History on Holiday

13 April 2017

tower of hallbar

Photo: Tower of Hallbar

Following from the success that Visit Scotland has had attracting visitors by designating each year with a theme, 2017 has officially been nominated as The Year of History, Heritage and Archaeology. Throughout the year this will be used to highlight the huge number of fascinating and entertaining sites to visit and spectacular events taking place.  18th April is also World Heritage Day and will be the focus for a series of unique events taking place around Scotland’s 6 UNESCO world heritage sites. Here are some things to look forward to next week, some highlights to look out for later on in the year and some great places to stay while you have fun discovering more about our fascinating history.

New Lanark is one of only 6 officially designated UNESCO world heritage sights in Scotland. This 18th century, cotton-spinning, mill village is located on the banks of Clyde and welcomes over 300,000 visitors every year. The main attraction is the perfectly preserved community that the philanthropist and Utopian idealist Robert Owen attempted to mould from scratch. This was intended to be a model industrial settlement, free from crime, poverty and misery where the integration of planning and architecture, with a humane concern on the part of employers for the well-being of workers, is now regarded as a milestone in social and industrial history.

On April 18th it will host a special one off event where yarn-bombers, guerrilla knitters and crochet hookers will descend en masse to cover as much of the site as possible in woollen yarn. There will be a variety of free events, talks and workshops going on all day that will appeal to experts, beginners and those who are simply wool-curious. Participants of all ages can either knit in advance and bring their creations, or use the colourful New Lanark woollen yarn which will be provided at the venue. There will also be free biscuits

Tower of Hallbar, also known as Braidwood Castle, is just a few miles away and is by far the most atmospheric place to stay in the area.  This recently modernised 16th century tower house is packed full of original historical features including gargoyles, battlements and painted ceilings. From the master bedroom, on the top of the 5th floor, you can access 2 garret walkways that give you amazing views over the private orchard and surrounding countryside.

St Kilda is another of Scotland’s World Heritage sites. This year in attempt to make its attractions a bit more accessible and to appeal to a younger generation, children and gamers will have the opportunity to build, excavate and explore the captivating archipelago through the popular Minecraft video game. With a map of St Kilda that will be available for public download after the event, people all over the world will be able to explore St Kilda’s history, heritage, stories, people and landscapes.

For those who would like to visit the island in person then the most convenient place to base yourself is around Miavaig harbour where the Seatrek boat trips leave from. Taigh nan Eilean is very close and is also ideal for exploring the nearby beaches. History buffs on the islands are well catered for as Callanish Standing Stones, Bosta Iron Age House and the Gearrannan Black House Village are all easily accessible from here.

The Borders is commonly described as the place where People, Place and Myth meet but this could equally apply to Gateshaw, a stunning 19th century country house set in approximately two acres of the Cheviot Hills. Sleeping up to 20 it is the perfect place for a big family get together and makes a great base for exploring the varied historical attractions of the Borders.

One of the most fascinating small museums in the country is at nearby Melrose. Just a short walk from the more well-known Melrose Abbey is the Three Hills Roman Heritage Centre. ‘Trimontium’ – the place of the Three Hills (North, Mid and West Eildon, above the town) was the Roman capital of southern Scotland and once boasted a huge amphitheatre and a fort that guarded the crossing of the River Tweed. The centre is very child friendly and offers guided walks around the sites in the town, as well as a number of interactive exhibits.

Later on in the year the Borders will host the annual Borders Heritage Festival. Across the whole region spectacular historical sites will be celebrated through light, music, storytelling, re-enactment, theatre and performance. Walks, talks and exhibitions, will bring the colourful history of this region alive.

The Highlands has a massive variety of historical sites to visit, from Stone Age dwellings and Viking monuments to castles and standing stones. The area around The Black Isle in particular is rich in ancient history with one of the highlights being the Pictish Trail. This collection of museums, sites and sculptures stretches up the coast from Inverness to Dunrobin and provides a fascinating insight into the history, art and culture of some of the earliest residents of these parts.

Poyntzfield House is a Grade A listed Georgian mansion on the Black Isle and is full of fascinating nooks and crannies, including a hidden cupboard which was used for mail sorting in the early 1800’s. The 400 year old yew tree avenue delights children who can play hide and seek for hours while the grown-ups can enjoy relaxing in the swimming pool.