Jul
01
2010
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Is the Callanish stone circle open all the time?

Standing stone circle at CalanaisAnyone who can get to the Isle of Lewis can visit the standing stones of Callanish, and move around freely – quite different from the untouchable Stonehenge circle at the other end of the UK, which attracts about 20 visitors for every one at Callanish. The main site has a sheep-proof fence, gate, and a [more...]

Jun
07
2010
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Can a luckenbooth brooch have a heart but no crown?

antique luckenbooth brooches - Anstruther-Duncan collectionMost luckenbooth brooches sold today are heart-shaped with a crown above. Sometimes the design is a pair of interlocking twin hearts.  But it wasn’t always so. This kind of traditional Scottish brooch could be a very simple outline heart, as you can see in some museums. So don’t take it as a rule that only [more...]

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May
26
2010
2

Is Harris Tweed still made the traditional way?

harris tweed swatchesThe new Dr. Who, Matt Smith, wears a distinctive jacket made of genuine Harris Tweed. The press has called it “timeless”, “traditional”, “vintage” and even “romantic”. The Doctor’s jacket is made from cloth woven in the 1960s, the same age as the TV programme itself.  The fabric looks much like Harris Tweed woven today, and [more...]

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Feb
27
2010
2

Why is Gretna Green famous for weddings?

gretna-greenGretna Green, a small village in Scotland just across the border from England, is renown for the many weddings celebrated there: more than 5000 each year and one in six Scottish weddings. It is especially known as a place where young couples eloped to. It all started in 1754, when Lord Hardwicke’s Marriage Act took [more...]

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Feb
17
2010
6

Where did Johnny Cash's Scottish ancestors come from?

Easter Cash, Fife, Scotland: Did Johnny Cash's ancestors live near here? (Photo by Iain Gillespie, CC-BY)In the 1670s a young Scotsman called William Cash sailed to the New World and set up home in Virginia.  Nine generations later his direct descendant, country music star Johnny Cash, wanted to explore his ancestry. He crossed the Atlantic in the other direction, to visit the part of Fife once known as the “lands [more...]

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Jul
07
2009
1

Where can you see historic needlework in Scotland?

Traquair House has fine needlework from the 1600s and 1700s  (Photo by quezi.com - CC-BY)Fans of old embroidery will find plenty in Scotland. The suggestions here are a few favourites, all in reach of Edinburgh or Glasgow. Traquair is an ancient house with a unique collection of old needlework. The 16th century petit point fruit and flower “slip” motifs are well-preserved, still waiting to be sewn onto soft furnishings, [more...]

Jun
05
2009
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Which airport has to wait for tide to go out?

Barra Airport runway and terminal buildings (photo by Kevin Walsh CC-BY)The Outer Hebrides are a collection of islands on the west coast of Scotland. Barra is the most southerly of the inhabited islands. Although a small island, Barra is famed for its scenery: beautiful beaches, machair (fertile low-lying grassy plain), its hills, and being the home of the clan MacNeill and their 15th century Kisimul [more...]

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Jun
02
2009
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Did Rosslyn Chapel benefit from the Da Vinci Code?

Rosslyn green man - one of the church's medieval stone carvings (Photo by TF Duesing - CC-BY)Rosslyn Chapel already had 30,000 visitors a year before Dan Brown used it in his mystical adventure novel the Da Vinci Code in 2003. Numbers rose, and then escalated massively after the 2006 movie version showed Tom Hanks and Audrey Tautou searching for secrets there. The church near Edinburgh, Scotland was overflowing with tourists in [more...]

May
16
2009
1

Is Scottish money legal in England?

Tony Blair and Gordon Brown (artwork by eddiedangerous - CC-BY)The pound sterling (GBP) is the legal currency throughout the United Kingdom, and the Bank of England prints banknotes for this currency. Due to a quirk of history, three Scottish banks and four Northern Ireland banks also print notes denominated in United Kingdom pounds. Before 1844-45, each bank issued their own notes. The Bank Charter [more...]

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May
06
2009
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How can I buy an island?

Swedish idyl (photo by visulogik - CC-BY)Even though much of the world is heavily populated, there are privately-owned islands being bought and sold every day. You don’t need to be a millionaire to “join the club”, although if you’ve got serious money it greatly increases your options. Suppose you want a genuine tropical island in the Bahamas, the Caribbean or the [more...]

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