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