… as well as being great for making Gorse Flower Tea, can also be used to make the most delicious Gorse Flower Cordial, or Gorse Flower Syrup, or Gorse Flower Wine.
So get out and get picking!
Caves full of bones? Mass murder in the peaceful Highlands of Scotland? No, not in this case! But rather a tale of how some things in nature are undoubtedly stranger than fiction!
I’m not a mountaineer, but I delight in the splendour of these ancient hills and glens and find myself amazed at the thought that they were once shared with bears, lynx, arctic lemmings, reindeer and even polar bears! It’s good to know that animals and men roamed freely here for thousands of years, in a landscape, wild and untamed.
It’s a rich and fascinating story of how landscape is shaped and how man fits into that pattern. And how even old bones can tell us so much about our long-ago past.
To find out more, follow the link below for a free download of the March edition of the excellent iScot magazine. And once you’ve read my article about the Bone Caves of Inchnadamph, you’ll be packing a bag and heading off to Assynt to see them for yourselves!
iScot Magazine FREE March download with The Bone Caves of Inchnadamph
iScot magazine have a special free download offer this month. Among many other interesting items, it contains an article I’ve written about the wonderful West Island Way walking trail on the island of Bute. https://pocketmags.com/iscot-magazine
You can also read about Robert Burns, the remote but beautiful Applecross Peninsula, Kelvingrove Museum and Art Gallery, current affairs, whisky, the dreaded midge, Meal Makers (help for the elderly) and much more.
And if you love the great outdoors here’s a new website devoted to Argyll: http://www.wildaboutargyll.co.uk/ Watch the short film and see how many of these places you have already been to – and then visit the rest!
There’s something for everyone in Scotland!
Is there any one of us who hasn’t, like Maria from The Sound of Music, ‘climbed a tree and scraped a knee?’ Or swung from a rope tied to a sturdy branch? Or tried to build a tree-house? Or collected conkers? Or looked tree-wards to listen to birdsong?
Trees are all around us and there’s not much that they don’t give us – or our planet. They help our climate by removing harmful carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. Under their protective canopy animals and plants thrive. They help combat erosion. From time immemorial they have given us shelter and shade. Timber to build our homes. To build ships for fishing and exploring. Wood for the fires to cook our food and to keep us warm. And think of all the fruit trees that give us nourishing, healthy food.
Trees can outlive any other living thing. Ancient and wise, patient and long-suffering, they have inspired awe and reverence. Like springs and pools they have long been regarded as sacred. Myths and legends have grown up around them. Folklore is full of them.
In the Bible God plants The Tree of Life in the Garden of Eden. In Norse mythology Yggdrasil, the cosmic tree, sends its roots and branches off to other worlds. In many cultures trees are believed to have their own individual spirits. For centuries they have inspired the works of poets and writers: even today appearing as characters in films, as any of us who have watched The Lord of The Rings trilogy will know!
The landscape of Scotland has changed many times. The fortunes of our trees and forests have waxed and waned. And there’s no doubt that there have been times when Scotland’s forests and woodlands have indeed suffered at the hands of John Muir’s fools!
Today, however, more and more of us understand the need for a vision for our forested landscapes. Attitudes have changed and work is now underway to actively protect, extend and restore our forests. And thankfully we have greater freedom to enjoy them than ever before.
They fuel our imaginations. They bring us pleasure. They bring us health, peace and relaxation. They are ours to enjoy and to protect and to grow. Go find a nearby forest – or even a single tree – and discover just how much our trees have to offer!
Sometimes, on a clear sunny day when the sky is blue, the vapour trails from jets flying high overhead can leave a beautiful image of the Saltire, Scotland’s national flag. The Saltire is believed to be one of the oldest national flags in the world and although no-one knows for certain how it came to be chosen, tradition has it that in AD 832 an army of Picts under King Óengus (Angus), with support from Dalriadan Scots, found themselves surrounded and outnumbered by Angles. Things looked bad and Angus prayed for divine help: to his amazement the clouds formed a white Saltire against the blue sky and the Picts and Scots won the battle. St Andrew became the patron saint of Scotland and the Saltire, St Andrew’s Cross, became our flag.
In the East Lothian village of Athelstaneford – where that momentous battle is believed to have taken place – the Scottish Flag Trust run the Flag Heritage Centre where the story of Scotland’s flag is told.
When we were back in Estonia in May of this year, we visited Otepää, a ski resort in southern Estonia, the country’s ‘winter capital’. There we discovered that, like Athelstaneford in Scotland, Otepää had played an important part in the history of the national flag of Estonia. In St Mary’s Lutheran Church we heard how the blue, black and white – the sinimustvalge – of Estonia’s flag came from the three colours in the caps worn by Tartu University students in the 19th century: and that these three colours were also used in the Estonian Student Union flag.
It was this flag that was consecrated in St Mary’s Church in 1884 to become the national flag of the whole country. In 1918, when the Estonian Republic was established, these three colours became the new republic’s official national colours. Then in 1991, when Estonia once again regained its independence, it became the official flag of the the Republic of Estonia.
Otepää is home to the Estonian Flag Room which was established in 1996 to commemorate their flag – a flag that is as important to Estonians as the Saltire is to Scots. In fact, it was a delight to see so many Estonian flags being carried and waved with pride at Laulupidu, the Song Festival the previous year: not waved in anger, or superiority – but as a natural part of their lives : this is my land and I love it!
Today, November 30th, is St Andrew’s Day and is celebrated by Scots the world over. Celebrated as a mark of respect for our country and its long history. Celebrated as a sign of our shared heritage and identity. Celebrated to mark all that is good about Scotland. Almost every other country in the world celebrates their homeland in a similar way.
Symbols are important. Identity is important. Knowing where you belong, and why, is important. Sadly some people deliberately attempt to equate national pride with imperialism or xenophobia. A foolish mistake. For there is no doubt at all that it’s good to know who we are and what we believe in. It’s good to know about our past and to understand – and value – the struggles of all the ordinary people that have brought us to the point we are at now: though it can also be daunting to know that we have to play our part in these difficult times if we are to ensure that our country continues to grow and develop in a way that is good for all its citizens and not just the few.
Flags are wonderful symbols and I will be celebrating St Andrew’s Day this evening. But I’ll be celebrating Scotland every other day of the year as well!
I’ve just spent a day at Stirling Castle viewing the Great Tapestry of Scotland and it’s wonderful! Wonderful because of its aesthetic appeal, wonderful because of its succinct telling of thousands of years of Scotland’s history. Wonderful because of the way intricate, individual stitches turn into whole stories from our history. Wonderful for its sense of continuity – and that it can be added to as this country of ours continues to grow and develop and move forward.
I hadn’t expected it to make such an impact on me – after all it is silent, nothing moves, no CGI special effects or 3D specs – and yet it’s something far deeper and more lasting than that. In detailed panels it tells Scotland’s ongoing story – the good and the bad, the tragic and the joyous, the heartbreaking and the courageous; all part of the rich tapestry of life that makes Scotland the country that it is.
Are there any particular themes that run through this magnificent Tapestry? On the one hand it celebrates the music, the literature, the scientific discovery, the exploration and political endeavour Scotland is rightly so famous for. The great high points in our history. But without doubt it clearly highlights the constant battle for survival faced everyday by ordinary people. The challenge to have enough to feed and clothe your family. To survive the ravages of war and famine. To retain dignity in the face of the harsh treatment of rulers, landowners and employers who held the power of life and death over the people they controlled. Life was seldom easy in the past!
But equally it highlights many of the brave and determined men and women who have, throughout the centuries, struggled to make life better for ordinary people – all too often at the cost of their own lives. Ordinary decent Scots who have battled over and over again against enemies both within and without.
It celebrates the poor and downtrodden who stood up to grasping landlords. It celebrates the men and women who strove to make life better for their fellows against the horrific conditions in mines, in rural poverty, in the wretched industrial cities and the factories where greedy owners cared nothing at all for the cruel suffering they inflicted, interested only in their own comfort and wealth. How many people have struggled over the centuries against the inhuman and barbaric treatment those with wealth and power have meted out on the poor and vulnerable? And how often have all those who should have spoken out, stood by silent in the face of such iniquity? How uncaring and how callous the rich and powerful have been and all too often still are. For even today so much of this country’s wealth, and land, is still held in the hands of the few.
But, as The Great Tapestry so eloquently shows, life is never static and history moves constantly onwards. Everything changes, slowly but surely. As long as enough people care and are prepared to stand up for what is right then a future where the people of this country really matter – all of us – is possible. But equally, it’s all too easy for the precious gains of the past to be lost and for the rich and powerful to continue to hold sway over the rest of us. Sadly, it’s very clear right now that it is not the goal of all in Britain today to see a country where there is social justice and all are treated with equal value and worth.
Perhaps this tapestry can be a wonderful lesson to all who view it. A chance to reflect and think on how we, the citizens of Scotland today, can add to this history in a way that does honour to all in this wonderful country of ours. How will we play our part in the life of Scotland now? How will the things that we do now be woven into the tapestry of our future?
We all have a wonderful opportunity in our own lifetime to work for the good of all in this Scotland of ours. To stand up against the injustices that continue to exist today. What will we chose to do? And will our choices stand the test of time? It is in our grasp to do so much for good. Will we do it? It will be interesting to see. People make history. What sort of history do we want to make right now?
For the story of the making of the Great Tapestry follow this link: The Great Tapestry of Scotland
For the designer’s website and his other works follow this link: Andrew Crummy