Saturday, December 3, 2011

Work Continues on Core Inventory of Historic Scottish Battlefields

Scotland’s most important battlefields are continuing to be officially identified, after Historic Scotland announced the second of its three batches for inclusion in “The Inventory of Historic Battlefields”.

The project has now recorded nearly 30 of the nation’s most important battle sites, including Culloden and Bannockburn.

To be included in the Inventory, the battlefield must be of national importance for the contribution they make to Scotland’s archaeology and history.

The eleven new sites identified include battles fought in Aberdeenshire, Fife, Highlands, Midlothian and South Lanarkshire.

Fiona Hyslop, Cabinet Secretary for Culture and External Affairs said: “It is crucial that we ensure our battlefields are protected, for the contribution they have made to our history and heritage, and to future generations.
“Our battle sites are a popular attraction for tourists from all over the world, and represent a huge educational resource. They allow us to understand the evolution of Scotland, through appreciation of key historical figures and their role in shaping our culture.”

Ms. Hyslop said a new heritage centre would be completed in 2014 to commemorate the 700th anniversary of the Battle of Bannockburn.

Thursday, November 3, 2011


Edinburgh Castle was voted the best UK heritage attraction last night at the 2011 British Travel Awards ceremony in London.

Fiona Hyslop, Cabinet Secretary for Culture and External Affairs said: “I am delighted to hear that Edinburgh Castle has been voted the best UK heritage attraction. We are very proud of its history and heritage.  It is a global icon and continues to attract visitors from around the world. This year it has welcomed the highest number of visitors since records began and I am delighted to announce that it has just recorded its millionth visitor this year.”

Nick Finnigan, Edinburgh Castle’s Executive Manager, was presented with the gold award, the Oscar equivalent in the travel Industry. 
He said: “This is a great honour.
Edinburgh Castle is home to the Scottish Crown Jewels, which are amongst the oldest regalia in Europe, and the Stone of Destiny; however, it is also a fantastic venue for events ranging from rock concerts through to spectacular firework displays at the end of the Edinburgh Festival and New Year, bringing something for everyone to enjoy.

“We are always looking for ways to improve the visitor experience and attract visitors from all around the world. Our costumed performers bring history to life and we have just had a re-enactment of the 1650 siege when Oliver Cromwell invaded Scotland and captured Edinburgh Castle, complete with grand parades of English and Scottish troops, the massive thunder of musket volleys and the roar of cannons.

“We are now getting ready for a busy Christmas at the castle and have lots of fun activities planned for all the family.”

The One O’Clock Gun has been fired almost every day from Edinburgh Castle since 1861 and St Margaret’s Chapel, the oldest building in Edinburgh, is one of the most romantic places to get married.

BTA’s chief executive Lorraine Barnes Burton said: “The British Travel Awards are widely considered to be the “Oscars” of the travel industry!  It’s the largest awards programme in the UK created to reward travel companies, and the winning accolade is the benchmark for excellence when it comes to finding out who really is the best in the business of travel for the UK consumer.”
Companies were nominated by travel industry professionals and a selection of the previous year’s consumer voters. In 2010, over 120,000 votes were cast with the results scrutinized and audited by Deloitte LLP. 

Friday, July 1, 2011


Left: Medieval Shrewsbury, England

Right: Darrowby Inn, Thirsk, Yorkshire Dales: "James Herriot's" real town.

2.Thornhill, Dumfries Galloway, town to Castle Drumlanrig.


Right: Folk Museum, "Main Street", Glencoe, Scotland

Left: Cottage in Castle Bolton village.

Left: Hay on Wye castle town of used booksellers, South Wales.

Charming town of slate houses & three rivers, Betwys-y-coed, in North Wales.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Castles, Castles and More Castles!

Threave, castle keep of the Black Douglas,
Dumfries Galloway, SW Scotland
Swim or take the boat.

Castle Raglan, South Wales
The keep to the left is the best place to
hide from the IRS--toilet and well included.

Castle Conwy, NW Wales

Priest's Hole, Castle Bolton.

Castle Bolton, Yorkshire Dales
If you wanted to invade this castle, you'd better
know the layout of the courtyard gates.

Penrhyn Castle in North Wales, on Menai Strait
Built for show, not fortification, but a beauty!

Castle Dunvegan is still lived in by the 30th Chief of the Clan MacLeod.
NW Isle of Skye, Scotland
Castle An Eilean sits on the West Highlands mainland
where Loch Duich meets Loch Alsh.
Castle Brodie, near Moray Firth, Scottish Highlands.

Castle Drum, Aberdeenshire, Scotland
The keep with its arrow loops.

Castle Crathes, Scotland
Window seat or arrow loop, the loo is still quite convenient.
Castle Loch Leven, in middle of the loch.
Celts, monks and Kings lived here or used it as a jail.
Then a Douglas castle.
 Most famous 'guest' was Mary Queen of Scots.
This is where she was forced to abdicate the throne in favor
of her small son James VI of Scotland, I of England.
Alnwick Castle, Seat of Duke and Duchess of Northumberland
and where Harry Potter learned to fly.
Bamburgh castle, Coast of Northumberland.
Bodiam Castle, on the Weald of Kent, South of England.
Lindisfarne Castle, North Sea coast, Northumberland.
Fairytale castle of Craigievar, Scotland.
Castle An Eilean on a lovely spring morn.
The loch tide stands still for maybe five minutes!
View of Castle Drum's 'modern' entrance.

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Scotland's Heritage Attractions For 2011



Historic Scotland is celebrating the start of this year’s visitor season by announcing a packed programme of colourful events designed to delight all ages throughout 2011.

The fascinating past of Scotland’s finest heritage attractions the length and breadth of the country will be brought to life in a variety of highly entertaining, diverse events over the course of the year.

These range from spectacular celebrations of Renaissance courtly life, dramatic battle re-enactments and rousing jousting extravaganzas, to more intimate period playlets, musical performances, and living history cameos.

At castles, palaces and abbeys throughout Scotland, visitors will be transported back to days gone by to come face to face with the people of the past through all of history’s eras. Hundreds of costumed performers and re-enactors will be portraying characters including Iron Age hunters, Roman soldiers, kings, queens and courtiers, Jacobites and Redcoats, Renaissance nobles, knights on horseback, and WWI servicemen.

Easter Revelry

The programme kicks off at Scotland’s top heritage attraction, Edinburgh Castle, with ‘Easter Revelry’ - a long weekend of fun-filled and interactive shows featuring magic, juggling, comedy and dance on Saturday 23rd, Sunday 24th and Monday 25th April.

Some of the other events visitors can look forward to are:

§ • The turmoil of 1640s combat comes to life in ‘Siege and Storm’ at Caerlaverock Castle near Dumfries (14th & 15th May)

§ • The sumptuous splendour of Stirling Castle’s royal palace is celebrated at its lavish launch (4th & 5th June)

§ • Historic Scotland’s ever-popular Jousting Spectacular sees the thunder of hooves and clash of lance and shield return to the arena at Linlithgow Palace (2nd, 3rd and 9th and 10th July)

§ • An awe-inspiring aerial display by an original spitfire at Fort George’s biggest event of all time – the Celebration of the Centuries (13th & 14th August)

Gillian Urquhart of Historic Scotland’s Events Unit, says: “Last year thousands of visitors of all ages joined in the fun at our events all over the country. We had really great feedback on so many of them and this year’s programme promises to be just as popular. We’ve got a fantastic line-up with a huge choice of entertainment at Scotland’s greatest heritage sites; there really is something for all the family to enjoy, whatever their ages or interests.

“Our programme features everything from drama to comedy, music and dance, hands-on activities, guided walks, and storytelling. And the events range from very large-scale, dramatic shows featuring hundreds of performers to more intimate living history presentations featuring perhaps just one historic character. We’ve lots of the activities aimed at children too so they can have fun dressing up in period costume or trying their hand at age-old skills and crafts whilst they learn about our country’s great heritage and the people and places of Scotland’s past.

Our Rangers Service is also hosting lots of events through the year so there are a variety of fun, interactive nature-focused activities for kids and their parents to enjoy.”

The 2011 events programme takes in a wide range of leading historic attractions across Scotland including Aberdour, Bothwell, Caerlaverock, Dirleton, Dundonald, Doune, Edinburgh, Edzell, Stirling and St Andrews Castles, Linlithgow Palace, St Andrews Cathedral, Dallas Dhu Distillery, Fort George and Holyrood Park.

Most of the daytime events are included in the normal admission price for the attraction so they offer excellent value for a memorable family day out. And becoming a Historic Scotland member – which works out at less than £7 a month for families – means that visitors can experience nearly all of the programme’s daytime events for free.

For further details of Historic Scotland’s 2011 events programme visit

For further information, interviews and images:
Paul Spence , Historic Scotland: 0131 668 8731
Ellen Drummond Ferroni, Historic Scotland: 07801 820757

The children are, left to right: Merryn Gunderson, Emma Martin, Paige Thorpe, Graeme Rae, Lewis Gunderson, and Adam Weir - from Primary 2 & 3, Corstorphine Primary.

Historic Scotland cares for over 345 heritage properties and sites throughout Scotland, 78 of which are paid-entry. These include some of the country’s leading tourism attractions including Edinburgh, Stirling, and Urquhart Castles, Fort George, Linlithgow Palace, the Border Abbeys, and Skara Brae. Visit: .

Historic Scotland’s mission is: to safeguard Scotland’s historic environment and to promote its understanding and enjoyment.

· Historic Scotland around the web:, – search for Make Your Own History, and

Wednesday, March 2, 2011



Archaeologists have discovered fragmentary remains of Stirling Castle’s once-mighty 16th-century outer defences.
Mary of Guise, widow of James V, is believed to have brought in European experts to apply the very latest Italian military engineering techniques at the castle in the 1540s.

Intermittent warfare with England, battling against Henry VIII, made it essential to have specially-designed fortifications to protect against the increasingly-sophisticated heavy artillery that could be used in a siege.

Work to extend the castle’s main shop and ticket office have now revealed a section of walling which archaeologists identify as the remains of these walls.

Our knowledge of the defences is limited and the new discovery will help with attempts to work out exactly where they stood.

An engraving by John Slezer, published in Theatrum Scotiae in 1693, shows that the approach to the castle looked very different to how they do today.

The find has been welcomed by Fiona Hyslop, Minister for Culture and External Affairs.

She said: “Right now we are heading towards the completion of a £12 million project to return the royal palace at Stirling Castle to how it may have looked in the mid 16th century.

“So, it’s exciting that archaeologists are discovering more clues about what the castle was like at the time when the palace was new.”

Experts believe that the outer defences may have been created at the same time as similar ones in Edinburgh.

Peter Yeoman, Historic Scotland head of cultural resources, said: “The new discovery gives us a tantalising glimpse of the fortifications created for Mary of Guise, paid for by the French king Henri II, and probably designed by the same Italian engineer, Signor Ubaldini, who was working on a similar defensive spur at this time at Edinburgh Castle.

“They are of great interest because they were early examples of a changing approach to military engineering, and among the most advanced in the whole of the British isles.

“We only have very limited evidence about what they were like, and the line along which they ran, so this find could prove very helpful in future research.”

The new military thinking involved creating huge earthworks, faced with thick strong walls, and built according to specific geometric designs, which would simultaneously act as gun platforms, while deflecting or absorbing the impact of incoming fire.

Slezer’s engraving shows a fine example of this approach, a pyramidal structure called a talus, which was intended to protect against cannon fire.

Knowing the line along which the walls ran may mean that the location of any buried remains of the talus, and other features, could one day be identified.

Gordon Ewart of Kirkdale Archaeology, whose team discovered the walling, said: “We knew the defences would have been in this area, but not exactly where because the Slezer engraving, and remaining military plans, are not entirely accurate.

“This is what makes the discovery of physical evidence so important – it helps us identify exactly what existed – and to understand more about what the castle was like in the past.”

Much changed between 1711-14 when the old defences were demolished during a programme of modernisation.

Further dramatic alterations took place when the esplanade was created in the early 19th century.

● Slezer’s engraving is available and can be reproduced by the media for free to illustrate this story – courtesy of the National Library of Scotland. To see more images visit the Slezer’s Scotland website at

For further information:

Matthew Shelley 01786 431325

07786 704299

● Other evidence from the 16th-century defences includes the remains of walls incorporated into later structures and the earlier discovery of a wall fragment by archaeologists in the 1970s.

● Stirling Castle is at the top of Stirling Old Town off the M9 at junction 9 or 10. Call 01786 450000

● Historic Scotland has 345 historic properties and sites in its care. These include some of the leading tourism attractions in the country, including Edinburgh, Stirling, and Urquhart Castles, Fort George, Linlithgow Palace, the Border Abbeys, and Skara Brae. For further details visit:

● Historic Scotland’s Mission is to safeguard Scotland’s historic environment and to promote its understanding and enjoyment.

● Historic Scotland around the web:, – search for Make Your Own History, and

Thursday, January 6, 2011

CASTLE NEWS: Stirling Castle Royal Palace To Re-Open



The return of a host of Renaissance figures to Stirling Castle’s royal palace has been welcomed by Fiona Hyslop, Minister for Culture and External Affairs.

Among them will be the warrior and courtier Sir Norman Leslie of Rothes, the great poet Sir David Lindsay of the Mount, and maid of honour Lady Janet Fleming.

The costumed characters will show visitors round six apartments within the castle’s royal palace.

These are being returned to how they may have looked in their glory days in the 1540s, when they were home to Scotland’s royal court.
The Minister said:
“The palace project will give visitors the nearest experience we can to time travel.

The interiors will look magnificent, and the chance to meet costumed characters will really bring the experience to life.

“A great deal of research has gone into getting the characters and their costumes exactly right for the period.

Visitors will be able to meet everyone from great nobles to the servants who kept palace life running for the royal court.

“The whole idea is to be fun and informative, providing a fantastic day out for the whole family.”

Other characters people will meet include the court official Alexander Stuart, and Sandy Charpentier who rose from being a simple potman (clearing tables) to become Keeper of the Queen’s Plate – in charge of the pewter and silverware.

The palace interiors are currently being returned to how they may have looked in the 1540s as the centrepiece of a £12 million investment at the castle.

The lords, ladies, bodyguards and servants portrayed by the interpreters will give an estimated 440,000 visitors a year a vivid insight into Renaissance life.

They will offer a mix of factual historical detail with drama and entertainment.

Sir Norman, Sheriff of Fife and royal confidante, will talk about palace life and politics, as well as offering lessons on etiquette should they bump into the dowager queen, Mary of Guise, or her young daughter Mary Queen of Scots.

Manners were very important and there are a number of books about how people should behave.

“One of the things Sir Norman will do is offer handy hints, for example that it was frowned on to pick fleas from your hair or clothes in the royal presence.

Visitors can find out about contemporary fashions and food, talking to servants as they lay out clothes ready for Mary of Guise or prepare for meals.

“They can also discover more about the troubled political situation, as young rival noblemen argue and even come to blows.”

The company has worked closely with Historic Scotland’s interpretation unit, and with academic experts, to ensure their scripts and costumes are authentic.

Peter Yeoman, Historic Scotland head of cultural resources, said:
“Visitors will step back into an incredibly eventful period of Scottish history, when the palace and castle were being used as a safe haven to bring up the infant Mary Queen of Scots to keep her beyond the reach of the English. The kingdom was torn between rival factions, with ambitious noblemen vying for power.

At the same time the Catholic royal family, and their French supporters, faced an upsurge in Protestantism, eventually leading to the Reformation.

“Despite all this the court was a colourful place filled with chatter, laughter, music, dance, feasting and entertainment.
While the Tudor court in England was a conservative place, ruled by the ageing, ill and bad-tempered Henry VIII, the Scottish court was far more informal, energetic and lively – headed by James V’s charming and witty widow, Mary of Guise.

“By having costumed interpreters in the palace we can give visitors a real sense of the delights and dangers of the 1540s.”

Palace life in the 16th century

There were strict rules on cleaning the dishes – for example, if a servant spotted marks on a silver salver they were not to lick it clean.

● Knowing your place was important – mere servants were not to make eye contact with their betters.

● Ordinary folk working as servants at the castle would get their food for free – mainly bread and leftovers. They would not have bedrooms, but would kip in any cosy corner they could find.

● Fashion was tremendously important for a rich man or woman at court – something like a third of their income might go on clothes and they would change up to three times a day.

● Personal hygiene was a low priority for most people, though the rich would probably be given a daily strip bath by their personal servant.

● Mary of Guise, unlike many of England’s Tudors, did not tend to dine alone in the private recesses of the palace, but in public the Queen’s Outer Hall of the palace, where she mixed with lords, ladies, gentlemen and military officers.

● Top courtiers dined off trestle tables set up for their dinner. These would then be taken away so the room was clear for dancing and entertainment – perhaps from acrobats and jesters.

● When dining it was bad manners to throw bones on the floor, clean your teeth on the tablecloth or to spit.

● Children tended to be treated as miniature adults, but boys were dressed in skirts until the age of around five – at which time they were ‘breached’ and started to wear male clothes, such as breaches.

● The rich ate lots of red meat and little in the way of vegetables. They loved pies and there was an increasing taste for candied fruit and nuts, and even boiled sweets. But these were only enjoyed by the wealthy as sugar was incredibly expensive, imported all the way from Persia.

● Palace life started early, with servants making preparations for the day from around 5am but often snuffing out their candles at 8pm for some sleep.

● Royals, like Mary of Guise, had different hours. She would rise late, at around 10am, and stay up long into the night with her closest confidants. A special kitchen and staff were available if any of them fancied a snack.

● Stirling Castle is at the top of Stirling Old Town off the M9 at junction 9 or 10. Call 01786 450000

Historic Scotland has 345 historic properties and sites in its care. These include some of the leading tourism attractions in the country, including Edinburgh, Stirling, and Urquhart Castles, Fort George, Linlithgow Palace, the Border Abbeys, and Skara Brae. For further details visit:

● Historic Scotland’s Mission is to safeguard Scotland’s historic environment and to promote its understanding and enjoyment.

● Historic Scotland around the web:, – search for Make Your Own History, and