The Might and Majesty of Glencoe

Glencoe is a beautiful part of Scotland that is rich, not just in landscape, but also history so today we thought we share a little bit about why we love the spot so much.

Firstly, the landscape. You cant help but love the drama and scale of Glencoe, even if you’ve lived in Scotland your whole life it is still a fantastic place to visit and drive through. A drive through the valley is always enjoyable not matter what the weather is. In the sunshine the hills look stunning and if you’re really lucky you can sometimes catch a glimpse of a golden eagle. Summer is also the perfect time to try some of its many walking routes as the site houses eight Munros. Don’t worry if it’s been raining though. When you get the clouds and the rain Glencoe transforms into an area of classic Scottish atmosphere and the waterfalls through the glens descend from the clouds in a fury.

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Glencoe on a beautiful day

 

The site is very popular with walkers as there are a number of routes and ascents to explore. One of the most popular routes is up the ridge of Aonach Eagach but it is not for the faint hearted. The route travels along a narrowing ridge so anyone with vertigo should certainly avoid it. You can also explore the peaks of the Three Sisters which encompasses the ridges of Beinn Fhada, Gearr Aonach and Aonach Dubh and makes a lovely day of hilltop walking.

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Glencoe looking very atmospheric

 

For anyone who knows their Jacobite history, as we are sure many of you do, Glencoe is also the site for the infamous Glencoe Massacre. It was here in 1692 that members of the MacDonald clan were killed by soldiers of the Campbell clan for not pledging allegiance to William III. The attack was launched at dawn and at least 37 men were murdered in their homes with as many as 40 women and children dying from exposure after they were forced out of their homes. No one was ever brought to trial for the massacre and the site is remembered to this day as a brutal part of Scottish history.

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Memorial for the Glencoe massacre

 

Associated with the massacre is the point of Signal Rock. This spot is, according to legend, said to be the point at which a fire was started to signal the start of the massacre in 1692, however there is no proof of this being the case. The site is also said to have been an emergency meeting point for the MacDonald clan where they would gather in times of danger. Whether either of these are true is unsure but the rock is a beautiful spot to walk out to and would have been a good beacon point for the glen due to its visibility.

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Signal Rock at Glencoe

 

We hope you get the chance to visit Glencoe, if you haven’t already. It is such an amazing place and pictures just do not do it justice. As always we hope you enjoyed reading our post and please like, tweet, share, comment and tell us your favourite parts of Glencoe.

All the best, K & D

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The Curse of Scotland

There are some who refer to the nine of diamonds in a deck of cards as the ‘curse of Scotland’. But, why is this and where did this belief first appear?

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There seem to be two main stories.

Firstly, to us here at the Battle of Culloden. Here it is said that on the eve of the battle the Duke of Cumberland was playing cards with some of his men. A young officer arrived wanting to know the Duke’s orders for the next day. The Duke allegedly ordered “no quarter” to the Jacobites. Worried about the nature of the order and the outcry it could cause the officer asked for the it to be written down. In annoyance the Duke grabbed a playing card and wrote the order down. The card the Duke picked up was supposedly the nine of diamonds. This may be a good story but it is highly unlikely to be true. The first references to the nine of diamonds as the curse of Scotland existed years before Culloden took place so the true origin must be earlier.

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Culloden Memorial Cairn

 

This leads us to the second story and to the massacre of Glencoe in 1692. Here the MacDonalds of Glencoe were massacred by another clan, the Campbells, after they missed the deadline to pledge their allegiance to King William.  Sir John Dalrymple, 1st Earl of Stair and Secretary of State for Scotland was the man who gave the order to carry out the massacre in February 1692. The Dalrymple coat of arms features nine diamonds arranged like the playing card, so it is very likely that the nine of diamonds became associated with the much-hated Dalrymple and the curse of Scotland was born. Again a good story but whether there is any truth to the matter remains to be seen.

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Dalrymple Coat of Arms

 

 

Other theories abound as to how the curse came about. It has been suggested that it is a misreading of the “Corse of Scotland” i.e. the “Cross of Scotland”. The St Andrew’s Saltire is similar in design to old style nine of diamond cards.  Whilst the cards of today  are arranged in an H pattern, early versions favoured an X shape. When viewed sideways, these cards look very similar to the Scottish flag. Some contest that it is possible the card was actually known as the Corse of Scotland and there is no curse at all.

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The Scottish Saltire

 

Finally worth mentioning is a theory from the reign of Mary Queen of Scots. During her reign nine diamonds were stolen from the crown of Scotland by an Edinburgh freebooter called George Campbell. After the theft a tax was levied on the Scottish people to pay for them and the tax apparently got the nickname “The Curse of Scotland”.

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Mary Queen of Scots

 

Who can say which theory if any is true but it is safe to say that many people still regard the nine of diamonds as an unlucky card so next time you’re playing you might want to steer clear of the nine of diamonds.

We hope you enjoyed this post and as always please like, tweet, share, comment and remember, never ask a Scotsman for the nine of diamonds if you’re playing ‘Go Fish’.

All the best, K & D

Top Five NTS Mountains

The National Trust for Scotland is the 3rd largest landowner in Scotland and looks after 190,000 acres of countryside with a grand total of 46 Munros under its care.

With that it mind we’ve put together a short list of our favourite mountains to hopefully inspire you to hit the hills.

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Ben Lawers

1.Ben Lawers.

Ben Lawers is Scotlands tenth highest munro and reaches 1,214m (3,984ft) above the banks of Loch Tay. The mountain is part of the Ben Lawers National Nature Reserve which is famous for its arctic-alpine flora and is regarded by botanists as one of the richest areas for alpine flora in the UK. Ben Lawers itself is the highest point along a ridge that contains seven Munros so if you’re looking to check some Munros off your list this is a good spot to do so. For a slightly less intense walk there is a short hidden history trail which reveals remnants of life that use to work and live in the hills.

 

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Glencoe

2. Glencoe

If you thought Ben Lawers had a lot of munros we can go one better with Glencoe & Dalness. Here walkers and mountaineers come from across the globe to check out the eight Munros which can be found. Glencoe is considered the home of Scottish mountaineering and attracts some 150,000 hill walkers each year. One of the most famous walks is the Aonach Eagach Ridge; not for those with vertigo it traverses an increasingly narrow ridge with spectacular scrambling to cover two Munros.

 

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Ben Lomond

3. Ben Lomond

Situated along the eastern shore of Loch Lomond this Munro rises to 974m and is the most southernly Munro in Scotland. Ben Lomond offers much more than just the Munro though. The site houses a range of walks and at Ardess you will also find the thatched Cruck Building, an example of the type of building people would have made, and lived in, in centuries past.

 

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Goatfell

4. Goatfell

Not quite a Munro, Goatfell is the highest peak on the Isle of Arran sitting at 874m (2,866ft). From the summit if you are lucky you can see all the way across to Ben Lomond in the east and out to the coast of Ireland in the south-west. The best time to visit is probably in May when there is the Arran Mountaineering Festival, a fun packed four days of guided walks, scrambles, wildlife watching, films, ceilidhs, curry nights and more.

 

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Torridon

5. Torridon

Torridon has to be on the list not just because it has five Munros but also because of its geology. Most of the scenery is composed of Torridonian sandstone dating back 750 million years which creates the huge monoliths. For the adventurous there is the mighty Liathach often rated as Scotlands finest mountain reaching 1,054m (3,456ft) whilst for those less vertically inclined there are beautiful walks along the coast by the fjord, Loch Torridon.

If you want to see more of our mountains then do visit the NTS website http://www.nts.org.uk/Home/ and check out some trails from the comfort of your own home as routes have been captured by NTS staff using Google’s StreetView technology. http://www.nts.org.uk/treks

Hopefully this post has inspired you to check out some of the many NTS mountains. As always please like, share, follow, comment and break out those walking boots.

All the best, K &D

A Jacobite Journey through Scotland

In the National Trust for Scotland we are lucky enough to have several sites which are connected to the Jacobite story so we thought we’d look at a few of these special places and share their unique stories.

Firstly, to the majesty of Killiecrankie. This steep sided gorge was home to the Battle of Killiecrankie in 1689 in which the Government army was sent north to deal with Viscount Dundees newly formed Jacobite army. The Jacobites were able to rout the Government army, but it came at a cost. Roughly one third of the Highland force was killed and Viscount Dundee was mortally wounded. He died on the battlefield and was carried the few miles to the nearby parish church of St Bride, above Blair Castle where he was buried.

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Killiecrankie in the Autumn

The death of Dundee, in the midst of the confusion of a cavalry charge, became the subject of numerous legends, the best known of which was the tale that he was invulnerable to lead (due to having made a pact with the Devil) and was killed not by the government shot but by a silver button from his own coat being pushed into the wound.

Another legend of Killiecrankie is the Soldiers Leap. Along the gorge is a narrow section where it is said Donald MacBean, a government soldier, avoided capture by jumping 5.5m (18.5 feet) across the river. Despite losing his shoe on the way across, he survived and escaped, later becoming a prize fighter. You can walk out to the point at which MacBean made his famous leap but i wouldn’t fancy giving it a go myself.

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Soldiers Leap at Killiecrankie

Today the gorge is famous for its autumn colours. Its Gaelic name ‘Coille Chneagaidh’ or ‘Wood of Shimmering Aspen’ sums it up perfectly. There is a beautiful walk along the gorge or for the more adventurous there is a bungee jump off the Garry Bridge.

From gorgeous Killiecrankie to the equally stunning Glencoe. This beautiful site is considered one of the most picturesque spots in Scotland but its history is a little more on the ugly side. In 1692 the Massacre of Glencoe took place in the early morning of the 13th February. Members of the MacDonald clan were murdered by soldiers of the neighbouring Campbell clan for not pledging allegiance to William III.

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Glencoe

The Highland clan chiefs had been set a deadline of the 1st January 1692 to swear an oath of loyalty to William III to be granted an indemnity. MacDonald was late in declaring his oath and an order, signed by the King himself, was raised to enact the massacre.

Alastair MacLain, 12th Chief of Glencoe, and the man responsible for the late pledge, was killed as he tried to rise from his bed. 37 other men were murdered in their homes or as they tried to flee with as many as 40 women and children dying from exposure after their homes were burned down. Today there is a monument in Glencoe remembering the fallen MacDonald men.

Finally we couldn’t talk about Jacobites without mentioning Glenfinnan Monument.

An autumn view of the Glenfinnan Monument by Loch Shiel.
Glenfinnan Monument

It was here that Prince Charles Edward Stuart truly began his ’45 campaign on 19th August 1745. On the hills around the monument Charles raised the Jacobite standard for the first time and began his fateful campaign which would end the following year at Culloden. All the mustered clans heard as Charles claimed the Scottish and the English thrones in the name of his father, James, the Old Pretender.

In 1815 a monument was built to commemorate the raising of the standard, the monument stands 18m high and is topped with a statue of an unknown highlander.

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The Unknown Soldier on top of Glenfinnan Monument

Be sure to check out these places and even more to discover the history of the Jacobites and of course make sure you visit Culloden to complete your visit! As always please like, share, tweet, follow, comment and enjoy uncovering the pages of history as you take your own Jacobite adventure.

All the best, K & D