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  • The Battle of Culloden

    The Battle of Culloden 16th April 1746: The last battle to take place on British soil.

    The battle of Culloden was fought to reinstate the Stuart Monarch back on to the throne over the Hanover family. The throne for Scotland Ireland and England was lost to the Stuart family in 1714 with the death of Queen Anne who was succeeded by King George I of the House of Hanover. Anne’s father James II and VII was over thrown in the Glorious Revolution 1688 as his strong Catholic views were not popular however his older brother whilst king insisted Anne and her sister be raised Anglican thus allowing her to take over from her father. James II and VII son James III and VIII tried to take back the thrown numerous times before his son who received the names ‘the Old Pretender’. The Jacobite cause are named after Jacobus which is Latin for James.

    The_Battle_of_Culloden

    Charles Edward Stuart often known as ‘the young pretender' or ‘Bonnie Prince Charlie’. Came to Scotland in 1745 to take back the thrown. Initially the Jacobite army had a victorious start just outside of Edinburgh and took over the city allowing the young prince entry to his ancestral home of Holyrood Palace. The Army then marched south across the border but with forces coming from multiple directions they were forced to retreat to Inverness where 1500 – 2000 Jacobites lost their lives. The Bonnie Prince had been warned not to choose Culloden as the battle site but did not head the warning. If he had,, perhaps the outcome would have been very different. The Jacobite army were outnumbered by over 2000 men. The highland army were exhausted and weak from hunger after a failed raid on Cumberland's army the previous night. As a result the battle lasted under an hour. Those that were injured or ran from the field were killed or jailed for treason: with few exceptions. Cumberland's army chased any fleeing Jacobite down this led to Cumberland's well known nickname as the Butcher. The French soldiers that fought with the Jacobites were the only ones to be treated as prisoners of war.

    As for Charles Edward Stuart he evaded capture for 5 months eventually sailing to the Isle of Skye dressed as a maid before gaining passage to France, previously the Stuarts greatest ally.

    The young pretender’s flight was one that was acknowledged as of legendary scale as with £30,000 for his head the young prince had many Scottish accomplices helping him to gain safe passage. Even those that were not strictly Jacobite supporters. The popular song Skye Boat song commemorates Charles escape from Cumberland’s army.

    This was the last Jacobite Rebellion and led to the disempowering of the chieftains of the highland clans as well as the banning of traditional dress worn, as it was considered a sign of support for the Stuart family. This final battle led to a changing Scotland. Keep in mind that not all fighting in the Jacobite Army were Scottish and not all in Cumberland's army were English.

    The young pretender died in 1788 aged 67 and 19 years later the Stuart line became extinct with the death of the pretenders younger brother Cardinal Henry Benedict Stuart – though both the old and young pretender had illegitimate sons that continue the male line

  • The History of Halloween

    halloween

    Halloween is a big deal in the United States but most people do not realise that Halloween has strong links to Scotland and the rest of the United Kingdom. It can be traced back to the Celtic festival Samhain (summers end) representing the end of the year for crops. During this time they that ghosts and the dead walk among the living. The Druids built and lit large bonfires and burned crops and animals as sacrifice to the Celtic deities in hope they will scare away the evil spirits from the towns. Traditionally the Celts wore costumes of animal heads and skins and tried to predict each others futures. Scots are known as a superstitious group of people and are known for creating many of the superstitions that are common in society today for example the phrase ‘black sheep of the family’ comes from the Scottish farmers fearing the birth of a black faced lamb as it would cause the rest of the flock bad luck. Also placing silver in a newborns hand means they will have wealth later on in life. It is not surprising that the Scots are so superstitious and thought of as the birth place of Halloween with all the atmospheric landscapes and hunted castles with so many morbid histories. Even the famous Robert Burns wrote a poem titled Halloween in 1985 detailing the common customs and legends. The most common customs are guising where kids dress up believing that they will pass through the crowds of spirits without being noticed. Trick or treating originated from this however in Scotland the child must preform a trick for a treat – reading a poem, singing a song or telling a joke. Other customs are dookin for apples where a basin of water is filled with apples and each person takes turns trying to get an apple out with their mouths. A similar messy game played at many Halloween parties is the treacle scones game where treats are placed on a line similar to a washing line and the participants try and retrieve the treat with their mouth and their hands tied behind their backs. Pumpkin carving was also popular in Scotland however before using pumpkins they used ‘neeps’ or turnips carving a monstrous faces in to the vegetable and placing a light inside would stop the evil spirits from entering the residence. When Halloween became popular in the United States pumpkins were used as the lanterns. Halloween came to America with the colonists, many were from the UK who though with a change of religion through the years still celebrated the Celtic event this led to America creating their own traditions and customs for Halloween with aspects from all the different cultures, leading to the extravagant decorations and costumes we see today.

  • When did women start wearing kilts?

    It was not until the 1800s that women in Scotland began to gradually claim their place in representing their country through dress, most notably during Scottish Highland Dance performances. Early 19th century women’s dance attire consisted of quite long tartan skirts. However, as hemlines in general shortened, so did the hemlines in Highland Dance costumes.

    BeFunky Collage

    By the mid 1900s, a debate began to rage about whether or not women should be allowed to dance in kilts and jackets. By this time, mens Highland attire was now being worn by some female dancers, which is why a more feminine outfit that emphasized Scottish identity without denying women their own sphere separate from men was designed. Hence the “kilted skirt,” which is a tartan skirt very similar in length and style to the traditional mens kilt began to grow in popularity not only among female Highland dancers, but among all women of Scottish descent.

    Traditionally, the apron, which is the flat flap at the front of a woman’s kilt or kilted skirt was worn with the seam on the same side as mens kilts (to the right). But nowadays, most ladies kilts have the seam placed on the left side instead. And no, you don't have to be Scottish, into punk music, or be a reincarnation of Alicia Silverstone in Clueless to rock a kilt!

  • A step back in time - Dunnottar Castle

    When you first catch a glimpse of Dunnottar Castle, you instantly feel like you are stepping back in time. This clifftop fortress is perfectly placed between the green and peaceful countryside and the wild and stormy North Sea.

    United Kingdom, UK, Scotland, Aberdeenshire, Travel Destination, Dunnottar Castle near Stonehaven town United Kingdom, UK, Scotland, Aberdeenshire, Travel Destination, Dunnottar Castle near Stonehaven town

    This spectacular castle was besieged by William Wallace, it was once guardian of Scotland's crown jewels and was caught inumerous times in battles between English and the Scottish people. It is also often described as one of the most haunted in Scotland. The most famous ghostly inhabitant is a girl dressed in a green tartan dress, the Green Lady, who wanders around the brewery and has been seen by numerous visitors...

    The dramatic rock in which Dunnottar stands was once connected to the shoreline by a natural causeway, the Fiddlehead. However, to protect the castle from attack, the natural pathway was deliberately destroyed and a new, narrow access route was cut into the cliffs with blind corners which made it easy for archers to attack any unwanted visitors. As you climb up, the view becomes more and more spectacular, the coastline is wild and free from any traces of modern life.

    As you walk through the grounds of this magical castle and start thinking of all the events that unfolded throughtout the years, your imagination starts running wild and for a few hours you go back to being a child thinking of knights and princesses, medieval battles and dark stormy nights. No wonder Dunnottar Castle inspired Disney Pixar’s movie Brave.

  • James Bond's Scottish Connections

    Author Ian Fleming spent most of his childhood holidays at his Scottish grandfather's estate in Arnestdale in the Highlands, a place where he undoubtedly took inspiration from when writing his novels about the famous British MI6 spy. It is believed that 007 was based on Sir Fitzroy Maclean, a Scottish soldier, politician and writer.

    Bond

    In the novel, You Only Live Twice, it is revealed that Bond is the son of a Scottish father, Andrew Bond, of Glencoe. During his teen years, Bond is sent to Fettes College in Edinburgh, his father's school, to study.

    The Bond movies have also numerous Scottish connections. Sean Connery comes to mind as the most obvious one of course! Connery was born in Edinburgh and comes from a working class family. He starred in Dr. No, From Russia with Love, Goldfinger, Thunderball, You Only Live Twice and Diamonds Are Forever. He received a Lifetime Achievement award at the 1996 Golden Globes and was knighted in 2000.

    The enchanting Eilean Donan Castle, located in the Western Highlands, can be seen in The World Is Not Enough, when it became "MI6 headquarters, Scotland" after the organisation's London base was damaged in an explosion.

    Glencoe was featured briefly in Skyfall as Daniel Craig and Judi Dench escaped north in an Aston Martin DB5. Other Bond Scottish locations include Gare Loch in The Spy Who Loved Me and Loch Craignish in From Russia With Love.

    The name's Bond, pet. James Bond.

  • What's so Special About Cashmere?

    There is nothing quite like the soft feeling of cashmere against your skin. Wearing a cashmere jumper or scarf makes you feel like you are wrapped in a fluffy cloud of softness and tenderness. However, what usually puts people off buying a cashmere item is it's price. Let's find out more about where cashmere comes from and why it is so expensive.

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    Cashmere is made from the hair of cashmere goats and one of the reasons why it has such a steep price tag is because the demand for it is much higher than its production. It is also finer, stronger, lighter, softer, and more insulating than sheep wool. Cashmere goats produce a double fleece, a soft undercoat and a coarser outer coating. In order to process the underdown, it must be de-haired, which is basically a mechanical process that separates the coarse hairs from the fine ones.

    However, not all cashmere products are the same, which is why texture and prices can vary. Whiter cashmere, which obviously requires less dye, is softer as the fibres were not damaged as much during the colouring process. The region where the wool is originally collected from also influences on the quality of the product as not all goats have the same diet or are bred in the same climatic area. They are, however, mainly found in a region called Kashmir in China, Mongolia, India and Pakistan and it can take up to four years for a goat to produce enough wool to make a single pure cashmere jumper!

    Altough it is not cheap to buy, I would personally recommend investing in a cashmere item as it will last for years, will keep you warm and looking elegant, and make you feel like you are cuddling a soft puppy all day!

  • Scotland's Wild Goats

    The Scottish Highlands is a truly majestic place with endless miles of nothing but nature at its best, a place where you can relax your busy city mind and simply feel connected to Mother Nature around you. The Highlands is also home to a number of wonderfully diverse species, from birds of prey and land animals to sealife on the coasts.

    goatsOne of those is the Feral Goat, a descendant of the domestic goat, now a truly wild animal. They usually roam the hills in small herds and mate in the Autumn. They are quite timid creatures and usually walk off if you are lucky enough to approach them. These magnificent animals are a reminder of the area's turbulent past, as they descend from the livestock abandoned by Highlanders during the turbulent Highland clearances.

    They were first introduced in these lands around 5000 years ago by Neolithic farmers, and used as farmyard animals. Nowadays, they are widely distributed but often quite difficult to spot because of the way their coats have bred back to dark colours and their preference for grazing on steep and broken craggy hill ground.

    Some of the best spots to see them are at the wild goat park in Galloway Forest Park, Rum National Nature Reserve, Creag Dubh near Newtonmore, South Lochness-side, Ardgour, Mull, Ardnamurchan, North Morar, Strathfarrar and Dundonell, Kerrera off Oban, the Oa on Islay and Colonsay.

  • Scotland's Purple Thistle

    As many of you may know, the purple Thistle is Scotland's national flower. It was first adopted as the country's emblem during the reign of Alexander III (1249-1286). As legend goes, an invading Norse army attempted to sneak on Scottish shores unoticed one fateful night. One of the Norsemen, who was walking barefoot, had the misfortune of stepping on a Thistle, making him cry out in pain and consequently alerting the Scots of their presence. Sources suggest this happened during the Battle of Largs.

    thistle

    In honour of this victory, the plant became known as the Guardian Thistle and subsequently the national symbol of Scotland. The earliest official recorded use of the Thistle flower was on silver coins issued in 1470 during the reign of James III. It was then incorporated into the Royal Arms of Scotland in the early 16th century.

    Another legend associated with this prickly flower is that of the noble Order of the Thistle. King Achius is said to have founded the Order in the 9th century, consisting of 13 Knights including himself. The main emblems are the Thistle and St Andrew holding a saltire. Their motto is Nemo me impune lacessit (Latin for "No one provokes me with impunity"). Although it has had its ups, downs and changes throughout history, the Order is now firmly anchored in Edinburgh's St Giles Cathedral.

    Biologically speaking, this lovely flower thrives in most of the Scottish territories, especially in the Highlands. This proud and regal plant can grow to a height of five feet and has no natural enemies because of the vicious spines that cover and protect it. Just like the country it represents, it is of a dramatic beauty like no other!

  • Edinburgh - a haunted capital

    What tourists and visitors are sometimes not aware of, is that this beautiful city with romantic views and green landscape is believed to be one of the UK's most haunted locations. Edinburgh has a grizzly history of battles, grave robbers, serial killers and executions, not to mention the true story of the infamous body snatchers Burke and Hare.

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    There are endless stories to be told about ghost infested places, weird phenomena and spooky paranormal activities that happen all over the Auld Reekie. However, Edinburgh's Old Town is by far the most haunted part of the city.

    Edinburgh Castle is said to be most haunted place in all of Scotland. Inumerous paranormal occurrences have been reported, some visitors even claim to have seen a phantom piper, a headless drummer, spirits of former prisoners, even the ghost of a wandering dog...

    There is a series of underground tunnels that connect the castle to the Royal Mile, possibly even to the Palace of Holyrood House. Several hundreds years ago, when the tunnels were first discovered, they sent a piper to explore and navigate this underground city. He played the bagpipe so that his progress could be tracked by those above, however, all of a sudden, the piping stopped. When they sent a rescue team to look for him, they found no trace, he had simply vanished. No clue of what happened to him was ever found... Except for his ghost who to this day still haunts these underground tunnels, and his music can sometimes be heard near the castle and on the streets above the tunnels. Needless to say, these dark and damp passageways are nowhere you would want to wander in by yoursel at night.

    Other spooky places worth a visit if you’re looking to feel some chills down your spine are the Banshee Labyrinth, the White Hart Inn and Greyfriars Kirkyard.

  • Knitting – a Scottish Craft

    The first knitters in Scotland were highly paid craftsmen of the 16th and 17th centuries. Knitting then became an important occupation among the general population during the mid 17th and 18th centuries. There is an ancient rural tradition of spinning, weaving and knitting; entire families were involved in making sweaters, accessories, socks, stockings, etc. Knitting was sometimes the only way in which the inhabitants of poor regions were able to earn money. Little equipment was needed, it could be practiced by both men and women, and it was a skill that could be passed down the generations. Different areas had their own distinctive style of knitting and/or a particular garment for which they were known for.

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    Woolen sweaters were popular and important garments for the fishermen of the Scottish islands  because the natural oils in the wool protected them against the harsh winter weather they encountered while out fishing.

    However, over the years, the entire Scottish hand-knitting industry declined dramatically due to a variety of reasons, especially the loss of trade to the American Colonies and the increasing industrialisation of spinning and processing wool.

    One of the most well known examples of traditional Scottish kniting, which has been practised continuously by generations to this day, is the Fair Isle Knitting, which requires double-pointed needles , known locally as wires, along with a special padded knitting belt. This style of knitting uses a limited palette of five colours and never more than two colours in any one row, and most patterns consist of small motifs repeated across the piece. A small quantity of exclusive hand-spun, hand-knitted items are still made on the Isle, as well as a number of high quality hand-frame garments.

    Nowadays, there has been a revival in the popularity of crafts like knitting, crochet and weaving, especially in the Scottish Highlands. Also, knitting is one of the most relaxing and calming activities you can do. As they say, keep calm, and keep knitting!

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