Scotland – Edinburgh, the Highlands and Lowlands

Scotland may well be part of Great Britain, but it still maintains a strong Scottish identity with the people taking great pride in their Scottish Heritage, history, language and independence.

There is almost a fierce rivalry between England and Scotland, and in September 2014 a Referendum was taken in Scotland asking the people to vote on the question of staying within the United Kingdom or becoming an independent country. The vote was lost, but there was a large 84% turnout with around 2 million voting for Scotland to stay in the United Kingdom and some 1.6 million voting for independence. It was a highly contentious issue, and continues to be debated.

Scotland is famed for its Scotch, its Tartan Kilts, bagpipes, Scottish Shortbread, Loch Ness Monster, the Scottish Jig (dance), Edinburgh Tattoo, comedian Billy Connolly, singer Rod Stewart, tea, porridge, oats, haggis and North Sea Oil and while its language may be mostly English, it is spoken with a Scottish accent and has a number of uniquely Scottish and Gaelic words added. Gaelic is also spoken and there is a concerted effort to save the language.

So, Lads and Lassies, let's take a wee dram of Whisky and look at some of Scotland's history…


Scotland is divided roughly into two parts both geographically and culturally – the Lowlands and the Highlands, both areas being a mix of mountains, hills, valleys, lakes and seashore, gouged out by glacial action during the Ice Ages. It is a rugged land and being in the far north of the British Isles, the whole of Scotland also experiences rugged weather too – with winds, rain and snow during the winter and even a whole range of weather in summer.

Perhaps it is the mix of this climate and terrain that has made Scots tough, and their fighting spirit has been recognized both in battle and on the football field. The history of the Lowlanders and Highlanders and their battles also goes back centuries too, and when you see the number of castles that were built as forts, with high walls and battlements, you get a feeling that these were violent times.

Scotland's history goes back to the time when the times of the Picts, Gaels, Celts, Anglo tribal clans or groups in pre-Roman days. When the kingdom of Alba was formed following the Battle of Dun Nechtain in 685AD, the Picts were able to defeat the Angles from Northumbrian (today's Northumberland in Northern England).

In the years that followed the Pict Kings would rule over the lowlands, but in 844 the Picts and Gaels united under King Kenneth MacAlpin, who is viewed as being the First King of Scotland. At the time Scotland had a number of regions – Norse in the far north where Vikings ruled, Moray, Scotia, Strathclyne and the Orkney and Hebrides Islands. Numbers of Scottish Kings would follow, and by 900AD Pictland had become part of Scotland and in the Gaelic language, Scotland was called 'Alba'.

In 1069 Scottish King Malcolm III married an English Saxon, Princess Margaret of Wessex ( born in Hungary ) who became Queen Margaret (also in time granted Sainthood, becoming Saint Margaret) with a new century emerging with Anglo-Norman and Saxons dominating over the lowlands of Scotland, with the Highlanders being more independent due to their isolation.

The question of succession in any family business is a vexed and difficult issue, but in a Royal Court with courtiers, nobles, knights, princes and princesses, the succession issue and the right to become King or Queen is even more so. The question of Legitimacy also comes into play, and without contraception, claims and counter-claims were bound to arise as would the power plays and politics.

In 1296 English King Edward the First (1239-1307) declared ownership over Scotland and invaded Scotland, capturing the then Scottish King John Baliol, and imprisoning him in the Tower of London. At the time Scotland had aligned itself with France and not England, and this was seen as sufficient reason to invade Scotland and declare ownership over the land, along with settling squabbles that had arisen as to who had the legitimate right to become the King of Scotland.

Just as today, when one country seeks to control another country, there was bound to be rebellion, and the Scots rose up against the English under the leadership of William Wallace (C.1270 – 1305). Wallace won some decisive early victories in 1297 and early in 1298, but by the end of that year, the English were firmly in control, and Wallace fled to France, hoping to gain French support to return to battle the English. He returned to Scotland in 1303 but English King Edward the First, then had him tried for treason, and taken to London, where he was 'hung, drawn and quartered' in 1305. To this day, William Wallace remains a Scottish hero.

While Wallace was in France, another Scot, the Earl of Carrick, Robert the Bruce (1274-1329) lay ancestral claim to the throne in Scotland along with two others, John Comyn and William Lamberton.

In 1298 Robert the Bruce became the 'Guardian of Scotland' under the approval of English King Edward the First. In March 1306 he stabbed his rival to the throne, John Comyn, to death resulting in him be ex-communicated by the Pope in Rome, but then he was absolved by the Bishop of Glasgow, and declared himself King of Scotland and Crowned a month later. Edward the First died in 1307 and was succeeded by his son who was crowned Edward II (1284-1327) following his father's death.

With Robert the Bruce declaring himself King of Scotland, the English then under English King Edward II waged war on Scotland and Robert the Bruce fled, but then returned in 1309 to do battle with the English, mounting a war with a succession of attacks, raids and skirmishes against the English with these battles continuing over the next eleven years.

In 1326 English King Edward II was forced to abdicate in favour of his son who became Edward III, aged just 15, though his mother and her beau, Roger Mortimer ruled on his behalf until 1330, when he banished his mother from the Court and had Roger Mortimer executed. His father, Edward II had been murdered in 1327.

A Treaty (the Treaty of Edinburgh- Northampton) between Scotland and England was signed under the authority of Edward III renouncing all English claims over Scotland, and Robert the Bruce would remain as King of Scotland until his death in 1329 with a succession of Scottish Stuart Kings following, some just children when they were crowned and/or died, and others such as Bonnie Prince Charming becoming legendary.

In 1542, Mary Stuart (1542-1567) became Mary, Queen of Scots when her father James V died. She was just six days old! She was also the great granddaughter of the English King Henry VII, which would have made her the next in line for the Throne of England, after Henry VII's children, Edward, Mary and Elizabeth. Arranged Royal marriages, even of minors, was a way of ensuring peace treaties between potential foes, and Scottish nobles agreed that the new Queen should be betrothed to English King Henry's son Edward, but then went back on the arrangement and in 1548 an arranged marriage was then made with French King Henri II for her to be betrothed to his son, the Dauphin Francis. By this time, Mary was 6 years old, and she was then brought up as a Catholic in the French Court, formally marrying the Dauphin in Paris in 1558 when she was sixteen, making her the Queen of France as well as of Scotland. The Dauphin however died in 1560, just two years later.

Scotland had been a Protestant country from around 400AD, not Roman Catholic and Mary returned to Scotland in 1561, marrying Lord Darnley in 1565 and they had a son, James. Two years later, Lord Darnley was murdered, and Mary then remarried a few months after the murder to the Earl of Bothwell. The Scottish Lords, who were Protestants, rose up against her and imprisoned her, but in 1568 she escaped and fled to England, seeking the protection of Queen Elizabeth the First.

This was the time of the Reformation and Calvinist movement with the preacher, John Knox (1505-1572) bringing Calvinist teachings to Scotland, with the Presbyterian Church of Scotland being formed.

Elizabeth the First, rather than protecting her, placed her in castle prisons, a situation she ensured for the next nineteen years, before in 1567 she was executed at Fotheringay Castle, so ending her life.

Today, Fotheringay Castle, located just outside the Village of Oundle in Northamptonshire in northern England is just a sign next to a large mound of dirt covered in grass. Her son however became James VI of Scotland and he also became James I of England following the death of Queen Elizabeth I, and Mary, Queen of Scots body was subsequently moved to Westminster Abbey in London and placed in King Henry VII's Chapel.

When James VI became James I, his court also moved to England too, although Scotland kept its separate Government right up until 1707. That year the Scots gave up their ambitions for staying an independent country and while there were uprisings in 1715 and 1745, a Scottish Independent Parliament was not established again until 1999, following a Referendum. A new Parliament House was built in 2004 and you can see it at Horse Wynd, Old Town in Edinburgh. See www.scottish.parliament.uk

Scotland may well be part of Great Britain and the United Kingdom, but it feels like a different country which makes it such a great place to visit and spend time seeing both the cities and the countryside. The Scottish Accent is alive and well, the people friendly and the pubs have great atmosphere.
What we have written here is a very brief history, but there are many more twists and turns in the story, and including the industrial, mining and North Sea Oil history in Scotland and that history is still being written in the lives and stories of Scotland and its people.

There is a lot of history to see and you can feel this history all around you when you visit Edinburgh, Glasgow, Inverness, Aberdeen and other cities and towns and see some of the many castles, lochs, countryside, stone walls and small crofter's cottages.


We hope you have a great time.

Happy Traveller

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