I've heard this by Eilean Donan on Loch Duich near Skye; at Knockdolian in Galloway, down in the south west; by Castle Sinclair, a precarious cliff-top ruin on the north east coast; and looking across to history-rich Dunnottar Castle, near Aberdeen. Strange, though. Where else in the world do people spontaneously think of a previously unseen medieval building as "theirs"? Only in Scotland, I think.
This week in the UK we are reflecting on the abolition of the slave trade 200 years ago, and a very few determined people from America have managed to trace their roots back to Africa. But those with Scottish roots only need a name. With a name there is a castle, or a monument or a burial ground or clan gathering stone. And people can touch the stones, feel the wind on their cheeks, smell the heather and see, albeit faintly, what went before. With a little help from one of us natives, they are drawn into a visceral, and often emotional, relationship with a piece of land on the other side of the world.
In the year 2009, Scotland will celebrate 'Homecoming Scotland', a year long celebration for all those with links to Scotland. And there will be even more people trekking across peaty hillsides to see long-deserted piles of stones. And returning home much the richer for it.
A highlight of 2009 will be the International Clan Gathering, a celebration the likes of which has not been seen since 1822 (You heard it here first!). Scottish Clans and Castles will be playing a full part in this party which is scheduled for the last week of July in Edinburgh. Watch this space for more.