Tuesday, March 27, 2007

"Well dear. How d'you like your castle?"

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.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Dear Alastair,
Feeling nostalgic looking at my screen saver which is a picture we took of Eilean Donan Castle, I just came to have a quick look at your website. It's so interesting, I've spent now more than an hour browsing and reading it... have to get back to work. Hope you're doing well. We're all looking forward to coming back and seeing you again soon. Best wishes, Fabienne fm Geneva, Switzerland and all the grown-ups!