The Hororata Highland Games COVID come back!

Massed Bands. Photo: David Baird.

Bagpipes, kilts and whisky are set to return to the Hororata Domain this summer with the 11th Hororata Highland Games set to take place Saturday 5th November 2022. “After a year off the Clan Hororata is excited to welcome everyone back to our community as we celebrate all things Scottish, with a kiwi twist as always.

The Clan has not remained idle have spent their time dreaming up new attractions for this iconic festival,” said Hororata Community Trust’s Cindy Driscoll.  “This year we will host an international line up of heavy athletes coming from Australia, America and Europe, both men and women.  The Oceania Heavyweight Championship has not been run since 2019 due to COVD so we are really looking forward seeing the athletes battle it out for this again. In addition to our normal championships, we will also host the New Zealand Heavyweight Championship, normally held at Waipu Highland Games in January.”

A vibrant cultural festival

WInner of the Mens Heavy Championship Craig Mason. Photo: David Baird.

Hororata hosts New Zealand’s biggest one day highland dancing competition with near 100 dancers taking part. Pipe Bands will travel from all over the South Island to compete in the first competition to be held in 18 months.  The Hororata Highland Games is a community run festival with a focus on getting people off the sidelines and involved in the action. People of all ages can have a go at tossing a caber, Tug O’ War, new this year barrel rolling or for the more fleet footed the Kilted Mile and the musically minded try a tune on the bagpipes.  

Over 20 Scottish Clans gather in ‘St Andrews Square’ where people can connect with their Scottish roots, play traditional games and enjoy music from Wille MacArthur. Don’t miss the Haggis burgers and of course get your Hororata Whisky specially bottled for the day.  With over 100 stalls, 500 competitors, 230 volunteers and 10,000 visitors the Hororata Highland Games is a vibrant cultural festival with all the attractions and activities would expect as well as some unexpected!  It is recommended visitors pre-purchase their tickets to avoid missing out as sales will close when the event capacity is reached. 

For details visit:

Dressed to Kilt returns to celebrate Scottish fashion

Charitable organisation, Friends of Scotland, brought back the famed celebrity fashion show Dressed to Kilt to the gorgeous estate at Mill Neck Manor in New York, filled with kilts,  kitsch, and heroes walking the catwalk. The fashion show featured designers from Scotland as well as outfitters for outdoor adventure matching the theme “Dress for Adventure: From the Highlands to the Hamptons.”

Designers featured in the show included Totty Rocks, Walker Slater, Gordon Nicolson Kiltmakers, House of Cheviot, Lochcarron of Scotland, Sinclair Duncan Cashmere, Glenisla Kilts, Berra, MacGregor & MacDuff of Glasgow, Gwen Russell, Sara Tiara, Vista Outdoor, Sherlock Holmes Tartan Ltd., Harris Tweed Hebrides and Slanj of Scotland

A model walks the runway at the Dressed To Kilt. Photo: Craig Barritt/Getty Images for Friend of Scotland.
Coinneach MacLeod, The Hebridean Baker. Photo by Craig Barritt/Getty Images for Friend of Scotland

Military heroes, two medals of honour recipients, and Miss Scotland all graced the catwalk delighting the crows. The show featured a mix of fashion and fun surprises that delighted the audience and tug at heartstrings all aimed at raising money for the Navy Seal Foundation. Highlights included a riveting performance from Britain’s Got Talent alum Edward Reid, a QuietKat all-terrain e-bike that rolled down the runway, a model in Slanj Tartan underwear and models wearing the Savannah Banana’s kilt baseball uniforms.

The largest and most prestigious Scottish fashion event in the world

Ms Scotland Claudia Todd walks the runway at the Dressed To Kilt. Photo: Craig Barritt/Getty Images for Friend of Scotland.
Golf always in fashion. Photo: Craig Barritt/Getty Images for Friend of Scotland.

Dressed to Kilt was held at Mill Neck Manor, a beautiful estate located on Long Island’s Gold Coast with breathtaking views of the water. Dressed to Kilt has developed a cult-like following for those seeking some good Scottish fun and many celebrities with Scottish roots have dawned the catwalk from Andie MacDowell to Ivanka Trump. Proceeds from the evening benefited the Navy Seal Foundation.

Mhairi Fergusson walks the runway at the Dressed To Kilt. Photo: Craig Barritt/Getty Images for Friend of Scotland.
The Sherlock Holmes Tartan. Photo: Craig Barritt/Getty Images for Friend of Scotland.

From its genesis in 2003, Dressed to Kilt is now the largest and most prestigious Scottish fashion event in the world, and one of the highest profile fashion shows in the United States. We believe that fashion without the enrichment of diverse cultures become hollow. The show is produced by the Friends of Scotland charity which was co-founded by Sir Sean Connery in 2002.

In addition to supermodels, this show highlights very accomplished men and women on the runway and it is also filled with A-List celebrities and athletes from both sides of the Atlantic. In past shows Sir Sean Connery, Gerard Butler, Kiefer Sutherland, Kyle MacLachlan, Ivanka Trump and Donald Trump Jr., Chris “Mr. Big” Noth, Mike Myers and Craig Ferguson have all walked the runway. The charity has raised significant sums for the families of wounded veterans.

For more information, please visit:

Mackay Scottish Bluewater Fling 2022

Scots once again gathered under sunny skies in Mackay, Queensland for the Mackay Scottish Bluewater Fling held at Mackay’s Bluewater Quay. The free community event included pipe bands, entertainers, Clan groups, Scottish dancers and a ceilidh.  

The Bluewater Fling is organised by the Mackay & District Pipe Band who have been bringing the rich sound of the pipes and drums to the people of the Mackay region since 1926. In honour of the founder of its home city, John Mackay from Inverness, the band proudly wears the crest and ancient tartan of Clan Mackay.

For details on this annual event which takes place in year in July in Mackay see:

Images courtesy of Marty Strecker Photography.

The 2022 Wallace Award

The American Scottish Foundation will host the Wallace Award Celebration on Friday September 30th at The University Club, New York. The evening will celebrate the 65th Anniversary of the Foundation and present Charles, Lord Bruce with the ASF Annual Wallace Award for his tireless support both in Scotland and internationally, of Scotland’s heritage, arts and culture.

Celebrating in true Scottish style, the evening will include an extensive silent on line and in person auction music from Noisemaker and the Highland Divas, whisky tasting with food oversight from Gary Maclean – Scotland’s National Chef. Proceeds will help support the ongoing work of the ASF Youth Bursary Awards program.

Lord Bruce

Charles Edward Bruce, Lord Bruce is eldest son and heir to Andrew Bruce, 11th Earl of Elgin & 15th Earl of Kincardine KT, 37th Chief of the Name of Bruce. He is active in the not-for-profit sector in Scotland and overseas. His interests include conservation of the built heritage, the fine arts, multiculturalism, education and the Scottish diaspora.  He is chairman of the Kolkata Scottish Heritage Trust which is running an urban regeneration project in Kolkata, India; and a trustee of the Scottish Lime CentreTrust.  He is president of The Democracy Forum, a leading policy forum for Asia. He is a governor of the Patrons of the National Galleries of Scotland. He is also patron of the Scottish Centre of Tagore Studies, the Japan Society of Scotland and the Association of Clans and Scottish Societies of Canada.

Lord Bruce is on the executive board of the Standing Council of Scottish Chiefs. He is President, Dunfermline United Burns Club, the world’s third oldest Burns club.  He is on the advisory board of the RAF Benevolent Fund, and also of the International Academic Forum (IAFOR).  He was awarded the Paolozzi Gold Medal  by The National Galleries of Scotland in 2012 for fundraising. He was educated at Eton College and the universities of St Andrews (MA Hons, 1984) and Dundee (MSc , 2013). He has been HM Deputy Lieutenant for Fife since 1997, and a member of the Royal Company of Archers, HM Queen’s Bodyguard for Scotland, Hon. Maj. 31 Combat Engineer Regiment (The Elgins), Canadian Forces and Hon. Keeper, Keepers of the Quaich.

Tickets are available at:

Melbourne Tartan Festival 2022

By: Noel Wright

With a skirl of pipes, the Melbourne Tartan Festival opened in July with the annual Kirkin’ ‘O The Tartan service at The Scots’ Church, Melbourne, live-streamed for those not able to attend in person.  The Parade of Clans was piped into the church by Presbyterian Ladies College pipers Sherry Li and Annette Chen, with each Clan being announced and welcomed in both Scottish Gaelic and English.  Whilst a small number of our events were cancelled or rescheduled due to Covid, most were able to go ahead with record attendances. Kenneth Park, curator, cultural historian and tour leader, hosted a virtual online tour, Some of My Favourite Scottish Islands– including Skye, St. Kilda, Staffa, Iona, Inveraray, Hebrides and many more, which was enjoyed by guests from the comfort of their own homes. 

A special tour of the historic Scots’ Church (1874) and the adjoining Assembly Hall (1915) offered insights into the rich history of these two wonderful landmark city buildings. The ‘Scottish Connections’ CBD walking tour lead by Kenneth Park, visited some of Melbourne’s fine streets, monuments and buildings which owe much to Melbourne’s early settler connections with Scotland.  The 2022 Victorian Pipers Association Solo Championships attracted a high number of entries this year after a Covid induced two-year hiatus.  The level of competition was of a very high standard, adjudicated by guest judges Greg Wilson of New Zealand and Martin Frewen, originally from New Zealand, now residing in Sydney.  The 2022 Australian Gold, Silver and Bronze Piobaireachd Medallists were awarded to: Gold Medal: Jamie Hawke, Silver Medal: Matt Gervasoni and Bronze Medal: Liam Nicolson.

Transported the audience to Scotland

Let’s have a ceilidh!

Sisters Tess and Luisa Hickey lead the traditional Scottish Jam session at an iconic Melbourne pub and were joined by some of Melbourne’s best Scottish players. The musicians transported the audience to Scotland with a toe-tapping mix of best-loved traditional tunes and popular contemporary ones.  Tess and Lulu are highly talented, emerging young artists and have been longstanding members of the Melbourne Scottish Fiddlers and have recently formed their own band, Apolline.  Look out for them at folk festivals around the country! The Victorian Scottish Dancing Members Association 61st Australian Commonwealth Championships received a record number of entries, with a high level of competition adjudicated by Judges Amanda Skidmore, QLD, Justine Daly, NSW and Kim Roe, TAS.  Congratulations to all competitors, winners and place getters. 

Easy Steps to Speaking Gaelic guests were immersed in everyday Gaelic, music and culture.  They learned a few basic words, phrases and greetings in Gaelic and about the life of Gaelic speakers in times past. The class was conducted by members of the Scottish Gaelic Society of Victoria, which was founded in 1905. The audience of Scottish Migration Stories author talks was transported back in time by performer, writer and broadcaster Michael Veitch, as he recounted the voyage of the Ticonderoga from his aptly named book Hell Ship.  Dr. Bill Fleming, family historian and Melbourne surgeon, explored the reasons his ancestors made their life changing journey from Edinburgh to Port Phillip and family historian and author Margaret Fleming shared her experience as a researcher. providing a practical guide to assist family historians to collate their research documents into a format ready to publish.

Hawthorn Pipe Band’s ‘Legacy’ Concert’ was a special music tribute with an almost honour of the band’s long serving Drum Major the late Bob Semple.  A near capacity audience witnessed the band at their best.  They were joined by special guests, Scotch College Pipes and Drums and Ballarat Grammar Pipe Band, with vocalists Simon Gibson and Year 11 Ballarat Grammar student Amy Schreenan.  MC extraordinaire was Claymore lead singer, William (Willy) Hutton. Robert J.K. (Bob) Semple OAM BEM (1920 – 2020), was a World War II veteran who subsequently became a member of the Hawthorn Pipe Band for 74 years. Bob fought for 6 years in WW2, including as a “Rat of Tobruk”, at El Alamein, and in the Pacific. During his six years he had just a few short weeks home in Australia and completed a phenomenal 1245 days in active combat. By the time the war finished, he was the only man left fighting from his original crew.

Melbourne Tartan Day Parade

The Melbourne Tartan Day Parade.

A Haggis Supper served with a modern twist, was a sell-out event hosted by Elisabeth and Colin Paterson of Kilted Haggis.  A piper and snare drummer added to the authentic atmosphere, helped no doubt by a whisky tasting.  Diners were surprised and delighted to taste the many variations of haggis finger food.  Much to everyone’s delight there was even a marriage proposal on the night!

Collingwood Town Hall Ballroom resounded to the music of the Melbourne Scottish Fiddle Club at the Melbourne Tartan Festival Ceilidh Dance.  Guests quickly shrugged off their winter coats and took to the dancefloor for the first time in two years, whooping with joy and laughter as they joined hands and danced around the room as the Caller took them through the various steps, some for the very first time. 

With a sense of relief, we woke to sunny, clear blue skies on the morning of The Melbourne Tartan Day Parade.  In the lead up to the parade a morning pop-up performance by the City of Melbourne Highland Pipe Band in Melbourne’s Bourke Street Mall attracted a large crowd of enthralled city shoppers, whilst at the other end of the city, Watsonia RSL Pipe Band played in Gordon Reserve.   There was Highland Dancing on the terrace of the Old Treasury Building, while The Robert Burns Club of Melbourne held poetry readings beside Robert Burns’ statue in the adjacent Treasury Gardens.  The plaintive sound of the pipes echoed across the city as five pipers played in unison on the balconies of the Old Treasury Building, bringing a tear to many an eye.

A bonnie wee dancer.

Then it was time for over 200 plus massed pipers, drummers and Highland Dancers, to march in the Melbourne Tartan Day Parade down Collins Street, one of Melbourne’s major thoroughfares.  The Parade was led by the Hon. Ted Baillieu, Chieftain of Pipe Bands Victoria (and former Premier of Victoria), Mr. Hamish Tadgell, Chair of the Victorian Scottish Heritage Cultural Foundation (VSHCF) and Mr. Reg Davis, Chair of Scots of Victoria Coordinating Group (SVCG).  The finale of the Parade was a massed pipe band recital and mass Highland Fling under the portico in the forecourt of The Westin Melbourne, to the delight of guests and spectators. The acoustics were spine tingling!

We gratefully acknowledge the support of the Victorian Scottish Heritage Cultural Foundation (VSHCF), the Scots of Victoria Coordinating Group (SVCG) and the many Victorian Scottish Community groups who participate, without whom The Melbourne Tartan Festival would not be possible. We look forward to welcoming you to the Melbourne Tartan Festival in 2023.

For more details on the Melbourne Tartan Festival see:

Photos courtesy of: Melbourne Ceili Camera.

Field Marshal Montgomery win the World Pipe Band Championships

Field Marshal Montgomery Pipe Band from Northern Ireland are the 2022 World Pipe Band Champions. They saw off competition from runners-up Inveraray and District Pipe Band (who were the World Champions when the competition was last held in 2019) and ScottishPower who finished in third place. Over 40,000 spectators descended on Glasgow Green across two days for the first Worlds since 2019. They watched 146 bands and thousands of pipers and drummers compete over the two days.

Though international bands were down from previous years the nations represented in this year’s line-up included: Austria, Australia, Canada, England, Ireland, Israel, Northern Ireland, Scotland, and the USA. For the first time, a pipe band from Argentina also competed. Glasgow, a UNESCO City of Music, first hosted the World Pipe Band Championships in 1948 and has been the host city for the event every year since 1986.

The bands march during the World Pipe Band Championships at Glasgow Green, on August 13, 2022, in Glasgow, Scotland. (Photo by Ross MacDonald / SNS Group).

Glasgow’s Lord Provost Jacqueline McLaren, who was Chieftain of this year’s championships, said: “I’m proud to have served as Chieftain and would like to thank the bands and spectators from all over the world who came to Glasgow. It has been wonderful to have the Worlds back at Glasgow Green and the carnival atmosphere that it brings with it. Congratulations to Field Marshal Montgomery Pipe Band on being crowned World Champions and to all the musicians who took part in this thrilling competition.”

The pinnacle of pipe band competition

The World Pipe Band Championships at Glasgow Green, on August 13, 2022, in Glasgow, Scotland. (Photo by Ross MacDonald / SNS Group).

Kevin Reilly, Chairman of The Royal Scottish Pipe Band Association, said: “The return of the Worlds has been highly anticipated and nothing compares to the Worlds, both in terms of atmosphere and the high standard of performance. This is the pinnacle of pipe band competition which musicians work tirelessly towards for months, and it shows. Once again, this weekend has produced some truly memorable performances. We have had to wait three years, but the Worlds are back with a bang, and Field Marshal Montgomery are deserving winners.”

Aside from world-class pipers and drummers, the event also showcases Scottish food and drink. The Traders Village also means spectators can choose from a range of souvenirs to remember their time at this unforgettable event. The 2023 World Pipe Band Championships will be at Glasgow Green on Friday 18 August and Saturday 19 August. Glasgow is hosting the first ever UCI World Cycling Championships in the summer of 2023 and will be using many of the places usually used for the World Pipe Band Championships, so please note a change in weekend for next year.

The World Pipe Band Championships at Glasgow Green, on August 13, 2022, in Glasgow, Scotland. (Photo by Ross MacDonald / SNS Group).
City of Discovery Pipe Band during the World Pipe Band Championships at Glasgow Green, on August 13, 2022, in Glasgow, Scotland. (Photo by Ross MacDonald / SNS Group).

The results for the 2022 World Pipe Band Championships are as follows:

Grade 1

1st Field Marshal Montgomery (Northern Ireland)

2nd Inveraray & District (Scotland)

3rd ScottishPower (Scotland)

4th St. Laurence O’Toole (Ireland)

5th Peoples Ford Boghall & Bathgate Caledonia (Scotland)

6th Simon Fraser University (Canada)

7th Shotts & Dykehead Caledonia (Scotland)

8th Police Scotland Fife (Scotland)

9th Police Scotland & Federation (Scotland)

10th St. Thomas Alumni (USA)

11th 78th Fraser Highlanders (Canada)

12th Johnstone (Scotland)

13th Closkelt (Northern Ireland)

14th City of Dunedin (USA)

World Pipe Band Drumming Champions: Simon Fraser University (Canada)

Grade 2

1st Buchan Peterson (Scotland

2nd Ravara (Northern Ireland)

3rd Uddingston (Scotland)

4th Royal Burgh of Annan

5th City of Edinburgh (Scotland)

6th Manorcunningham (Ireland)

7th Peel Regional Police (Canada)

8th North Stratton (Canada)

9th Highland Granite (Scotland)

10th Kilchoman Distillery Isle of Islay (Scotland)

11th Los Angeles Scots (USA)

12th St. Mary’s, Derrytrasna (Northern Ireland)

13th Portlethen & District (Scotland)

14th St. Joseph’s (Ireland)

15th City of Discovery (Scotland)

16th Bucksburn & District (Scotland)

17th Mackenzie Caledonian (Scotland)

18th Wallacestone & District (Scotland)

19th Oban (Scotland)

Grade 3A

1st Johnstone(Scotland)

2nd Deeside Caledonia (Scotland)

3rd Matt Boyd Memorial (Northern Ireland)

4th Coalburn IOR (Scotland)

5th Tullylagan (Northern Ireland)

6th Clogher & District (Northern Ireland)

7th Vale of Atholl  (Scotland)

8th Denny and Dunipace Pipe Band Association (Scotland)             

9th The Highlanders (4 Scots) (Scotland) 

10th Stockbridge (Scotland)

Grade 3B

1st Royal Scots Dragoon Guards (Scotland)

2nd Edradour Pitlochry & Blair Atholl (Scotland)

3rd Major Sinclair Memorial (Northern Ireland)

4th Augharan (Northern Ireland)

5th Methil & District (Scotland)

6th Cullybackey (Northern Ireland)

7th Glenrothes and District 2010  (Scotland)         

8th Milngavie (Scotland)

9th Tweedvale (Scotland)             

10th Ross and Cromarty Pipes and Drums School (Scotland)

Grade 4A

1st Kildoag (Northern Ireland)    

2nd Gransha (Ireland)

3rd Brisbane Boys College Pipe Band (Australia)  

4th Lower Clyde Pipes and Drums (Scotland)

5th Durham Regional Police (Canada)

6th Uddingston Strathclyde (Scotland)

7th Kintyre Schools  (Scotland)   

8th Vale of Atholl  (Scotland)

9th Cloughfin (Northern Ireland)

10th Raphoe Ulster Scots (Ireland)

Grade 4B

1st Syerla and District (Northern Ireland)

2nd Troon Boys Brigade (Scotland)

3rd Kilbarchan (Scotland)

4th Black Raven (Ireland)

5th City of Discovery (Scotland)

6th Brisbane Boys College Pipe Band (Australia)  

7th Troon Blackrock (Scotland)   

8th Irvine Memorial (Scotland)

9th Hollymount (Northern Ireland)

10th Dunoon Argyll (Scotland)


1st Dollar Academy (Scotland)

2nd George Watson’s College (Scotland)

3rd St. Thomas Episcopal School (USA)

4th Preston Lodge High School (Scotland)

Complete contest results can be found at:

For more information on the World’s please visit:

Fergus Scottish Festival and Highland Games returned in person for the 2022 event

David Leask performed the single Tartan Kiss of Fergus.

2022, the Board of Directors and Organizers were thrilled to host the Fergus Scottish Festival and Highland Games in person and welcomed close to 26,000 visitors during the event.  The celebrations began earlier in the week with a taster of the weekend to come. Entertainment was provided by a selection of excellent bands and performers in various locations in and around Fergus.  On Friday evening, the gates were open once more in the Centre Wellington Sportsplex. Cabers were flying, kilts were birling, and pipes were skirling as visitors were treated to an exhilarating weekend of world-class entertainment.

An international line-up of talented artists brought Celtic flair to the weekend with their unique styles. The schedule was packed full of events to suit everyone, from Highland Dance, Massed Bands, Clan Gatherings and Heavy Events competitions to whisky tastings and an elegant brunch with the Outlander star Duncan Lacroix and author Diana Gabaldon.

Outlander star Duncan Lacroix and author Diana Gabaldon.

It was amazing to experience the live format and energy of the community coming together again, whether Scottish or not. Guests shared their enthusiasm on social media and are already looking forward to next year.

Carolynn S. “I was there for my first time on Saturday. I had such a good time!! I can’t wait to go again next year.”

Dan L. “Loved it and glad to have experienced it again after a 2-year hiatus!!!”

Nova P. “Thank you Fergus for such an amazing weekend. I feel a new fire in my bones after being introduced to bagpipes at this festival. I was very pleased to learn a great deal about my heritage.”

Heavy events at Fergus.

Elizabeth Bender, Executive Director, Fergus Scottish Festival said: “From the Board of Directors and Festival office, we want to thank all our Festival guests for supporting us through our first Festival in three years. As our first event following the pandemic, we are overwhelmed by the kindness that you demonstrated as we navigated our way through, bringing you the best and safest Festival experience. Your thoughtful words and heartfelt messages have warmed our hearts, and we can’t wait to do this again next year.”

The Festival is grateful for the support received and offers a most sincere thank-you to the dedicated volunteers, talented competitors, performers, special guests, local businesses, sponsors, government grantors, and patrons.  Stay informed of Festival happenings and get up-to-date information about the 2023 event through the Facebook page @FergusScottishFestival and Twitter @FergusScotFest. Like and follow them as they remain true to their commitment to bring you Scotland — without the airfare.  Save the dates for 11th to 13th August, 2023, when the Fergus Scottish Festival and Highland Games will be back at the Centre Wellington Sportsplex. Haste ye back!

The Fergus Scottish Festival is an annual three-day celebration of Scottish heritage. For more details see:

Square Mile of Magic

Text and images by: David McVey

When someone from Glasgow tells you something good about Edinburgh, it must be really good. And there’s no denying that the hills of Edinburgh are very special. Popular tradition gives Edinburgh, like Rome, seven hills;

•Castle Rock,

•Calton Hill,

•Arthur’s Seat,

•Corstorphine Hill,

•Blackford Hill,

•The Braid Hills,

•Craiglockhart Hill.


On the climb to Arthur’s Seat.

Some of the hills are now mostly urban: Castle Rock has the world-famous castle on top, and while Calton Hill has plenty of open space, it’s also home to several tourist attractions, including the unfinished National Monument. Its summit has a breath-taking view along Princes Street towards the castle, a glorious cityscape – although Glaswegians like me will tell you the University of Glasgow seen from Kelvingrove Park is even better.

The celebrated Arthur’s Seat is actually one of several peaks within the miniature range of hills that is Holyrood Park. It’s a glorious place, about a mile square with its own summits, lochs, glens, crags, ridges and small burns. Arthurs Seat (251m/822ft) is always busy but other parts of the park are less so. Salisbury Crags is the rampart of cliffs that guards Arthur’s Seat from the city centre. A walk along the edge of the crags – keeping an eye on any children in the party – on well-beaten paths is a marvellous experience. The highest point of the crags (174m/570ft) is a summit in itself and is always less busy than Arthur’s Seat.

Other summits in Holyrood Park include Whinny Hill (177m/583ft) and the two peaks nearest to Arthur’s Seat, the bouldery Crow Hill (238m/780ft) and Nether Hill (237m/779ft). Keen walkers could spend an enjoyable half-day bagging the tops, and everywhere there are echoes of history. If you enjoyed your visit to Arthur’s Seat, so did Burns, Scott and Stevenson. James Hogg set a terrifying episode of The Private Memoirs and Confessions of a Justified Sinner on the summit.

A name and a history

The top of Arthur’s Seat.

Every bump and hollow and corner in these hills has a name and a history: what about the Galloping Glen, the Gutted Haddie, Hunter’s Bog and Haggis Knowe? Hunter’s Bog is the glen enclosed by Arthur’s Seat and the Salisbury Crags. On the orders of Mary Queen of Scots, it was once dammed to create a small loch. Later it was drained but is now becoming boggier again and there is often open water there; I’ve seen a heron fishing in the shallows.

There are many ways to the summit of Arthur’s Seat: a favourite of mine is by the Lang Rig, an airy ridge thought to be the remains of a lava flow. From Hawse, the pass between Arthur’s Seat and the Salisbury Crags, you can take a lung-bursting zig-zag path up the hollow known as the Gutted Haddie. You emerge on a plateau just below the hill’s rocky crown. A longer route from Hawse follows the Piper’s Walk, which runs through some of the woodland above Hunter’s Bog and deposits you at the top of the Lang Rig route to the summit. The slopes between Hunter’s Bog and the Piper’s Walk are surprisingly wooded, adding to the park’s biodiversity.

Watch as you move around the summit of Arthur’s Seat; the rock outcrops are shiny and slippery with the passage of many feet. It isn’t a place for quiet contemplation as thousands reach the top on a good day. But then, Holyrood Park has a long history of human occupation. There’s evidence that people lived in the park area as long ago as 8000 BC. Some features traceable on the ground, including four hill forts, probably date back as far as the Iron Age.

A great bite has been taken out of the Salisbury Crags at their south-eastern end by quarrying. It was in this quarried section that the pioneering geologist James Hutton found evidence that enabled him to demonstrate the volcanic origin of the rock, preparing him for his seminal work Theory of the Earth which appeared between 1785 and 1799. Part of the quarried area is still known as Hutton’s Section.

Magnificent square mile

Salisbury Crags from Holyrood Palace.

Nowadays the park is managed by Historic Scotland and is an island of nature in the city, yet it’s amazing that any creatures live here given the sheer mass of humanity that sometimes crowds in. During the 1745 Jacobite Rising, Charles Edward Stuart’s army camped in the park and exercised in Hunter’s Bog. Exactly 200 years ago, the visit of George IV to Edinburgh was commemorated by cannon fire from Salisbury Crags and a bonfire and musketry on Arthur’s Seat. An estimated 200,000 people crowded onto the high ground to watch Queen Victoria review volunteer troops in the park in 1860.

The track that runs along the foot of the Salisbury Crags is known as the Radical Road. It was built by unemployed weavers under a pioneering welfare-to-work scheme in 1820, and its name comes from the weavers’ reputation for being in the vanguard of campaigns for social and political justice. Sadly, it is currently closed and fenced off owing to recent rockfalls. This is a shame as it’s a fine walk in itself; I understand that Historic Scotland need to care for visitors but surely crags are always going to be prone to this?

Holyrood Park’s peaks, like all of Edinburgh’s hills, are eastern outliers of the Pentlands which start tumbling to sea level on the outskirts of Edinburgh. If you take Edinburgh’s No. 4 bus to its terminus (the appropriately named Hillend) you’ll find yourself at the home of Edinburgh’s own ski resort, the Midlothian Snowsports Centre. From these slopes, the hills of Edinburgh, even Arthur’s Seat, begin to look a little modest.

But nothing can take away the magic of Holyrood Park’s magnificent square mile.

Do you have printer’s ink in your blood? Raban’s descendants sought on 400th anniversary of printing

The printed word changed the world, bringing books and newspapers into circulation and providing a vehicle for sharing new ideas as well as science, history and culture. In July Aberdeen celebrated the 400th anniversary of the birth of printing in the city and experts from the University of Aberdeen and Robert Gordon University (RGU) are coming together with others from across Scotland to mark the important milestone. A series of events and an exhibition will tell the story of Aberdeen’s first printer, Edward Raban, who set up the region’s first printing press in Castle Street in 1622.

Laird of Letters

As part of the celebrations, RGU’s Professor Peter Reid joined the University of Aberdeen’s Professor Paul Mitchell to explore new insights on Raban’s life at a free seminar ‘Edward Raban: Up Close’. And Professor Reid is seeking the help of the north-east public to try and track down relatives who may have the printer’s ink in their blood. He explains: “Raban was both industrious and ambitious, producing one hundred and fifty titles in twenty-seven years.  He called himself the ‘Laird of Letters’ and was engaged in the political, religious and civic questions of the day.  Yet, for all that, he is an elusive figure.   As part of our 400th anniversary celebrations, we are hoping to track down descendants that might still be living in the north-east. Raban is not a particularly common name so we are interested in anyone who has it in their ancestry. We also know that his daughter, Elizabeth, married Gavin Milne in Aberdeen in 1648. This is a name appears much more frequently in this region but they had four children, Isobel (b 1649), James (b 1652), William (b 1653), and Robert (b 1654).  So, if any of these names appear in your family tree, we’d love to hear from you.”

The innovation of printing

Raban was a well-travelled Englishman who came to Aberdeen at the invitation of Sir Paul Menzies and Bishop Patrick Forbes. He printed under the sign of ‘The Townes Armes’ and this continued to be the sign-board of the Aberdeen Printers for at least one hundred years. Much of Raban’s output was for the University and the City, but in 1623 he produced his ‘Prognostication’ or Almanac, a collection of writing about the preceding year. This continued annually and became the Aberdeen Almanac which records a wide range of information.

Jennifer Shaw, Assistant Curator of Museums and Special Collections at the University of Aberdeen, said: “The innovation of printing enabled people to share knowledge quicker and more widely, changing the way people communicated and social relationships. Edward Raban was fundamental to bringing about these changes in Aberdeen and left a legacy that could be felt for centuries. In 2022 – 400 years on from his arrival in Aberdeen and the printing of his first material – it is fitting that we celebrate his life, legacy and the transformational influence he had on this region.”

The university events form part of a wider celebration of Raban at 400 taking place across the city.

If you think you might be related to Raban please visit

Main photo: MacLachlan Memorial Window depicting Edward Raban, designed by Douglas Strachan (1875-1950) one of Scotland’s pre-eminent stained glass window designer (an alumnus of Gray’s School of Art). Image by Peacock Visual Arts.

The Joy of the Games

Scottish events are back across the world with events across Australia, Canada, Scotland and the USA all scheduled to take place this month. Many Highland Games, Celtic festivals and gatherings have struggled with uncertainty and reduced committees during the pandemic. With several forced to cancel or adapt to local regulations. 2022 has seen many return and produce excellent events for the Scottish community to enjoy and showcase our incredible culture.

The Scottish Banner urges those who can to support a Scottish event near you, these events are often run by volunteers who work many months in advance of an event to bring together a great array of Scottish entertainment and tradition. Be sure to check the events page in this month’s edition or if looking for an event several months away, or further afield, please see our website:

Aberdeen Highland Games

In July poor weather did not dampen the grounds or spirits of those that attended the Aberdeen Highland Games in Aberdeen, NSW with crowds again being entertained throughout the day with the sounds, feats and treats of Scotland.  Held every year on the first Saturday in July, the Aberdeen Highland Games is one of Australia’s premier Scottish events, drawing thousands of people to the township in the Upper Hunter Valley every year to enjoy the festivities. The Games begin with a spectacular parade of bands, clan representatives and others that leads into the Massed Band Salute and Chieftain’s Address that officially opens the day.

The event offers fun for all the whole family, including Highland and country dancing and music, Pipe Band displays, Strong man events with the Tartan Warriors, as well as tug-of-war, egg tosses, three-legged races, and the famed Kilted Dash. A multitude of stalls offering all manner of Scottish heirlooms and souvenirs, clothing and garb, as well as a variety of food and drinks are also available. The Aberdeen Highland Games is followed by a traditional Ceilidh in the evening.

Get Your Kilt On

The Games are also a great platform for pipe bands, dancers and athletes to compete and hone their skills in Scottish tradition. Clans and Scottish societies are also often represented for those looking for information on their genealogy or how to get involved with local community groups, a great way to meet new people and share your passion for Scotland. So, get out there and ‘Get Your Kilt On’ and enjoy a Scottish event near you, our community is better for having them and they need all our support.

Do you love Highland Games? Share your story with us by email, post, social media or:

All the images courtesy of Amanda Ray Images /Aberdeen Highland Games.

Did you know?

Highland Games

Scotland’s Highland Games, with the associated traditions of caber throwing and hammer tossing, are renowned throughout the world. But do you know where the world’s oldest Highland Games take place, or where they toss giant champagne corks instead of the caber? Find out below in a list of Highland Games facts, courtesy of

-The Highland Games held each June at Ceres in Fife, the oldest free games in Scotland, began under a Charter awarded by Robert the Bruce in recognition of the villagers’ support at the Battle of Bannockburn in 1314.

-The first Highland Games in the USA took place in New York in 1836.

-The Braemar Gathering which takes place during the first weekend in September, is the only Games attended annually by the British Royal Family.

-Prosser Scottish Festivals and Games in Washington, is renowned for the “Anvil Launch” wherein a blacksmith’s anvil is launched into the air with a quarter-stick of dynamite! An explosive way to mark the start and end of the Games.

-At the Bellingham Highlands Games in Ferndale, Washington, you can hunt the ‘Nessie eggs’, where mini watermelons are hidden around the park, the lucky hunters can swap their precious Nessie eggs for prizes. Let’s hope the eggs are easier to spot than Nessie!

-Snefj¸rd Highland Games in Finnmark, Norway, have hosted the most northern games in the world.

-Hororata in New Zealand, hosts one of the most southerly games in the world.

-At some Highland Games in France a giant champagne cork is tossed instead of a caber.

-The Caledonian Club of San Francisco hosts one of the largest Highland Games in the Northern Hemisphere

-The world record for the biggest bowl of porridge was set at the Cupar Highland Games in Fife in 2010. The huge breakfast of 690 litres of porridge cooked could feed 2,000 people and was more than double the existing record.

Scotland’s link to the Panama Canal

By: Nick Drainey

Paisley Museum has unearthed the incredible story of a Scottish dredger which built the last part of the Panama Canal and its Master from the Clyde. The Corozal was the only non-American machinery which worked on the canal more than 100 years ago, as Nick Drainey explains.

Two of the mud buckets of the Corozal. Photo: George W. Goethals Collection, Special Collections, USMA Library.

The forgotten story of a Scottish dredger and its master who sailed to the Pacific Ocean in the face of diplomatic unrest more than century ago and completed the final, difficult section of the Panama Canal has been unearthed during a multi-million revamp of one of Scotland’s oldest museums. In 1912 James Bartholomew Wallace sailed the Corozal from Simons shipyard in Renfrew, around the treacherous Cape Horn to the west side of Panama. Once there, it shifted more than 4 million cubic metres of earth from the Culebra Cut, the 12km channel on the final section of the canal as it meets the Pacific.

Despite fierce disapproval from San Francisco shipbuilders who wanted only US machinery used, President William Taft had awarded the contract for the work to the Scottish Corozal because he saw it as better value for money (just under US$400,000 compared to US$874,000). The story of how James Wallace overcame arduous seas, a tough working environment and opposition is to be told when Paisley Museum, Scotland’s first municipal museum dating back to 1871, re-opens next year after a £42million revamp. In preparing for the major refurbishment the museum discovered a model of the Corozal and decided to do some investigating.

Shipbuilding family

James Bartholomew Wallace.

Born into a Clyde shipbuilding family in 1870 in Renfrew, Wallace left school at 14 and began a five-year apprenticeship at Simons, a move that would eventually take him across the world. His first major voyage, in 1891, took him to the Pacific Coast of Mexico, via the Atlantic and Cape Horn. If that sounds a long way from home, it was but for many of that generation it was a chance to escape the confines of the yards. Wallace’s great grandson, Andy Wallace, who has made a long-term donation of family correspondence and photographs to Paisley Museum says: “He was from a shipbuilding family – he would have been an excited young man. That was their ticket to see the world and make some money.”

See the world he did, taking dredgers to Russia, China, India, Malaysia and Aden. Andy Wallace adds: “It does seem from his letters that every time he lands home he is off again.”

But Andy Wallace says his ancestor’s strong Christian faith was always central to his life, coupled with a “get up and go spirit”. And he did find time to marry Margaret Reid Phillips in Renfrew, Renfrewshire, on 24 December 1897 when he was 27 years old, and the couple had five children.

Held in high esteem

The Corozal. Photo: George W. Goethals Collection Special Collections USMA Library.

Meanwhile, 18,000 workers were toiling on the Panama Canal, hundreds perishing in the harsh conditions.  William Taft had used his presidential powers to overturn a ruling by Congress that all future machinery should be US-built and had awarded Simons a contract to supply the Corozal. It was one of the largest dredgers ever seen at 261 feet in length and weighing 1684 tons. With James Wallace as Master, it set sail at the end of 1911, arriving in March the following year after travelling 12,000 miles during 117 days at sea. It was an impressive sight, dwarfing the other dredgers struggling to finish the final part – the Culebra Cut. By 1913 the canal was finished with the Corozal being the first vessel to pass through the final section before it was officially opened in 1914.

John Pressley, Science Curator at Paisley Museum says Wallace “must have been held in reasonably high esteem”, who says his name was included in a roll call of the senior workers on the canal.  Pressley said: “He would have taken the dredger over there and spend three or six months handing it over to whoever was going to be operating it.”

The Corozal went to work out of Philadelphia and was eventually scrapped in 1956. James Wallace had returned to Scotland but then went back to Panama, where he died in 1915, aged just 44.  Andy Wallace says the details are sketchy and he has never found a death certificate although he does know he is buried in the country. Wallace’s son became a marine engineer and his grandson, Andy’s father, was a diplomat. Andy Wallace is currently retraining as a marine biologist. He sees his great grandfather’s legacy as one of a “family who goes around the world doing what needs to be done”

The Clyde

In the 17th century the River Clyde at Glasgow was a shallow body of water which could be waded across at low tide. Ocean-going ships had to load and unload at Greenock with sailing up to the city an impossibility.

By the 18th century the trade in tobacco and sugar was booming and merchants wanted to be able to get their wares into the heart of Glasgow. A huge engineering project began which would see more than 100,000 tonnes of sediment dredged out. In the 19th century steam power created a revolution in production and shipbuilding on the Clyde took off, eventually seeing an estimated 25,000 vessels built on the banks of the river.

The shipyards played a vital role during the two world wars of the 20th century but decline began in the 1960s until today when they are all but gone. Nevertheless, the industrial heritage is still a source of great pride in all the communities along the Clyde, and it echoes around the world.

Paisley Museum

Paisely Museum’s model of the Corozal.

Paisley Museum was the first municipal museum built in Scotland, designed by renowned Glasgow architect Sir John Honeyman and gifted to the town by Sir Peter Coats of the Coats family, whose Paisley-based thread-making empire stretched around the world. Paisley was thriving at the turn of the 19th century thanks to the textiles industry and there was a real climate for self-improvement and intellectual curiosity growing in the town. Countless clubs and societies had sprung up, and there was a thirst for knowledge amongst the population. One such club was the Paisley Philosophical Institution which promoted education through its public lectures on a wide range of topics. They also collected scientific apparatus, objects, artefacts and books, and by 1864 were in need of a permanent home for their collection.

In 1864 they decided to launch a campaign to raise the funds needed to build a free public library and museum, and by 1867 had confirmation from Sir Peter Coats that he would pay for its construction. Paisley Museum was opened to the public in April 1871.The first curator, Morris Young, was an entomologist specialising in the study of beetles – his collection of over 2,000 beetle specimens is still held by the museum.  Within 10 years of the Museum opening, plans to expand the galleries and build an Observatory were already underway. And, in 1883 what is now Scotland’s oldest Observatory was opened.  Today, Paisley Museum is undergoing further redevelopment to improve the display of a vast range of artefacts including world-famous textiles, ceramics, over 800 paintings, sculpture, and local archives.

Main photo: Culebra Cut with Corozal on right, October 5, 1915. Photo: George W. Goethals Collection, Special Collections, USMA Library.

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.

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:

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:

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