir John (the eldest Maxwell or Stirling Maxwell was always John) sat as a Glasgow MP, was chairman of the Forestry Commission from 1929-32 and was involved in the formation of the National Trust for Scotland (NTS) in 1931. A crucial meeting to discuss the formation of the Trust, involving Sir John and other Scottish grandees who included the Duke of Atholl and Sir Iain Colquhoun of Luss, took place in Pollok House, in the Cedar Room. You can visit the Cedar Room, which resembles a small comfortable lounge in a Victorian hotel. Sir John was the Trust’s President from 1944 until his death in 1956. It’s fitting, then, that the house should now be in the care of the NTS.

Pollok House’s splendid tearoom occupies a space below stairs in the servants’ corridor. Some of the other aspects of servant life are presented in various rooms off the main corridor. In Sir John’s time in the early 1900s, his family (of three) were looked after by around fifty servants!

Pollock Estate

Pollock House. Photo: David McVey.

The full glory of Pollok House, though, is only visible when you step outside and stroll down to the White Cart Water, and stand between the house and the fine 18th century stone bridge over the river. The house is stunning from here, a soaring but attractive presence above the formal gardens.

Pollok Park is still often referred to as ‘Pollok Estate’ by local people. The park was, indeed, part of the Pollok House Estate, but then so was much of Glasgow far beyond the park, now long disappeared beneath houses and shops and roads and railways. The house and estate were given to the people of Glasgow by the Stirling Maxwells in 1966 along with the art collection, though the family retain ownership of the books in the library. More recently the management of the house was transferred by the city to the NTS.

Pollok House’s stable block is now being refurbished and will soon provide a home for the city’s Clydesdale horses. Away from the house, the park includes woodland, fields and river as well as a golf course and other recreational areas. There are trails for walkers, cyclists, runners and horse riders. It’s very easy to imagine yourself in some far distant stretch of rich Scottish countryside, at least until a nearby tower block appears between the trees. Many will go there in the coming months intent only on seeing the Burrell Museum and its astonishing collection. But there is more to Pollok Park than The Burrell.

Main image: Pollock House. Photo: VisitScotland.

The World’s Biggest Ceilidh comes to Glasgow this December

Musician and broadcaster Gary Innes and Highland dancer Rachel McLaggan at the OVO Hydro to launch World’s Biggest Ceilidh.

The world’s biggest ceilidh will take place in The Ovo Hydro in Glasgow later this year. Entitled Hoolie in the Hydro, the night will feature some of the top musicians on the Scottish and Irish scene. The world-first event, which will take to the Glasgow stage on Saturday 17th December 2022, has the potential to be the biggest night of traditional music to ever have taken place.  Marking the first time an arena has been hired by an individual in the UK to showcase a night completely dedicated to traditional music, Hoolie in the Hydro will be an iconic moment for the traditional music scene.  This momentous showcase, as the genre takes over the country’s biggest indoor arena, will be a watershed moment, with organiser Gary Innes hoping it will be the beginning of something special for the traditional music scene.

World-first event

Musician and broadcaster Gary Innes and Highland and dancer Rachel McLaggan.

Hoolie in the Hydro organiser, broadcaster and musician Gary Innes said: “I appreciate that putting a show of this size and scale during the current times is a bold move, but I also genuinely believe that traditional music has a place on the country’s biggest stages. Someone always has to go first, and my hope is that Hoolie in the Hydro will pave the way for other traditional musicians to take the gamble and start booking shows on a similar scale. Once the door is opened and people see that it can be done, I don’t see any reason why traditional music can’t be showcased throughout the year on stages like The Ovo Hydro. This world-first event is set to be the biggest night of traditional music that Scotland has ever seen. I can’t wait to have thousands of people join us for what’s sure to be a serious party and a history-making moment.”

Sparked by a Facebook post by musician and BBC broadcaster Gary Innes in early 2020, this unique concept has grown in momentum with unequivocal support from individuals both at home and abroad.  The idea first hatched in January 2020 after Gary reached 20,000 likes on his Facebook Page. To celebrate, he put out a slightly tongue in cheek post which said if half of the people who had ‘liked’ his page bought a ticket for the Hydro, they could have the world’s biggest ceilidh. The likes, shares and support for the idea started flooding in so he decided to properly research and scope the idea, meeting with the venue and further gauging people’s interest. The feedback was resoundingly positive so in early March 2020, Gary went ahead and booked Scotland’s largest indoor venue.

The star-studded night of entertainment will showcase some of the biggest and best names on the Scottish and Irish traditional music scene, including famed Caledonia singer Dougie Maclean, Celtic-rock sensations Mànran, Ireland’s Sharon Shannon Band, award-winning Scottish outfit Skerryvore and festival favourites Trail West. An All-Star ceilidh band will open the night and an unforgettable encore will welcome a host of special guests to the stage to finish this legendary night in extraordinary style.

Hoolie in the Hydro will take place on Saturday 17th December 2022 and tickets are on sale now at:

Aberdeen Highland Games back for 2022

The annual Aberdeen Highland Games, to be held 2nd July is now attracting great interest from all over as ticket sales ramp up. Following two years without the event many are very eager to get out and about and back to what they were doing pre COVID. There has been great interest from the pipe band world, and we expect some fifteen bands to be present on the day. People love the massed bands, and this year will provide a splendid showing.

The Kilted Warriors, the strong men, will also be back with their usual displays, another crowd favourite. New this year will also be music by The Boatmen.

There is a great array of stalls this year some of whom we have not seen before. They will provide an opportunity to pick some Scottish/Celtic items. We have some twenty clan tents that will allow individuals to check out the past and their family histories. There are always people around these tents. There will be novelty events for the children and a good supply of food outlets for those attending.

Be there at Aberdeen in the NSW Upper Hunter Valley from 8:30am for a 9:00am start. Tickets to be purchased online via the web site at:

The Montreal Highland Games 2022: OPEN in so many ways

By: Marilyn Meikle
Communications Coordinator, Montreal Highland Games

Participants and attendees have been waiting two long years for the return of The Montreal Highland Games. Wait no more! The Games will OPEN on the grounds of the Douglas Hospital, Sunday, July 31, 2022 after a hiatus due to COVID regulations. Expect enthusiastic crowds, the warmth of sunshine, the sound of pipes and drums, and cheers from the stands as the Games host the Canadian Scottish Athletic Federation OPEN Championships – the preeminent competition for Heavy Athletes. Will records be broken? Will new champions be crowned?

Scott MacKenzie, President of the organization, is thrilled to see the Games back live and in person. “We held an online edition of the Games in 2021”, says Scott, “but we can’t wait to bring together Montrealers of all backgrounds to celebrate Scottish sport, music and culture. Nothing beats seeing the massed bands march across an OPEN field!” MacKenzie is grateful for the support of returning sponsors and patrons whose financial commitment to the Games keep entrance costs at a minimum and permit organizers to run a shuttle bus service from the closest Métro station directly to the site.

The sounds of Scotland in Montreal

The Celtic Mile will be OPEN with vendors offering an assortment of Scottish fare. There will be fiddle contests. Plenty of opportunities to meet with Clans who welcome members with OPEN arms, and of course the Family Village with bouncy castles and Wee Games for the kids! Tiny cabers, rocks and wee hammers being tossed by children outfitted in kilts – the perfect photo opportunity for parents of all cultures. Medieval combat will return as competitors swing their axes in a quest for glory. Kilts will swing too as dancers compete in flings on the Highland dance stage. The friendliest competition of all will be the Tug of War in support of the Douglas Hospital. All funds raised support mental health initiatives – donations can be made via the Games website.

Ever-popular band Mariner’s Curse, leads the entertainment in the Ceilidh Tent for an eclectic afternoon of Celtic and Canadiana music. A more sublime atmosphere can be found in the Patrons’ Pavilion just across the green where a full Scottish lunch will be served by the Burgundy Lion Pub.

OPEN your senses to the sights and the sounds of Scotland in Montreal! Join in the Montreal Highland Games – they are sure to be “pure dead brilliant”.

For full details see:

Extremely rare medieval manuscripts now online

Stunning illuminations, medieval doodles, zodiac medical material, and advice to 12th century Knights Templar on the ‘superfluity’ of beards and moustaches can now be viewed in an extremely rare collection of medieval and early modern manuscripts online.

The National Library of Scotland digitised a collection of more than 240 precious manuscripts, which are available to view on The work was made possible by a generous donation from Alexander Graham. With the Scottish manuscripts in particular among the rarest, the collection contains items ranging from the 9th to the 16th century, but a few later transcriptions of important texts are also included. The resource includes manuscripts on a range of subjects such as medical manuscripts, the rule of Knights Templar, and rare survivors of the Reformation.

Rule of the Knights Templar.

Manuscripts Curator Dr Ulrike Hogg said: “This fascinating digitised collection is international in origin, though a large part of the volumes were written in Scotland. The survival rate of medieval Scottish manuscript volumes is generally low. For example, only one per cent of religious manuscripts of Roman Catholic use – many of which were systematically destroyed during and after the Scottish Reformation – are believed to still be in existence. It is difficult to estimate how many cultural treasures were lost during these times. The collection presented here includes a number of those fortunate survivors that have endured subsequent centuries. We’re delighted to make these extremely rare pieces of history publicly accessible online.”

Medieval Scottish book production

The collection includes:

•A 15th century folded medical/zodiac almanac, which probably belonged to a doctor based in northern England. Folded up, it could be worn on the belt.

•A selection of historical doodles showing rich period detail.

•A 12th century manuscript of the Rule of the Knights Templar order, including advice on the ‘superfluity’ of beards and moustaches.

•A 15th century psalter written and illuminated at Culross Abbey, Fife

•A tiny 15th century Book of Hours from Italy with lavish gold illumination

•An early 16th century manuscript written and illuminated in Dunkeld.

Book of Hours.

Dr Ulrike Hogg adds: “The digital images provide a new opportunity to gain some insight into medieval Scottish book production. The interests, tastes and knowledge of medieval scribes can be seen in these images, as well as the development of the medieval Scottish book hand and styles of illumination. The collection reveals much information on later owners of the manuscripts, who annotated them or added irreverent doodles as the volumes passed through their hands.”

The collection also includes volumes produced in England, France, Italy and northwest Europe, as well as Greece and Iceland. Many of these are finely decorated or of major textual significance.

The collection can be viewed at Early manuscripts – National Library of Scotland:

Melbourne Tartan Festival returns

After two long years the Melbourne Tartan Festival is back!  The skirl of pipes will be echoing through Melbourne from 3rd-28th July. The Festival program includes pop-up events in the city, Kirkin ‘O The Tartan, historical tour and exhibition, a high energy Ceilidh Dance with Melbourne Scottish Fiddle Club, Scottish Connections CBD walking tour, Scottish migration author talks, Gaelic language, music & culture morning, whisky dinner, whisky tasting, a haggis supper, traditional Scots music recital, concerts, music gigs, The Victorian Pipers Association Championships and the Victorian Scottish Dancing Members Association 61st Commonwealth Championships. 

To put you in the mood for all things Scottish, we begin the festival with a lead-in event on Friday 17th June – The Westin Whisky Dinner experience. The Westin Melbourne’s Executive chef has created a five-course menu matched to five premium Single Malt Whiskies from some of the world’s finest distilleries.  The evening will be hosted by Whisky Ambassador Andrew Buntine, one of Australia’s most influential whisky professionals, who will guide you through this exquisite whisky journey.

Great selection of Scottish themed events

The Scots’ Church in Melbourne Kirkin ‘O The Tartan service on Sunday 3rd July. The Clans and Associations procession is piped in carrying clan tartans. There is a reading in Scottish Gaelic and singing by the renowned Scots’ Church Choir.  Following the service and morning tea, curator and tour guide Kenneth Park will conduct a tour of the Scots’ Church and The Assembly Hall.

Gather a group of friends and head to Bell’s Hotel, South Melbourne for a fun Whisky Tasting night on Thursday 7th July, hosted by Whisky Ambassador Andy Bethune.

On Friday 8th July we welcome you to a rip-roaring traditional Scottish Jam Session at the home of Melbourne’s trad scene, The Last Jar Pub.  Sisters Tess and Luisa Hickey will lead the session and be joined by some of Melbourne’s best Scottish players. The musicians will transport you to Scotland with a toe-tapping mix of best-loved traditional tunes and popular contemporary ones. Book yourself a table for a meal and enjoy the vibe. Or BYO instrument and join in.  Free entry

Pop up performances will surprise and entertain city shoppers during the Festival. You never know where one of our performances will be, although we’re reliably informed that Sunday 10th July will be a good day to be in City.  There will be a pop-up performance in the Bourke Street Mall at 11.30am and dancing and music displays in Gordon Reserve from 11am-1.00pm.  At 2.00pm The Melbourne Tartan Festival Tartan Day Parade with 11 massed pipe bands will parade from Spring Street down Collins Street. 

A Celebration of Scots Song

Following the success of their 2019 Taking Flight concert, Hawthorn Pipe Band returns for a night of piping & drumming.  The Legacy Concert is a special music tribute to the band’s long serving Drum Major and WW2 veteran, the late Bob Semple and features of mix of new and traditional pipe band music with folk inspirations.  Hawthorn is one of Australia’s top pipe bands and the ‘Legacy’ Concert will see the band at its’ best.  They’ll be joined by a line-up of special guests.

A Celebration of Scots Song – Don’t miss internationally acclaimed traditional Scottish singer Fiona Ross, accompanied by guitar maestro Shane O’Mara, at Kew Courthouse on Sunday 17th July. This themed concert of traditional Scots song, interweaving live music with narrative and audio-visual presentation. The concert includes songs from their recent album Sunwise Turn – winner of Music Victoria’s Best Folk Album 2020 Award

The Melbourne Tartan Festival Gala Dinner and Concert at Melbourne Town Hall is on Saturday 23rd July, a spectacular night of entertainment that has become a yearly tradition for some families.  You’ll be piped up the red carpeted staircase of the iconic Melbourne Town Hall for a grand black tie/kilted evening.  Be greeted with drinks and canapes on arrival, a traditional Address to A Haggis, a gourmet menu accompanied by outstanding traditional and contemporary concert style entertainment. Close the night out with Australia’s own, internationally acclaimed Celtic rock band Claymore.

The close-out event of the Festival is on Friday 5th August with the Caledonian Castaways Concert at Collingwood Town Hall.  The Caledonian Castaways are a group of ex-pat Scots drawn from Melbourne’s Blues/Roots scene singing amusing and heart-warming songs about Scots in Australia and back ‘hame’.  They wowed a packed National Celtic Festival with their original songs and cheeky renditions of some traditional Scottish tunes – ska, rocksteady, funk, blues, country grooves.

For full details and to book event tickets go to:

Sir Billy Connolly CBE honoured with Fellowship at the 2022 Virgin Media British Academy Television Awards

The British Academy of Film and Television Arts (BAFTA) has honoured award-winning and iconic comedian, actor, artist, writer, musician and presenter, Sir Billy Connolly, with the prestigious BAFTA Fellowship at this year’s Virgin Media BAFTA TV Awards which took place in May. The Fellowship is the highest accolade bestowed by BAFTA in recognition of an individual’s outstanding and exceptional contribution to film, television or games across their career. Fellows previously honoured for their work in television include Dawn French and Jennifer Saunders, Jon Snow, Sir Bruce Forsyth, Joanna Lumley, Melvyn Bragg, Michael Palin, Sir Trevor MacDonald, Sir David Attenborough, Dame Julie Walters, Ray Galton, Alan Simpson, Katie Adie and Joan Bakewell.

Sir Billy Connolly’s first BAFTA recognition was in 1995 when he won the BAFTA Scotland Entertainment category for Billy Connolly’s World Tour of Scotland. He has since received five BAFTA nominations, and has been presented with a BAFTA Special Award in 2002 and the BAFTA Scotland Outstanding Contribution to Television and Film in 2012. Sir Billy Connolly said: “I am deeply honoured. Fifty films and… I can’t remember how many TV shows, as well as my stage comedy, added up to something that’s a joy to look back on. A lovely thing. I have no regrets at all. I had no idea the Fellowship existed, but I’m told it’s a big deal! (laughs). It’s lovely to be recognised and to become a jolly good fellow.”

Emma Baehr, Executive Director of Awards and Content, said: “We’re honoured to be awarding Sir Billy Connolly with the 2022 BAFTA Fellowship Award. He has made a remarkable contribution to our industry from his first appearance on Parkinson in 1975, through to becoming a national treasure on stage and screen, adored by fans around the world. BAFTA is looking forward to celebrating this award with Sir Billy in due course and thanking him again for his phenomenal career in television.”

Sir Billy Connolly left school at 15 to become a welder at the shipyard in River Clyde in Glasgow. Honing his love for performance and music on the side, the young Billy soon decided to try his hand as a musician and a folk duo with Gerry Rafferty called The Humblebums. But it was his ability to spin stories, tell jokes and hold an audience in the palm of his hand that truly set him apart as he forged a hugely successful career on television, as well as in film and on stage. As a young comedian, Connolly broke all the rules. He was fearless and outspoken – willing to call out hypocrisy wherever he saw it. However, his stand-up was full of warmth, humility and silliness too. His startling, hairy ‘glam-rock’ stage appearance – wearing leotards, scissor suits and banana boots – only added to his appeal.

It was an appearance on Michael Parkinson’s chat show in 1975 – and one outrageous story in particular – that helped catapult Billy from cult hero to national star. TV shows, documentaries, international fame and award-winning Hollywood movies then followed, and his standout 1985 TV special An Audience With Billy Connolly, reducing the audience to tears with his iconic incontinence trousers routine. Billy’s pitch-perfect stand-up comedy kept coming too – for over 50 years, in fact – until a double diagnosis of cancer and Parkinson’s Disease has brought his remarkable live performances to an end. Since then he continues to make TV shows, creating extraordinary drawings and writing. Connolly currently resides in the USA and is unable to attend the ceremony on 8 May to receive his award in person. A recorded acceptance message is to be played during the ceremony. 

Photo: BAFTA/Sarah Dunn.

Williamstown Highland Celtic Gathering comes to Melbourne

In this current Melbourne Cold Snap why don’t you rug up “Don yer Kilt & come to Oor Gathering!”

With support of Hobsons Bay City Council  & their Make it Happen Recovery & Reconnection Grants, MHG&CF are hosting the inaugural Williamstown Highland Celtic Gathering at the Seaworks Maritime Precinct

To kick the Gathering off the sound of the Pipes will once again be heard in Commonwealth Reserve on the Williamstown foreshore at around 9:30am on Saturday the 18th of June. A small pipe band parade will proceed to Seaworks in time for the opening at 10:00am

After the recent very successful Highland Games held in Croydon this gathering is promising to be another wonderful celebration of Celtic Culture.

After a brief Opening Ceremony at 10:00am we will have five continuous hours of Dancing, Piping and Folk Bands. (Including the dynamic folk band Saoirse)

Scottish Clans, Celtic Community Groups, Glen Lachlan Marshal Arts, Wessex Village & Roman Reenactors and a cannon salute from the Werribee half battery will also be on display as well various activities for younger children.

Additionally vendors will be offering a range of celtic products including food & apparel.

Get Tickets: (Adults $20 Concession $15 & Under 16 free)

Williamstown Highland Celtic Gathering 2022 Tickets, Seaworks Williamstown, Williamstown | TryBooking Australia



Clan Buchanan to reunite as Chief takes the ‘throne’ after 340 years

One of Scotland’s largest and most ancient clans is preparing to reunite for the inauguration of the first Buchanan Clan Chief for over 340 years.

Clan Buchanan is calling on clansfolk, affiliated families and supporters to gather for the historic occasion at its modern clan seat, the Cambusmore Estate in Perthshire, in October. The inauguration ceremony last took place in the 17th century and follows the appointment of John Michael Baillie-Hamilton Buchanan as Chief of Clan Buchanan. With a global community of over five million members, the chief will lead the first Clan Parliament in over 350 years to explore the future of Clan Buchanan and discuss how its traditions could be celebrated in the modern day.

Scottish ceremonial traditions

John Michael Baillie-Hamilton Buchanan, Chief of Clan Buchanan. Photo: Stewart Attwood Photography.

The last Chief of Clan Buchanan was his ancestral kinsman, John Buchanan, who died in 1681 without a male heir. The upcoming ceremony will feature millennia-old clan inauguration rituals and a stone ‘throne’ carved by specialist Scottish craftsmen. New ‘clan jewels’ have also been meticulously reconstructed following years of historic research. These include the ancestral Sword of Leny, a white rod to symbolise clan justice and a falcon-shaped sguian dubh, the small knife traditionally worn with a kilt.

The inauguration will be the centrepiece of a weekend of celebrations in the picturesque setting of Cambusmore Manor in Callander, which is home to the chief. It will feature Scottish ceremonial traditions that have inspired scenes in Outlander and Game of Thrones, including a Clan Court and clansfolk kicking up their heels at a traditional Scottish ceilidh. 

The Chief of Clan Buchanan said: “The clan has a thriving global community of more than five million people so we’re calling for Buchanans, affiliated families and supporters around the world to unite for this incredible moment in Buchanan history. For centuries our ancient clan was left without a Chief or Clan Parliament but this year we’re finally gathering in Scotland. This is a chance to restore Scottish traditions that have been confined to the history books for hundreds of years, bringing them back with a thoroughly modern twist.”

Decades of genealogical research

Lady Buchanan, The Buchanan and Lucy Buchanan. Photo: Stewart Attwood Photography.

The Buchanan’s appointment to lead the clan was the culmination of decades of genealogical research conducted by a renowned genealogist, the late Hugh Peskett, who famously traced President Ronald Reagan’s Irish ancestry in the 1980s. While Clan Buchanan can be traced back to 1010 AD in Scotland, its global community includes members from across Great Britain, the USA, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa among many other countries. Over 120 affiliated family surnames are recognised as part of the clan including Watson, Morris, Richardson, Coleman, Gilbert, Walter and Harper.

They are represented by the world’s oldest clan society, the Buchanan Society, which was established in 1725 to support members of the clan in times of hardship, and the worldwide Clan Buchanan Society International. David J. Byrne, President of Clan Buchanan Society International based in the USA, said: “We’re eagerly looking forward to the inauguration of our new Chief, which will demonstrate to the world that Clan Buchanan is still a vital and thriving family with a shared history. What has been most encouraging to clansfolk scattered across the world is the Chief’s modern approach, while still embracing our heritage and traditions. We’ve used this as an opportunity to renew pride in the history of Clan Buchanan alongside a new sense of purpose as we look to the future.”

Clan Chief Inauguration

The Buchanan. Photo: Stewart Attwood Photography.

The Buchanan is the manager of Cambusmore Estate in the Southern Highlands near Callander. He has four children with his wife The Lady Buchanan including heir apparent, Angus John Buchanan younger of that Ilk, Bruce, Lucy and Rory. As well as those with the surname Buchanan, clansfolk also include those with Scottish roots and surnames such as Bohannon, Coleman, Colman, Cormack, Dewar, Dove, Dow, Gibb, Gibbon, Gibb, Gibson, Gilbert, Gilbertson, Harper, Masters, Masterson, Morris, Morrison (some only), Richardson, Rush, Rusk, Walter, Walters, Wasson, Waters, Watson, Watt, Watters and Weir. In the modern day, these are known as affiliated families but were previously known as septs of the clan.

Clan Chiefs must be approved by the Lord Lyon King of Arms. The Lord Lyon has full judicial powers to enforce use of heraldry and coats of arms in Scotland through the Lyon Court, the last surviving ‘Court of Chivalry’ in the world. Its powers are governed by an Act of the Scots Parliament from 1672. Many features of the inauguration ceremony come from a book by the late Lord Lyon, Sir Thomas Learney of Innes’ who wrote The Clans, Septs & Regiments of the Scottish Highlands.

The inauguration events and celebrations will run from Friday 7 to Monday 10 October with event activities ticketed and requiring bookings in advance. This includes the Clan Chief Inauguration at Cambusmore Manor, Clan Parliament at Cambusmore Chapel and a golf tournament at Buchanan Castle Golf Course. Talks and tours of the estate will also be offered throughout the weekend.

The Clan Chief Inauguration will take place on Saturday 8 October as part of a weekend celebration beginning on Friday 7 to Monday 10 October 2022. Tickets and further information are available at:

The Last on Bell Rock

By: Nick Drainey

This month marks the 250th anniversary of the birth of Robert Stevenson’s birth on June 8th.  Stevenson was famous for designing and building many of Scotland’s lighthouses for the Northern Lighthouse Board (NLB) between 1794 and 1833. The last principal lighthouse keeper shares some of his unique memories of being on Robert Stevenson’s most famous lighthouse, as Nick Drainey explains.

“I liked the Bell but looking back I often think I must have been a bit of a nutcase,” says John Boath, the last Principal Lighthouse Keeper of the Bell Rock and the last person to turn off the light before it was automated. This year marks the 250th anniversary of the birth of its designer Robert Stevenson. Many say it is his finest work and it has been called one of the seven wonders of the industrial world. John Boath has another name for the 35 metre (115ft) tower 11 miles off the coast of Angus; he calls it a “vertical submarine”.

It was tough on the Bell Rock, even for someone who had nearly two decades of experience as a lighthouse keeper. John, who first arrived at the Bell Rock in 1983, said not many fellow keepers would relish a posting to the Bell Rock. “The Bell Rock was a totally different environment. If anybody got the Bell Rock it was usually followed by an expression of ‘oh no!’ because it had such a reputation.”

Rules lighthouse keepers had to follow

Bell Rock Lighthouse. John Boath (left) and another Keeper at the Bell Rock. Photo:  NLB.

They worked four weeks on four weeks off. No running water meant no baths, and washing was kept to a minimum to save water. John adds: “You had a sponge down – water had to come in by ship in barrels so you had to be cautious with it. We didn’t have hot water – you had to boil a kettle and wash yourself down with a cloth.” John adds: “These lighthouses are pillars on rocks where you were basically inside for your four weeks, you didn’t get out. You can only get on it at an ebb tide. The rest of the time it is completely surrounded by water.”

And if the weather was bad when it was time to get off, you could be stuck on it for longer. “If we couldn’t get off the ship would go and anchor in St Andrews Bay to try on the next tide. They would probably try for about three or four tides and then the relief would be cancelled. Hopefully they would comeback in another two weeks. All lighthouses would carry an emergency food kit; corned beef and stuff like that.” Usual provisions which were sent on the same boat as the keepers included fresh vegetables and fruit but could best be described as basic. John says: “I used to take a bar of Cadbury’s and have one square a night.” There were some upsides: “At the top it is all glass and I used to go up there and sit and read. I used to have a deckchair and I could look out at the sea, it was all peaceful.”

Stevenson didn’t like ill-discipline and that was where the rules lighthouse keepers had to follow from then until John’s time came from. John says: “When Stevenson had built the Bell, some of the people who first manned it where people who had worked on the building of it – they were rough diamonds. Stevenson seemingly didn’t like this and brought in regulations with uniform and discipline. You needed regulations. When Commissioners came round they used to wear white gloves and when they walked around they would wipe their fingers (over surfaces) to find dirt. I was a bit of a rebel but you accepted it.”

Amazing feat of engineering

Bell Rock Lighthouse and helicopter. Photo:  NLB.

Away from the regulations, the longevity of the Bell Rock Lighthouse is all the proof John Boath needs that Robert Stevenson should be recognised for an amazing feat of engineering. “It speaks for itself, the fact it has been standing all these years.” It is the world’s oldest working sea-washed lighthouse. The long and treacherous reef on which it stands is close to shipping lanes for vessels plying the east coast and using the Firths of Tay and Forth.

But Stevenson himself talked of a navigation history going much further back than the 19th century, and perhaps one that gave the rock its name. While an engineer to the Northern Lighthouse Board, he wrote: “There is a tradition that an Abbot of Aberbrothock directed a bell to be erected on the Rock, so connected with a floating apparatus, that the winds and sea acted upon it, and tolled the bell, thus giving warning to the mariner of his approaching danger. Upon similar authority, the bell, it is said, was afterwards carried off by pirates, and the humane intentions of the Abbot thus frustrated.”

John Boath in front of the former lighthouse keepers’ cottages in Edinburgh, where he and his family once lived.

Mike Bullock, chief executive of the Northern Lighthouse Board, believes Robert Stevenson would have embraced automation, but he also praised the work of keepers like John. He said: “The departure of keepers was a poignant milestone and the end of an era. This unique profession wasn’t just a job, it was a way of life and for John Boath and for many others, automation marked the end of a long career. But as reliable technology became available to protect those at sea, automation was inevitable and if the great innovator Robert Stevenson could have automated lights from the outset, I am pretty sure he would have done so.”

And the legacy from Stevenson’s day lives on, according to Mr Bullock, who said the “role of the Light Keeper is never far from our minds”. He added: “For over 200 years they kept the lights shining and saved countless lives at sea. Their legacy lives on and I’d like to think we are seen as the modern-day custodians, looking after these wonderful structures for the next generation, keeping mariners safe and helping protect our precious marine environment from environmental damage.”

John Boath was the last man to turn off the light on Bell Rock before it was automated in 1988. “I just happened to be on watch that morning and switched it off. It was quite emotional. I had enjoyed my time at the Bell and I was very sad to leave.”

Main photo: Bell Rock Lighthouse. Photo: Ian Cowe.

2022 Robert Burns Scottish Festival returns with a full program of events

The 2022 Robert Burns Scottish Festival (RBSF) is set to return to Camperdown, Victoria in July. The Festival’s Chairperson, Dr John Menzies OAM is pleased to announce that festival is going ahead and promises to be a great festival.  After two years of covid restrictions and limited festival events last year due to the covid restrictions the committee are working hard to ensure that patrons and the local community can enjoy a full festival in 2022.

The committee members are working hard to secure and have invited back the musicians who were to perform at last years cancelled festival, these include The Melbourne Scottish Fiddle Club, Fiona Ross and Shane O’Mara, Claire Patti,  Austral, and Corner house bands are coming to Camperdown this year with a line-up of talented local bands and musicians including Pete Daffy and his band, Tuniversal Music Group, the Twa Bards, Camperdown’s Lakes and Craters Band and the Warrnambool Pipes and Drums, and further confirmation from bands to confirm they are coming to Camperdown in July.

A celebration of Burns

Scottish and Irish fiddler Laura Flanagan.

The international act, coming from the USA, is Scottish and Irish fiddler Laura Flanagan who will be performing at this year’s festival and conducting a series of Fiddle Workshops at the festival. Laura is based in Texas and arrives in Australia in early June, the committee is looking forward to hosting Laura and having her perform at this year’s festival. Early Bird tickets for the weekend will be available, with a festival weekend ticket for $50.00 per person, this ticket will allow patrons to go to all concerts at various venues from Friday until Sunday. 

“The festival committee wants to acknowledge that the past two years have been difficult due to the Covid pandemic and want to encourage patrons to come along to the festival this year”, Dr Menzies said.  Normal ticket entry is $20.00 per event so this is a great discount for festival patrons and a way of offering savings. The RBSF will see the return of the School Children’s Program with primary and secondary aged events including art works, poetry, story writing and the popular shortbread baking competition these activities will happen before the festival and delivered in the schools. Dr Menzies also said that schools can access programs from the Robert Burns World Federation at no cost and connecting to Scotland, the birthplace of Burns is a wonderful opportunity for students, to learn more about Burns. The festival committee is continuing with the Satellite Concerts and two events one at Darlington on June 25th with live music and a movie night. The second event will be at the Commercial Hotel in Terang on the Thursday 30th of June featuring Laura Flanagan and Tuniversal Music Group in concert at Terang.

The Gala Dinner will be held at the Theatre Royal on Friday the 1st of July and promises to be a sumptuous and authentic Scottish meal including an Address to the Haggis, headline performers and more, booking will be essential, and numbers will be capped at 100. 

The popular Music Workshops will be held on the Wednesday, 29th June, Thursday 30th June and Friday 1st of July at the Commercial Hotel in Terang with festival musicians running instrumental workshops and on Saturday 2nd June Claire Patti will be conducting two choir workshops in Camperdown. There will be virtual master classes connecting our festival to the world.

Much on offer

The Melbourne Scottish Fiddle Club.

The very popular Cookery Class will be happening with Liz Patterson and Ruth Gstrein which gave participants the opportunity to cook authentic Scottish food and eat a meal at the end of the session.  Booking will be essential due to limited class sizes.  Lecture co-ordinator Bob Lambell has organised four wonderful guest speakers for Saturday the July 2nd to be held at the Killara Centre.  Wee Stories at the library for the children, activities in the avenue with music, Highland dancers and pipes will activate the Clock Tower precinct with market stalls and plenty of things to see and do.  Several concerts at various venues over the weekend will be hosted so there is plenty of variety on offer.

Both Saturday and Sunday the Camperdown Heritage Centre and the Masonic Lodge will be open for folk to visit along with the Clock Tower. Highland dancing on Saturday will also be opened to the public and for the golfers the Robbie Burns Ambrose will be hosted at the Camperdown Golf Club. On Saturday evening the family night event with workshop participants coming together to provide the music at the Theatre Royal and smaller events at various venues including the local hotels will give patrons lots of choice.  Sunday market stalls and children’s activities in the avenue, music with the Twa Bards and poetry at the statue in the morning with the Festival Finale Concert in the afternoon winding up the festival.

For more information on the festival and tickets see: and

Or contact Catherine O’Flynn RBSF Co-ordinator on: 0407 056 126.

Main photo: Fiona Ross and Shane O’Mara.

New Scottish Golf Trail launched in honour of golfing legend

Golfers from home and abroad will be able to retrace the steps of the world-renowned Grand Old Man of Golf with the launch of The Old Tom Morris Trail, across some of Scotland’s most spectacular and challenging courses, to commemorate the great man’s unrivalled influence on the game. VisitScotland is supporting the attraction and welcomed the launch of the new 18-course golfing trail saying it would play a role in supporting the recovery of Scotland’s international golf tourism in a hugely significant year for the sport in Scotland.

Old Tom Morris was a huge figure in golf

St Andrews-born Old Tom is globally recognised as the most important person in the history of golf. During the 19th century, he did more than any other to spread the appeal of golf, travelling the length and breadth of Britain and Ireland designing course after course. The Old Tom Morris Trail has been created by Aberdeen-based luxury golf vacation operator Bonnie Wee Golf. Managing Director Dave Harris said: “Old Tom Morris was such a huge figure in golf. What better way to pay tribute to the legend than to create a unique trail in his honour? “It was something we felt inspired to do during the pandemic to mark the 200th anniversary of Old Tom’s birth. We carefully selected some of the finest courses – some iconic and others hidden gems – that have all been designed or enhanced by Old Tom.”

Dave set up Bonnie Wee Golf 20 years ago after working as a caddy for American tourists who couldn’t get enough of Scotland’s golf, in particular the challenge of links courses. Bonnie Wee Golf’s range of luxury golf tours now attract more than 300 repeat clients, mainly from the US.  Dave said: “The nature of our repeat business shows the allure Scotland continues to have for golfers who want to play some of the world’s best courses. Everyone’s travel plans were sadly put on hold for the last two years. Through the worst of the pandemic, we were repeatedly forced to postpone our clients’ trips, but now Scotland is well and truly open for business, we know that the appetite for golf here is greater than ever.  We are delighted and very excited to launch the Old Tom Morris Trail, allowing golfers to follow in his footsteps, and to demonstrate that Scotland really is worth waiting for.”

Golf is an integral part of Scotland


This year, Scotland plays host to the 150th Open Championships in St Andrews; the Scottish Open at Renaissance, East Lothian; the Women’s Open at Muirfield; the Women’s Scottish Open at Dundonald Links, Ayrshire; and the Men’s Senior Open at Gleneagles. Alan Grant, VisitScotland’s Senior Golf Manager, said: “Golf is such an integral part of Scotland, and this is a significant year for the sport as we look forward to achieving full capacity at these major events. The Old Tom Morris Trail provides an excellent focus for golf visitors – from home and overseas – to sample some of our most iconic golf courses, as well as those more off the beaten track. By featuring some hidden gems as well as traditionally well-known courses, the trail supports our responsible and sustainable tourism strategy, to spread the benefits of golf tourism across our regions. US golf tourists are hugely important to Scotland, and we would encourage tourism operators across the country to make a connection with golf to allow them to share in the benefits that this year will inevitably bring.”

While some golfers may be tempted to complete the Old Tom Morris Trail in one visit to Scotland, it has been designed to encourage golfers to visit on more than one occasion to complete the tour, again supporting VisitScotland’s strategic aims. Mr Grant added: “Visiting Scotland to play golf is a force for good. Playing sport in the great outdoors, relaxing and unwinding with friends, and enjoying the magnificent scenery and hospitality that our country offers, is an unbeatable proposition for tourists the world over.”

A colossus of golf

US-based golf historian Stephen Proctor, author of Monarch of the Green: Young Tom Morris – Pioneer of Modern Golf, said: “The trail is a brilliant idea and I’m sure it will be a smash hit for Scotland. Old Tom Morris was a font of wisdom; he truly was a colossus of golf. Back when golf was coming of age, he was the one you contacted if you wanted to build a new golf course or discuss a design. He was an honourable man and would charge £1 per day, plus expenses, to design a course.  He was instrumental in spreading the Scottish game around the world, and it was his character that helped shape the reputation of golf as a game of honour. It is so wonderfully fitting that golfers from all over the world will now be able to retrace his steps. I can’t wait to visit.”

The official start of the trail is Askernish in South Uist, in the Outer Hebrides, and the official finish is Machrihanish on the Mull of Kintyre. The Tom Morris Bar & Grill in St Andrews will be the trail’s halfway house. The Old Clubhouse Pub at Machrihanish will be the official 19th Hole. Each golfer will be gifted a unique Old Tom Morris Trail collector’s edition commemorative coin for each of the 18 golf courses that they play, and those who complete the trail will be awarded a commemorative wall display for all 18 coins.

For more information see:

Main photo: Dave Harris (left), with Bonnie Wee Golf tour specialist team Cam Howe (centre) and director Stew Morrison, display the Old Tom Morris Trail commemorative coins.