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April 1, 2010 06:24 - April Highland Games and Events

In April, the number of events start increasing as the weather improves and everyone is anxious to get out-of-doors. And April 6th is National Tartan Day in the U.S., which adds even more events to attend.

For more information about Tartan Day, the Newsroom blogs from April 1 to 4, 2008 have lots of information.

And if you just happen to be a world traveler, you might attend games in Cuba, Hawaii, or New South Wales…

If you can find one near you, go and get a dose of Scottishness…just look at all those colorful kilts, stuff yourself on Scottish goodies, and listen to those pipes a-skirlin’!

  • April 2 to 10, New York, New York ~ New York Tartan Week
  • April 3 to 5, Cornwall, England ~ Aberfest - Cornish and Breton Festival
  • April 4, Columbia, South Carolina ~ Tartan Fest
  • April 4, Dunedin, Florida ~ Dunedin Highland Games and Festival
  • April 4, New Britain, Connecticut ~ Connecticut Tartan Day
  • April 4, Helotis, Texas ~ San Antonio Highland Games
  • April 6, St. Paul, Minnesota ~ Minnesota Tartan Day
  • April 6, Washington D.C. ~ National Tartan Day Celebrations
  • April 6 to 11, Donegal, Ireland ~ Pan Celtic Festival
  • April 6 to 14, Havana, Cuba ~ CeltFest Cuba

    Havana Fiddle Club courtesy CeltFest Cuba

    Havana Pipe Band courtesy CeltFest Cuba

  • April 10, Albany, Oregon ~ Oregon Scottish Heritage Festival
  • April 10, Bakersfield, California ~ Kern County Scottish Gathering and Games
  • April 10, Concord, New Hampshire ~ Indoor Scottish Festival
  • April 10, Tallahassee, Florida ~ Tallahassee Highland Games and Celtic Festival
  • April 10 to 11, Honolulu, Hawaii ~ The Hawaiian Scottish Festival

    Honolulu Childrens’ Highland Banners courtesy Scots Hawaii

  • April 10 to 12, Odessa, Texas ~ CeltFest Texas
  • April 10 to 14, Maclean, New South Wales, Australia ~ Maclean Highland Gathering
  • April 11, Virginia Beach, Virginia ~ Scottish Society of Tidewater Tartan Day Ceilidh
  • April 16 to 18, Huntersville, North Carolina ~ Rural Hill Scottish Festival and Loch Norman Highland Games
  • April 16 to 18, St. Louis, Missouri ~ St. Louis Tionol
  • April 17, Bundanoon, New South Wales, Australia ~ Bundanoon Highland Gathering

    Bundanoon, New South Wales, Pony Cart
    courtesy Highlands New South Wales

  • April 17 to 18, Las Vegas, Nevada ~ Las Vegas Celtic Gathering & Highland Games
  • April 17 to 18, Troup, Texas ~ Four Winds Faire - Highland Fling
  • April 17 to 19, Hoffman Estates, Illinois ~ Clan Homecoming USA & Heartland International Tattoo
  • April 18, Fremont, California ~ Fremont Tartan Day Scottish Faire
  • April 23 to 25, Anthisnes, Belgium ~ Festival Les Anthinoises
  • April 23 to 25, Batesville, Arkansas ~ Arkansas Scottish Festival
  • April 23 to 25, Carbondale, Illinois ~ Southern Illinois Irish Festival
  • April 24, Ararat, Virginia ~ Laurel Hill Highland Games and Festival
  • April 24, St. Leonard, Maryland ~ Celtic Festival of Southern Maryland
  • April 24 to 25, Woodland, California ~ Sacremento Valley Scottish Games and Gathering
  • April 24 to 26, Sumter, South Carolina ~ Scottish Country Fair & Celtic Festival
  • April 25, Culloden, Georgia ~ Culloden Highland Games and Scottish Festival
  • April 25 to 26, Lane County,Oregon ~ Historic Celtic Bhealltain Festival
  • April 29 to May 2, Glen Innes, New South Wales, Australia ~ The Australian Celtic Festival

    Glen Innes New South Wales, CelticFest Dancers
    courtesy Australian CelticFest

  • April 30 to May 1, Greensboro, North Carolina ~ Triad Highland Games
  • April 30 to May 2, Adara, County Donegal, Ireland ~ The "Cup of Tae" Traditional Music Festival
  • April 30 to May 2, Cedar Bluff, Kansas ~ Th’ Gatherin’ Ancient Festival O’ Beltane
  • April 30 to May 2, Bridgeport, West Virginia ~ Scottish Festival and Celtic Gathering

    For more detailed information about the listed events, go to

    Coming tomorrow, more about the Mercat Cross locations…

April 2, 2010 07:56 - The Mercat Cross ~ Part III, Locations A to B

In many a town across scotland, you will find a mercat cross near the center of town. Today starts a listing of those I've located.
  • Aberdeen

    Aberdeen Mercat Cross courtesy Wikipedia

  • Aberlady
  • Abernethy, Perth and Kinross
  • Airth ~ erected in 1697, the cross is about 17 feet tall.

    Airth Mercat Cross courtesy Airth, Falkirk

    Airth Mercat Cross courtesy Kevin Rae at Geograph

  • Anstruther ~ erected when James V declared Anstruther a Free Royal Burgh in 1540.

    Anstruther Mercat Cross courtesy I Travel UK

  • Banff ~ the 16th century cross depicted the Crucifixion on one side and the other side was the Virgin and Child. It was multi-colored as this 1994 replica displays. The original is in the Banff Museum. The replica sits on the original 17th century shaft, close to it’s original location. The cross was moved in 1767 because it was impeding traffic. It was given to the Earl of Fife and he placed the capital on top of a dovecote. In 1990 the cross was returned within the burgh boundaries.

    Historically, the Banff Mercat Cross survived the Scottish Reformation, begun in 1541, and was given a new shaft in 1627. It’s one of few pre-Formation mercat crosses of a religious nature that survived.

    Banff Mercat Cross courtesy David Weston Hood at BBA Arts

  • Beauly
  • Biggar ~ the annual Hogmanay Fire Ball Toss is tossed at the Mercat Cross at precisely 1 P.M.
  • Brechin

    Brechin Mercat Cross with Tollhouse
    in Background courtesy Brechin, Angus

  • Burntisland

Coming Monday, the Mercat Crosses in Scotland, with locations C to D…

April 5, 2010 05:28 - The Mercat Cross ~ Part IV, Locations C to D

Continuing with the Mercat Crosses located in Scotland, today the list covers locations beginning with C to D.

  • Callander

    Callendar Mercat Cross courtesy Explore Callendar

  • Campbeltown

    Campbeltown Mercat Cross courtesy Scot Sites

  • Carnwath

  • Clackmannan

  • Cockburnspath ~ the cross was erected in 1503 by James IV, on the occasion of his marriage to Margaret Tudor, sister of Henry VIII. The lands around Cockburnspath were part of Margaret's dowry, symbolic of the peace between England and Scotland.

    Cocksburnpath Mercat Cross courtesy UK Attraction

  • Coldingham

    Coldingham Mercat Cross courtesy Scot Sites

  • Crail

  • Crieff

  • Cullen

  • Culross

    Culross Mercat Cross courtesy Scot Sites

    Culross Mercat Cross Apex courtesy Scot Sites

    Culross Mercat Cross courtesy Visit Dunkeld

  • Cumnock

  • Cupar

  • Dingwall

    Dingwall Mercat Cross courtesy Visit Dunkeld

  • Dornoch ~ a page at Northern Sights shows part of a display at the Dornoch Museum about the Dornoch Mercat Cross.

  • Doune

    Doune Mercat Cross courtesy Doune

  • Duffus

  • Dumfries

    Dumfries Mercat Cross courtesy Douglas MacGregor at Panoramio

  • Dundee

    Dundee Mercat Cross courtesy Electric Scotland

  • Dunfermline

    Dunfermline Mercat Cross courtesy Visit Dunkeld

  • Dunkeld

  • Duns ~ Erected in 1792, the cross was originally located on the north side of the market square. In 1820, the cross was removed to make room for the Town House. As part of Queen Victoria's Diamond Jubilee, in 1897, the cross was rebuilt as part of a public park. In 1994 the cross was returned to Market Square, but on the south side.

    Duns Mercat Cross courtesy Duns

    Tomorrow, the list of Mercat Crosses continues with locations E to F...

April 6, 2010 05:36 - Mercat Cross ~ Part V, Locations E to F

Mercat Crosses located in Scotland, in the towns beginning with E to F ~

  • Edinburgh
    Sitting on the Royal Mile, just east of St. Giles Cathedral, this one was built anew in 1885 at the expense of William Gladstone, Prime Minister.

    Part of the original 15th century cross is incorporated. The shaft on top of the present Mercat Cross is a copy of a 15th century original, though only half the height of the original. The octagonal cross-house is also a copy, based on old drawings.

    Around the Mercat Cross are 8 coats of arms ~ the royal arms of Britain, Scotland, England and Ireland, plus the arms of Edinburgh, Leith, Canongate and the University.

    Edinburgh Mercat Cross courtesy Wikipedia

  • Elgin, Moray

    Elgin Moray Mercat Cross courtesy I Travel UK

  • Falkirk
    The site of the original Mercat Cross is marked in the cobbles a few yards west of the Falkirk steeple.

    The Cross well, dating from 1817, was the town water supply. When the first water was drawn from the well, the Earl of Callendar toasted the wives and bairns o' Fa'kirk. The residents of Falkirk are still called the Bairns.

    Falkirk Mercat Cross courtesy Falkirk Local History Society

    These cobbles mark the site of the original mercat cross in Falkirk.

    Falkirk Mercat Cross original location courtesy Scot sites

    This well was dug at the central location of the mercat cross ~

    Falkirk Mercat Cross courtesy Falkirk Local History Society

  • Fettercairn

  • Forfar

    Forfar Mercat Cross courtesy Angus Government

  • Forres

    Forres Mercat Cross courtesy Virtual Tourist

  • Fraserburgh
    This is the only mercat cross in Scotland the royal arms of both Scotland and the U.K.. The Scottish arms are on the north side, surrounded by the insignia of the Order of St. Andrew. The U.K. Arms are on the south side, surrounded by the insignia of the Order of the Garter.

    The south side also bears the arms of Fraserburgh, while the north side bears the arms of Faithlie. Faithlie was the burgh that grew into Fraserburgh.

    The shaft dates from 1736. The granite base dates from 1845. The finial was replaced in 1988.

    Fraserburgh Mercat Cross courtesy Undiscovered Scotland

    Fraserburgh Mercat Cross courtesy D.W. Hood at BBAF Arts

Tomorrow, read about the Mercat Crosses in locations G to J...

April 7, 2010 08:35 - The Mercat Cross ~ Part VI, Locations G to J

From Galashiels to Jedburgh, the locations of Mercat Crosses continues.

  • Galashiels
    Notice the two boys who, judging by their uniforms, are on their way to school.

    Galashiels Mercat Cross courtesy Ettrick Graphics

  • Gifford

  • Glasgow

    Glasgow Mercat Cross courtesy The Scotland Guide

  • Haddington
    The people of Haddington claim the goat and vine as their armorial ensign. Local tradition tells that these two sat atop their Medieval mercat cross. In the Victorian era, this was replaced. The current top is a goat and vine, but fragments of the old cross show there was a Royal Unicorn on top.

    Haddington Mercat Cross courtesy Scot Sites

  • Houston

  • Inveraray

  • Inverbervie
    Dating from 1737, the column is a simple polygon with a cone-shaped ball. The base and steps are polygons.

    Inverberbie Mercat Cross courtesy Martin Sim at BBAF Arts

  • Inverkeithing

    Inverkeithing Mercat Cross courtesy Wikipedia

  • Inverness

    Inverness Mercat Cross courtesy Scot Sites

  • Irvine

  • Jedburgh

    Jedburgh Mercat Cross courtesy Wikipedia

    Tomorrow, read about the Mercat Crosses in locations K to L...

April 8, 2010 06:53 - The Mercat Cross ~ Part VII, Locations K to L

With locations from Kilmarnock to Luss, the list of Scottish Mercat Crosses continues. Though not all have photos available, the towns still have their mercat crosses proudly displayed, often right in the center of town, in a place of prominence and importance.

  • Kilmarnock

  • Kilmaurs

  • Kincardine on Forth

  • Kinross

  • Kirkcaldy

  • Kirkcudbright

    Kirkcudbright Mercat Cross courtesy Douglas MacGregor at Panoramio

  • Kirkwall

    Kirkwall Mercat Cross courtesy Doughoughton

  • Langholm

    Langholm Mercat Cross courtesy Zeemeeboy

  • Leven

    Leven Mercat Cross courtesy Scot Sites

  • Linlithgow

    Linlithgow Mercat Cross courtesy Scot Sites

  • Lochmaben

    Lochmaben Mercat Cross courtesy Douglas MacGregor at Panoramio

  • Luss

Tomorrow the towns of Macduff, Maybole, Meikleour, Melrose, Moffat, Moniaive, Montrose, Musselburgh, Newmilns and North Berwick are posted, some with photos, some with descriptions, all with mercat crosses...

April 9, 2010 07:13 - The Mercat Cross ~ Part VIII, Locations M to N

  • MacDuff
    Carved of granite, the cross bears a 1783 date, while incorporating fragments of an earlier mercat cross. The apex has a carving of a figure on horseback and bears the arms of the Earl of Fife. On two sides of the cross, an inscription is on panels

    Macduff Cross

    Rebuilt at Macduff by the Earl of Fife, 1783
    when the town was constituted
    a Royal Burgh by George III.
    May it flourish, increase in number and opulence,
    ----- while it's inhabitants gain the blessing of life
    by industry, diligence and temperance.

    In earlier times, the young people would light fires at the foot of the cross. From this practice, the cross eventually fell and is now somewhat shorter.

    Macduff Mercat Cross courtesy Stanley Bruce at BBAF Arts

  • Maybole

    Maybole Mercat Cross courtesy Wikipedia

  • Meikleour

  • Melrose

    Melrose Mercat Cross courtesy Borders Cam

    Melrose Mercat Cross courtesy Ettrick Graphics

  • Moffat

  • Moniaive

    Moniaive Mercat Cross courtesy Liz Curtis Higgs

  • Montrose

  • Musselburgh

  • Newmilns
    Named a free burgh in 1490, Newmilns was the first inland burgh in Scotland. Located in Ayrshire, it held the privileges, with markets and fairs, as a constitutional right.

  • North Berwick

    North Berwick Mercat Cross courtesy Scot Sites

Monday, the listing of Mercat Crosses continues...

April 12, 2010 12:52 - The Mercat Cross ~ Part IX, Locations O to R

Though the locations of the mercat crosses are spread across Scotland, here are those that begin with the letters O to R.

  • Oban

    Oban Mercat Cross courtesy Scot Sites

  • Oldhamstock

  • Old Rayne

  • Ormiston

    Ormiston Mercat Cross courtesy Border Photography

  • Peebles

    Peebles Mercat Cross courtesy Peebles Info

    Peebles Mercat Cross courtesy Scot Sites

  • Perth

    Perth Mercat Cross courtesy The Courier

  • Pittenweem

    Pittenweem Mercat Cross courtesy Tim Stiles at Tiscali

  • Portree

    Portree Mercat Cross courtesy Undiscovered Scotland

  • Preston

    Preston Mercat Cross courtesy North Sea Trail

  • Prestwick

    Prestwick Mercat Cross courtesy Visit Dunkield

  • Rutherglen

    Rutherglan Mercat Cross courtesy Sunnyfield

Coming tomorrow, mercat cross locations beginning with the letter S...

April 13, 2010 06:22 - The Mercat Cross, Part X, S Locations

Be sure to read about Stonehaven and how they use their Mercat Cross during Hogmanay.

  • St Andrews

    St. Andrews Mercat Cross
    courtesy Travel St. Andrews

  • Scone Palace
    The original Mercat Cross still stands on the grounds where the Medieval village once stood.

    Scone Mercat Cross
    courtesy Rampant Scotland

  • South Queensferry

  • Stirling
    Around 1124 Stirling was declared a Royal Burgh, with the Old Town growing below the castle. During the 15th and 16th centuries, while the Stuart monarchs held court in Stirling Castle, as their wealth increased, the merchants built their houses around the Mercat Cross.

    The unicorn figure on the top is affectionately known at The Puggy.

    Stirling Mercat Cross courtesy Scot Sites

    By 1550, the Tolbooth was built next to the Mercat Cross. This served as the court house, armory, prison, mint, and administrative center of Sterling. The tolboth was demolished around 1700. Between 1703 and 1705, the current tolbooth was built, with the courthouse and jail added in 1809..

    Stirling Tolbooth courtesy In Stirling

  • Stonehaven
    Erected in 1645, this is a simple shaft cross, resting on an octagonal base. In 1887 the head of the cross was replaced and the cross remodeled for Queen Victoria‘s Golden Jubilee. The current one bears the arms of Marischal.

    Stonehaven Mercat Cross courtesy Mark Woodfin at BBAF Arts

    Though the cross was moved a short distance, it’s still a favorite gathering place for the Hogmanay fireball ceremony. At the stroke of midnight, dozens of local men walk from the Mercat Cross to the Cannon and back, swinging burning balls around their heads.

    Stonehaven Hogmanay Fireballs courtesy New Year UK

    The balls are built of chicken wire, rags and newspapers. Once they return to the Mercat Cross, they go down to the water and throw the fireballs into the sea. Tradition says this is to ward off the evil eye and bring good luck for the new year’s fishing.

    Thousands of spectators gather each year to watch the procession.

  • Swinton

Tomorrow, the Mercat Crosses in locations beginning with T to Z...

April 14, 2010 05:46 - The Mercat Cross, Part XI, Locations T to Z

In this set, photos were lacking. But the mercat cross in Turriff is a real beauty.

  • Tain

  • Thornhill

  • Turriff
    Erected in 1865, the present cross is 20 foot high and carved from red sandstone, as are most buildings within the town. The shaft is octagonal and rises from a Gothic base designed by James Duncan. The sculptures are by Thomas Goodwillie.

    The original Mercat Cross was established in 1512. The original location was east of the present cross on High Street. It was an upright pillar, on a pedestal of circular steps. None of the old cross was incorporated into the 1865 replacement.

    Turiff Mercat Cross courtesy Geograph

  • Whithorn

  • Wick

This completes the listing of the Mercat Crosses in Scotland which are still standing and that I’ve located. There are likely more that I have missed. If you know of others, please contact me with information and a photo, if possible, and I’ll gladly add them.

Tomorrow, a new topic begins ~ the ancient broch, and how they evolved into the burghs, or towns of Scotland...

April 15, 2010 06:49 - Scottish Broch

For many of us living in the U.S., Broch is an inferior brand of candy, named as a take off on Brach’s. But that isn’t where I’m going today. This is an entirely different "Broch".

This broch is an Iron Age building. It was a drystone, hollow-walled round house found only in Scotland. In the 1980’s archaeologists named them "complex Atlantic Roundhouses". Though their purpose isn’t known for sure, they might have been defensive, military structures or farmhouses.

Some sit beside steep cliffs with large ramparts on the land side. Some of the ramparts are natural, others are manmade. The broch at Burland, in Shetland, sits on a cliff top and is cut off from the mainland by big ditches. Most sit at strategic points. In Shetland they often cluster on both sides of narrow water, such as the Brochh of Mousa which sits directly opposite the Broch of Burraland in Sandwicki.

On Orkney, more than a dozen brochs face the shores of Eynhallow Sound and the harbor of Scapa Flow. In Sutherland, many face the sides and mouths of deep valleys.

Most of the brochs are found in Northern Scotland, particularly in Caithness, Sutherland, and the Northern Isles. But they are also found along the west coast of Scotland, in Dumfries, Galloway, and Sterling. Others are located in the Hebrides, and The Borders ~ as this distribution map shows..

Broch Distribution Map courtesy Wikipedia

In the west, they were called a dun, as in Dun Carloway, which is on the Isle of Lewis in the Western Hebrides. It was last occupied around 1300.

Dun Carloway Broch courtesy Wikipedia

Some became surrounded by clusters of other dwellings ~ becoming towns, or in Scotland, burghs, but that‘s a tale for tomorrow…

April 16, 2010 06:46 - Broch ~ Part II

The word Broch was derived from the Lowland Scots word brough. "Fort" is among the meanings for this word. Around 1850, people began using the word burg for a broch. This came from the Old Norse Borg, which also meant fort, or round stone defensive tower. By 1870, the spelling broch had evolved.

In areas of Scotland once held by Scandinavians, there are towns, such as Burgawater and Burgan, showing their Norse roots of Borg or Burg.

In Shetland alone, there are about 120 sites listed as possible brochs. The Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historic Monuments of Scotland has identified 571 possible brochs throughout Scotland.

The origin and number of brochs is an ongoing research for archeologists. It’s believed most brochs were built between the 1st centuries, B.C. and A.D. Although defense may have been part of their origin, it’s also thought the brochs were built to impress others with the owner’s status, wealth, and power.

Coming Monday, Broch locations and photos…

April 19, 2010 17:34 - Brochs ~ Part III, The Borders and Caithness

Though original brochs are thought to have been of wood, stone ones are all there is any evidence about. They were probably roofed with a conical timber frame covered with local thatch.

They were usually two stories tall, with the two outer walls giving support

Though there are many, many more, here's some of the brochs ~

The Borders

  • Dun Eden
    Built during the 2nd century near Duns, this is one of the few brochs in Lowland Scotland. Located in The Borders, it's smaller than the brochs found on the Northwest coasts of Scotland.

    Broch Dun Eden courtesy E Architect

  • Edin's Hall Broch, from the 2nd century, is near Duns

    Broch Edin's Hall courtesy Wikipedia

  • South Yarrow Broch
    Lying on the south west shore of the Loch of Yarrows, this broch is unusual in having two entrances. The original entrance faces the loch, while a second entrance was opened in the south wall after the settlement outbuildings were added.

    Broch South Yarrow courtesy Ancient Scotland

Caithness has more brochs than any other area of Scotland

  • Balvalaich Broch

  • Carn Liath Broch
    Carn means the same as Cairn, a heap of stones used as a monument or a rocky hill or mountain, while Liath means gray

    Broch Carn Liath courtesy Wikipedia

    Broch Carn Liath courtesy Hubpages X/1895323

  • Carn Nam Buth Broch
    'Nam means "in their"
    Buth, Butha means hut or shop

  • Castle Spynie Broch

    Broch Castle Spynie courtesy The Modern Antiquarian

  • Dunviden Broch

  • Eldrable Broch

    Broch Eldrable courtesy The Modern Antiquarian

  • Gailiable Broch

  • Kilearnan Broch

  • Kintradwell Broch

Coming tomorrow, The Hebrides and The Highlands…

April 20, 2010 09:27 - Broch ~ Part IV, Hebrides and The Highlands

Today's brochs include those found in the Hebrides and The Highlands ~


  • Dun Beag

    Broch Dun Beag courtesy Ancient Scotland

    Lying on the west coast of Skye, Dun Beag is in fairly good condition, with some of the walls still standing up to 16 feet .


  • Dun Carloway which is on the Isle of Lewis in the Western Hebrides. It was last occupied around 1300


  • Dun Dornaigil
    Located in Glenelg, along with Dun Telve and Dun Troddan.

    Broch Dun Dornaigil courtesy Wikipedia

  • The Brochs of Glenelg
    Dun Telve is located in Glen Elg, a few miles south of the bridge to Skye. Dun Telve and Dun Troddan are commonly called the Brochs of Glenelg. They sit in Glen Beg. Dun Telve is about two miles inland from the Sound of Sleat and the village of Glenelg. Dun Troddan is a quarter mile further inland, on a rocky projection on the mountain side, thus more defensible.

    Broch Glenelg courtesy Wikipedia

    Broch Dun Telve Entrance courtesy Highland

    In Dun Telve, narrow ledges called scarcements can still be seen. These were firmly built into the walls and protruded as 6 inch ledges. One is at 6 foot 6 inches and another at 29 foot 6 inches.

  • Ousdale Burn
    Ousdale is southwest of Berriedale, sitting on the Ousdale Burn, with the broch located at the mouth of the burn.

    Broch Ousdale courtesy Lianachan at The Modern Antiquarian

  • Carrol

Tomorrow, the Brochs of Orkney…

April 21, 2010 08:12 - Broch ~ Part V, Orkney

  • Broch Borwick
    Sitting high on an eroding headland, with sea cliffs all around, Broch Borwick sits on the Atlantic coastline. Borwick Bay is nearby. Some believe the broch was a territorial marker, a border keep, or the home of a less powerful family.

    In Old Norse, borg means fort, while yik means bay, giving us Borgyik, which over time became Borwick.

    Local legend tells of a king who lived in the broch. He had a long-standing dispute with the king of Verran in Voystown, across the Bay of Skaill in Sandwick. They met and fought on Bruntland hill. Relics have been found in a nearby mound, called Righ Knowe, with righ being a Brittonic word for king.

    Broch Borwick courtesy Orkney Jar

    Below the broch, in the eroded hillside, is a cave called Hell's Mouth. But it has nothing to do with our word hell. In Old Norse, hellir simply means cave.

    Broch Borwick courtesy Orkney Jar

  • Burroughston Broch
    This broch lies on the Orkney Island of Sahpinsay, overlooking the North Sea. Because the earth surrounding the broch is intact, visitors can look down into the broch from above.

    Broch Burroughston courtesy Wikipedia

  • Broch Gurness
    Sitting on the headland called 'The Point of Hellia', the shoreline cliffs, surrounding ditch and rampart formed a strong defense against marine invaders.

    Legend tells of the King of Orkney submitting to Emperor Claudius in 43 AD, in Essex, England. Pieces of a Roman amphora have been excavated at Gurness.

    This photo looks northwest over Eynhallow Sound to Eynhallow and Rousay.

    Broch Gurness courtesy Ancient Scotland

  • Midhowe Broch
    Midhowe is derived from the Old Norse mid and Haugr, meaning simply middle mound. The site belongs to a group of three mounds overlooking Eynhallow Sound.

    The landward side is surrounded by a rampart built in an arc between the two geos. It effectively effectively cuts off access from the land, while cliffs protect the seaward side.

    This is only broch I've read about with a reference to the water source. The others seem to have flowing streams nearby, but at Midhowe, a spring flowed up through a crack into a storage tank. Even during modern excavations, the water flowed into the main storage tank. It was clear and drinkable during years of excavation.

    Going back to the geos, these seem to be openings to the sea at the ends of the rampart which could be defended. The southern geo is known as Stinkany geo is deep enough for seagoing vessels.

    Broch Midhowe courtesy Orkney Jar

Coming tomorrow, the Brochs of Shetland…

April 22, 2010 09:08 - Brochs ~ Part VI, Shetland

  • Clickimin Broch
    Built originally on an island, a stone causeway gained access to the broch. An unusual feature is a blockhouse between the enclosure and the door of the broch. Another is a stone slab with sculptured footprints on the causeway.

    Broch Clickimin courtesy Wikipedia

  • Culswick Broch
    Built of red stone, the views from Culswick are spectacular, overlooking the isles of Foula, Vaila, and Fair, plus Fitful Head.

    Broch Culswick courtesy Wikipedia

  • Jarlshof Broch
    The name Jarlshof was coined by Sir Walter Scott after a visit in 1814, with an interpretation meaning "Earl's Mansion". There is no evidence that a Norse jarl ever lived in the broch. The Norse word jarl became the Anglo-Saxon word "earl" and meant a chieftain assigned to rule a territory for the king.

    The site was mostly hidden until a storm in the late 1800's washed away part of the shore, revealing the ruins of ancient buildings. Archeological digs have unearthed remains dated back to 2500 B.C.

    Broch Jarlshof courtesy Nigel Duncan

  • Mousa Broch

    Mousa Broch courtesy Wikipedia

    Mousa is considered one of the best preserved examples of a broch. The estimated construction date is around 199 B.C. and is the only broch still standing in its completed form. It stands 44 feet high and has an internal staircase to the top, leading to an open walkway.

  • Old Scatness Broch

    Broch Old Scatness courtesy Wikipedia

  • Broch of West Burrafirth
    The broch sits on a holm, which is a small islet in a river. The name derives from Old Norse borgarfjord, meaning fjord of the Borg, with Borg meaning broch. In modern times, a bridge of large stepping stone connects to the islet. During full tide, the sea flows over the stones.

April 23, 2010 07:16 - Broch ~ Part VI, Sterlingshire and Sutherland

  • Broch Tappoch, or Torwich Broch
    Located near the summit of Torwood, a hill which provides excellent views, this is one of the best preserved of the Lowland brochs.

    Broch Tappoch courtesy Cooper Dog


  • Clachtoll Broch
    Sits on the North West coast of mainland Scotland. Though mostly in ruin, the doorway still has the huge triangular lintel stone, which was a common feature of brochs.

    Clachtoll Broch Lintel courtesy Ancient Scotland

  • Broch Feranach

    Broch Feranach courtesy Wikipedia

  • Kilphedir Broch

    Broch Kilphedir courtesy Wikipedia

  • Broch Stoer

    Broch Stoer courtesy Uggyys Gallery

That completes the brochs of Scotland. Monday Scotch Bonnets will be introduced with suggestions for their use as wedding decorations…

April 26, 2010 08:03 - Scotch Bonnets

As you plan for your wedding, I’ve discovered a unique, colorful pepper that could be used as a decoration, or, if you’re into spicy foods, your reception menu.

While in the Virgin Islands, I saw them in the grocery store and couldn’t resist. They’re as hot as a habanera pepper, but much prettier. Named for it’s resemblance to an old-fashioned Tam O’ Chanter, the pepper is also known as Scotty bons and bonney peppers.

Scotch Bonnet Pepper courtesy Wikipedia

Popular throughout the Caribbean, the pepper is also found in Guyana and the Maldives Islands.

After my first attempt at using one in my cooking, I quickly learned to just cut off a portion and use it sparingly. For a comparison, on the Scoville scale, which measures the heat of foods, a Jalapeño pepper rates 2,500 to 8,000. The Scotch Bonnet rates 100,000 to 350,000. Wow, that’s some hot pepper!!!

Which also explains why the jerk (pork and chicken) dishes have such a unique flavor. As well as the Virgin Island, these little bombshells are used in the cuisine and pepper sauces of Trinidad, Jamaica, Barbados, Guyana, Suriname, Haiti, and the Caymans.

The peppers I bought ranged in color from green to pumpkin to scarlet, as you can see in this photo ~

Scotch Bonnet Peppers in Caribbean
Market courtesy Wikipedia

If your tartan runs to these colors, the Scotty bons could be an unusual decoration. They could be strung to dry and used as garlands. The garlands could run down the middle of the guest tables or be swaged on cake or gift tables. The only place I wouldn’t used them is in head wreaths.

Or they could simply be strewn down the center of tables, with a caution and explanation of their name, printed somewhere. I recently read of brides making small pennants announcing different events of their reception ~ first dance, cake cutting, dinner is served. One could offer information on the peppers. The pennants are carried throughout the crowd by children, aged 8 to 12, giving them a place and job in your wedding.

Announcement Pennant courtesy Martha Stewart

The pennant idea is expounded on the Martha Stewart website.

The only change I’d make is to glue the pennants securely, as most 8 to 12 year olds could easily flip off a pennant that’s just taped on.

Coming tomorrow, another kind of Scotch Bonnet…

April 27, 2010 07:17 - More Scotch Bonnets

I know of two other Scotch bonnets ~ a mushroom and a snail.

The Marasmius oreades mushroom is also known as fairy ring mushrooms and, of course, Scotch Bonnets. There are other fairy ring mushrooms, both poisonous and edible, so don’t go running out to collect some, without gaining some knowledge first, even though they do grow in North America.

Scotch Bonnet Mushroom courtesy Wikipedia

These mushrooms tend to grow in a circular pattern in lawns, meadows and even sand dunes in coastal areas. They also fertilize the grass, causing it to grow and become greener, making the fairy rings even more pronounced.

Scotch Bonnet Fairy Ring courtesy Pic Search

Scotch Bonnet Fairy Ring courtesy University of Wisconsin

Fairy Rings Aerial View in Kensington Gardens courtesy Google Earth

This mushroom has a sweet taste in the cap, but the stem is stringy and bitter. It can also be added to cookies and other desserts.

They are often detached from the stem, then strung to dry, meaning they could be used in garlands, as well as the Scotch Bonnet peppers, as seen in this photo ~

Strung Scotch Bonnet Mushrooms courtesy Wikipedia

Once dried, just be sure to store them in a dry place with good air circulation until your big day. Another perk, after the reception, you could save them for special occasions, like anniversaries. With hording, you would have a unique memento of your wedding day for years to come.

Tomorrow, recipes using Fairy Rings…

April 28, 2010 07:50 - Scotch Bonnet Mushroom Recipes

The Scotch Bonnets can be used in any mushroom recipe, including stuffed, roasted, sautéed. Once you know how to recognize them and find some fairy rings, bushels can be gathered in one day.

One recipe is Scotch Bonnets a la Italienne

Scotch Bonnets a la Italienne

Wash, remove stems, and dry mushrooms
Divide into halves or quarters
Stew on range with parsley, scallions, chervil, burnet, tarragon, Chives, salt, and a fine oil
When juices begin to run, thicken with a small amount of flour
Serve hot with bread crumbs and a squeeze of lemon

They can also be served in a soufflé, salad, or pickled, as in these recipes.

Scotch Bonnets Mushroom Salad

Slice or grate fresh mushrooms into a relish
Serve with a dressing such as mayonnaise, French dressing, or another of your choice
The mushrooms can even pass as a chicken salad, with the addition of the usual added ingredients

Pickled Scotch Bonnet Mushrooms

Immerse mushrooms in cold water for a few seconds
Drain and remove stems
Boil in vinegar, adding two ounces of salt, half a grated nutmeg, a sprinkle of mace, and an ounce of white peppercorns to each quart
After 10 minutes, pour all the ingredients into small canning jars, dividing the spices evenly
Cover with cheese cloth for 1 day, then cap the jars

Or wouldn’t some Fairy Ring Cookies be fun at any of the wedding related events ~ showers, dinner parties, the wedding reception?

Fairy Ring Cookies

Using your favorite sugar cookie recipe, substitute almond extract for the vanilla or lemon flavoring.
Add 1 cup minced, dried fairy-ring mushroom caps
Add ½ tsp almond extract
Complete the cookies according to your recipe

If you’re cutting the cookies out in patterns, a cookie cutter of your clan plant, thistle, rampant lion, Celtic knot, or other Scottish motif would add even more fun.

Tomorrow, Scotch Bonnet snails, and more ideas…

April 29, 2010 09:44 - Scotch Bonnet Snails

In a whole different arena, Semicassis granulata is a sea snail, one among other bonnet snails. This Scotch bonnet is also known as a ridged bonnet and Phalium granulatum. They can be found in the Western Atlantic Ocean from North Carolina to Uruguay.

Scotch Bonnet Snail courtesy Wikipedia

Due to the strong currents of the coast of North Carolina, this is the most prolific site for the snail. In 1965 the state of North Carolina adopted the Scotch Bonnet snail as the official state shell, honoring the abundance of Scottish settlers that founded the state.

The scientific name, when broken down, is interesting. Semi, of course, means half. Cassis means a metal helmet. Granulata derives from the Latin word grana, meaning covered with granules, as seen in this photo ~

Scotch Bonnet Snail courtesy Wikipedia

The shell often has a pattern of square or rectangular brown and tan patches, over the white background, as can be vaguely seen in the above photos. Also harkening back to the Scottish settlers in North Carolina, it resembles the plaid pattern of tartans.

But, if you don’t live along the North Carolina coastline, where else can the shell be found#?

  • South Carolina
  • Florida, both east and west coasts, plus the Keys
  • Louisiana
  • Texas
  • Quintana Roo, Mexico on the Yucatan Peninsula
  • Nicaragua
  • Costa Rica
  • Panama
  • Columbia
  • Venezuela, the Gulf of Venezuela

    Los Testigos Islands, Venezuela courtesy Wikipedia

  • Carabobo, Venezuela

    Scotch Bonnet Puerto Cabello, Caribobo, Venezuela
    from Solano Castle courtesy Wikipedia

  • Isla Margarita, Venezuela

    Pana Ascension, Isla Margarita, Venezuela courtesy Wikipedia

  • Sucre, Venezuela

    Playa Medina, Sucre, Venezuela courtesy Wikipedia

  • The Greater Antilles in Cuba, Jamaica, and Puerto Rico
  • Suriname, South America
  • Brazil
  • Uruguay

In between these two groupings, none have been found in the Lesser Antilles.

If you do go looking for some, they live on shelly sand in fairly shallow water where you find an abundance of shell fragments and strong ocean currents.

Again if you live in North Carolina, or your family migrated through the state between Scotland and wherever they settled, this shell could readily be added to your decorations.

So whether you're looking for some peppers, mushrooms, or snails for your wedding reception, there are Scotch Bonnets to add to your Scottish wedding theme.

April 30, 2010 07:08 - Woven Tartan Ribbon Medieval Bodice

This miniature painting of a gentleman, is from around 1500. Supporting a Medieval theme or a Scottish theme, the doublet could be adapted for the bodice of a bride’s dress, without the ruff.

Doublet courtesy Book of Costume

The interwoven bands of braids or ribbon on the arms and stomacher, could be of tartan. Even if tartan ribbon isn’t available in your chosen tartan, you can order the light-weight wool or silk and make your own ribbon. Though it would need to be of a double thickness sewn together, then turned so the raw edges would be on the inside. Just make sure to cut the fabric on the bias. Scottish Wedding Dreams has more complete instructions about bias binding.

The bodice sides appear to be a different fabric, such as a brocade or tapestry. The sides could also be of the same tartan as the braiding, a co-coordinating tartan, or a solid color in velvet, wool, linen, or silk, depending on your choice of fabric for the skirt.

One combination using olive greens and shades of purple would be the John Bell Tartan and the Irish Tyrone Tartan.

John Bell Tartan WR2613

Irish Tyrone Tartan WR2264

For those who want a high fashion wedding, while still displaying their Scottish roots, the City of Manhattan tartan would be a good choice. While combining the fashionable pale pink with brown, it’s more subtle than many tartans. And it definitely has a softer, feminine look.

The hemline edging and sides of the bodice could be either a pale pink or brown, depending on your choice of color for the skirt. The bridesmaids could be all in pink or brown, opposite which color selected for the bride.

Can’t you just see this tartan with soft velvet or velveteen in a lush brown and a pastel pink? Especially when you add pale pink roses.

City of Manhattan Tartan WR2604

Another subtle tartan is this Ulster. With a rich brown and pale yellow, this could be the basis for an autumn wedding theme. Mums are available in so many shades of yellow, or the shade of darker red. A medium brown silk for the skirt would complete an understated, elegant ensemble.

Ulster tartan courtesy Scotweb

Moving on to the logistics, to weave ribbon or strips of tartan, they should be joined to an interfacing for stiffening. You would either need an iron-on interfacing or stitching the interwoven piece to the interfacing.

For a summer or spring wedding the bodice could be sleeveless. For a winter wedding the long sleeves would still be smart and probably welcome for warmth.

The button accents could be silk roses, with a solid piping in the color of the roses continuing along the edges of the stomacher and around the neckline..

With any tartan of your choice, a white silk or chiffon flowing skirt would be nice for the bride, with a colored skirt for the bridesmaid dresses or for the mother of the bride.

Coming Monday, May Highland Games and Festivals…

March 2010 «  » May 2010


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