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Scotcrest Blog

Blackness Castle, Blackness – Clan Crichtonblackness castle clan crichton

Located to the east of the town of Bo’ness, Blackness Castle guards the southern banks of the Firth of Forth from its prominent location at the head of Blackness Bay.

The castle was built in the 1440s by Sir George Crichton and is likely to have been constructed on the site of an even older fort. The structure was probably built as a line of defence for the Royal Burgh of Linlithgow – which was one of the main residences of the Scottish monarch at the time – and would remain in the hands of the Crichtons until 1453 when it came under the control of James II and the crown of Scotland.

Blackness would be go on to serve multiple different purposes over the years and was used as a Royal Fortress and a prison until it was badly damaged following an artillery bombardment by Oliver Cormwell’s forces in 1650. It would then be the location of a garrison of the British Army following the Union of Scotland England in 1707 before briefly serving as a prison again – hosting French prisoners of war during the Seven Years’ War and the Napoleonic Wars. It would finally be used as an ammunition depot for Scotland from 1870 until 1912 when it finally ceased to be operational as a functional building.

The castle itself is comprised of two towers – north and south – which are connected to a ‘curtain wall’ and a separate central tower located inside the courtyard. It has been open to the public since its restoration between 1926 and 1935 and has been used as a location in the filming of several productions including the 1996 film The Bruce and the popular contemporary television series Outlander.

Purchase one of our customisable Tartan Art prints. Click here.
Learn more about the Crichton Clan here.

Rothesay Castle, Isle of Bute – Clan Stewart

rothesay castle of clan stewart

Famous for its close links to the Stewarts – Scotland’s Royal dynasty from 1371 – Rothesay Castle is one of Scotland oldest and most unique castles and is situated in the heart of the town of Rothesay with which it shares its name.

The structure was first built in the early 1200s by Alan Fitz Walter, 2nd High Steward of Scotland, and would soon become one of the focal points of Norwegian attacks on the west of Scotland. The castle would be attacked twice by the Norse – firstly in 1230 when Haakon IV ordered his men to sail into the River Clyde and capture the Isle of Bute (which they managed successfully after a three day siege) and again in 1263 when the King himself led a successful raid on the castle and managed to capture it. In fact, only a violent storm prevented the Norwegians from doing more damage in the area.

The castle would eventually be returned to the Scots however, and was significantly strengthened to prevent it falling again as four round towers were added – of which only the North-West survives today.  Rothesay would also play a crucial part in the Scottish Wars of Independence as it was ruled by the English until 1311 before being taken by Robert the Bruce, it would then be held by the English again from 1334 before finally being returned to the Scots soon after.

It would be with the rise to the Scottish throne of the castle’s owners – the Stewarts – however, that the Castle would come to national prominence in 1371. Rothesay would go on to become a favoured residence of the monarchy and would be further strengthened to accommodate this royal presence at the site.

Continuing its tumultuous history, the castle would suffer further sieges in the 16th and 17th century and would finally succumb to years of constant abuse in 1685 when supporters of Archibald Campbell, 9th Earl of Argyll, burned the remains of the castle during a rising in support of the Monmouth rebellion.

It would only be in the 19th century that the castle would be given a new lease of life when it was excavated and restored by the 2nd and 3rd Marquesses of Bute and the castle is now a scheduled ancient monument controlled by Historic Scotland.

Purchase one of our customisable Tartan Art prints. Click here.

Duart Castle, Isle of Mull – Clan MacLean

Duart Castle Clan MacLean

Standing on a coastal crag on the eastern tip of the Scottish Isle of Mull, Duart Castle has served as the historic seat of Clan MacLean since the 14th century.

Despite serving as the clan seat for over 700 years, the castle itself was actually constructed by the MacDougall Clan and only came into the hands of the MacLeans the century after. This happened after the wedding of Lachlan Lubanach MacLean of Duart to Mary, daughter of John of Islay, Lord of the Isles and Lachlan would go on to construct the castle’s keep.

Later in history, Duart would come under attack on numerous occasions during the 17th century. Firstly, an attack by the government forces of Clan Campbell during the Wars of the Three Kingdoms would be repelled in 1649 before six ships loyal to Oliver Cromwell would become shipwrecked near the castle in 1653.

Clan Campbell would eventually take the fortress from the MacLeans in 1691 after their surrender and the castle would be destroyed by the family  – who would scatter the stones of the building’s walls around the Isle.

The structure would be fully abandoned only 60 years later in 1751 and would not come into the possession of the MacLeans again until it was purchased by Sir Fitzroy Donald MacLean in 1911. He would completely restore the previously ruined castle to its former glory and it remains a popular tourist destination to this day. The castle houses fascinating attractions such as the beautiful great hall and the interesting Clan MacLean exhibition and is not to be missed by anyone interested in their Scottish heritage.

In popular culture, it has also been featured on camera in numerous different shows such as the cult classic, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and the 1999 film, Entrapment, which features Sean Connery (a man who can trace his family lineage back to the MacLeans).

Celebrate your Scottish heritage with a traditional Scottish Clan Plaque. Click Here.

Purchase one of our customisable Tartan Art prints. Click here.

A History of the Traditional Scottish Kilt

Kilt Pipe Band

With its distinctive tartan material, there is perhaps no item of clothing as synonymous with a particular country as the kilt is with Scotland.

While other countries have often abandoned their national dress (likely out of embarrassment) Scotland has never been more proud of the kilt than it is today. Indeed, although it’s true that for day-to-day life the kilt isn’t as practical as it once was in the Scottish Highlands,  if you were to arrive in Glasgow on the day of an international football match or accidentally gatecrash a wedding in Edinburgh, you’d be forgiven for thinking we wear them 24/7!

Despite this obvious relationship between the kilt and Scotland however, it was not actually until the early 17th century that the wearing of the garment became common throughout the nation. Prior to this, it was actually a different type of clothing which was worn by the rural populations of Scotland, the ‘leine croich’. This outfit was used as a war-dress during the medieval period and consisted of a long pleated coat which came down below the knees and was made out of either leather, linen or canvas rather than tartan.

Leine Croich
A Victorian artist’s depiction of a Scottish clansman wearing a leine croich.

 

In fact, tartan would only arrive into the mainstream in Scotland in the 16th century with one of the first mentions of the textile coming in 1587 when a Hector MacLean of Duart was granted a charter using, “60 ells of cloth of white, black and green colours.”

From here, the kilt would develop and would grow to become the predominant item of clothing worn in the Scottish Highlands. The original kilt was known as the ‘feileadh breacan’ – the big kilt –  and was fashioned from a single 24-foot length of tartan which was cut in half and sewn together down the edge to form a large blanket. True to its name, the ‘big kilt’ was gargantuan in size and if spread out, it would measure around 60″ by 12 ft. This huge size made it not only a comfortable option for wearing in the wet and rainy Scottish Highlands but also a warm cover for sleeping in rural conditions.

feileadh breacan
A traditional feileadh breacan style ‘big kilt’.

 

The kilt would thus remain the item of clothing of choice for many highlanders and despite family tartans not becoming a concept until much later, people from different regions and islands of Scotland were able to be distinguished by their different tartans during the 17th century. It was only after the struggles of the Jacobite rebellions – in which the Stuart family tried to claim back the British throne with the help of many Highland clans – that the garment would see a decline in use. This was not down to a new type of clothing taking its place or an attempt by highlanders to fit into the culture of a rapidly developing urban nation during the industrial revolution but rather thanks to a ban on the wearing of highland dress thanks to the clans’ involvement in the Jacobite struggle of 1745-46.

It was only thirty years later in 1782 that the act was repealed – a whole generation after – and by that time, the majority of the Scottish population had moved on to more conventional clothing and the kilt would only be properly revived by the novelist Sir Walter Scott in the early 19th century. Scott would help to re-popularise the wearing of the kilt through his close connection to the royal family and this culminated in a massive upsurge in demand after the organisation of a visit by King George IV to the country in 1822 in which the monarch wore his own kilt. The concept of family tartan was also created around this time after the Highland Society of London established a formal register of clan tartans – in which each clan submitted their own design despite not previously having one.

George IV Kilt
George IV wearing a kilt in 1822.

 

It was from the position that the kilt would go on to gain the reputation it currently has as one of the world’s most recognisable cultural outfits. Today, while probably not the first item of clothing to be put on in the morning by a Scottish person heading out to work, Scots are rightfully proud to have a national dress with such a storied and interesting history. The kilt remains a massive part of Scottish culture even to this day and has been worn into battle by Scottish soldiers during the World Wars in addition to the formal occasions and sporting events which it is now saved for. It is an icon of Scotland’s culture and will likely remain so for years to come and has helped keep Scotland on the map in an ever-changing global world.

Purchase our 100% woollen tartan fabric – 500 different varieties all woven in Scotland.

Buy our unique Tartan Art.

Celebrate your Scottish clan heritage with a traditional Scottish clan plaque.

Castle Tioram, Loch Moidart, Lochaber – Clan MacDonald

Castle Tioram - Clan MacDonald

Standing alone on the tidal island of Eilean Tioram in Loch Moidart, the ruined Castle Tioram was once the ancient fortress of the powerful Clan Macdonald.

Believed to have been built in the mid 13th century, the castle was famed for its impregnable nature and the stronghold was only taken once in its entire history – by the government in 1692. This happened after the clan chief of MacDonald, Allan MacDonald of Clanranald, joined the Jacobite court in France after previously pledging allegiance to the British crown.

The capture of Tioram would mark the beginning of its demise as, despite a small garrison successfully holding the castle until 1715, it would eventually be recaptured and torched by Allan as he destroyed his former home in an attempt to keep it out of the hands of Hanoverian Forces during the Jacobite Rising of the same year.

The castle has remained uninhabited since and is now in an extremely poor condition. Many attempts have been made in recent years to restore the fortress to its former glory, however, as of yet, none have been successful. The outside of the castle can still be visited by tourists and Eilean Tioram, the island the castle stands upon, can be reached by foot during low tide or by kayak or canoe during the rest of the day.

Celebrate your Scottish clan heritage with a traditional Scottish clan plaque.

Glamis Castle, Glamis, Angus – Clan Lyon

Glamis Castle

Situated in the valley of Strathmore, south of the towering Grampian Mountains and west of the expansive North Sea, Glamis Castle is an imposing structure with a storied history.

Even before a castle was first constructed on the site, it was a place shrouded in controversy with legend stating that Malcolm II, King of Scotland, was murdered at Glamis in 1034. Not a lot is known about the area at the time, but it is believed that the King died fighting bandits while staying at a hunting lodge.

By the reign of King Robert II in 1372, a castle had been constructed in the area which was granted to Sir John Lyon and would remain in the family’s hands until the present day.

This would not be the castle in its current state, however, and construction of the present building would not begin until the 17th century when Patrick Lyon, 9th Lord Glamis, started to build the modern castle and inscribed his name on the central tower.

The castle would be completed over the course of the rest of the century and is thought to have been designed by the English architect Inigo Jones or the King’s master mason at the time, William Schaw.

Later, at the beginning of the 20th century, Glamis would once again be home to royalty, although this time seeing the birth of Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother, who would go on to spend a large portion of her childhood in the castle.

Glamis has also appeared in popular culture as the home of Macbeth in Shakespeare’s famous tragedy of the same name and on the back of the Royal Bank of Scotland five pound note since 1987.

 

Inveraray Castle, Inveraray, Argyll – Clan Campbell

Inveraray Castle

Inspired by a sketch from the same man who designed the stunning Blenheim Palace, Inveraray Castle is an impressive building situated a stone’s throw away from the banks of Loch Fyne.

The castle was constructed in its current form in 1743, replacing an older building which previously occupied the same land for hundreds of years.

It is one of the first examples of the Gothic Revival style which would go on to be used on numerous important structures in the subsequent years, such as Tower Bridge and St Pancras Railway Station in London. It was, however, only after a fire in 1877 that the castle’s signature conical spires were added to give the building its unique and eye-catching architectural style.

Despite the castle barely surviving this tragedy, it would come even closer to being destroyed again in 1975 when another fire would damage large parts of the structure. It is only thanks to a worldwide fundraising effort, and the Campbells being forced to sleep in the building’s basement while a large restoration project was undertaken, that the castle was able to return to its former glory once more.

Today, Inveraray castle welcomes thousands of visitors into its ground every year. It was also prominently featured in an episode of the hit TV show ‘Downton Abbey’ after the producers of the show decided to film large parts of the series’ 2012 Christmas special within the castle grounds.

Dunvegan  Castle, Skye – Clan Macleod

Dunvegan Castle Entrance

Situated on the north-western corner of the beautiful Isle of Skye, Dunvegan Castle is the oldest continuously-inhabited castle in the Scottish highlands – with the Macleod clan residing there for over 800 years.

Indeed, an even older piece of history resides inside the castle in the form of the 4th-century banner, ‘the Fairy Flag’, a piece of fabric believed to have originated in either Syria or Rhodes which was possibly transported back to the Scottish Highlands during to the crusades.

This artefact, along with the Dunvegan Cup (a 15th-century ceremonial wooden cup) and Sir Roy Mor’s Horn (a drinking horn possibly from the 10th century) makes up a trio of ancient relics located at the castle that help to reinforce its reputation as one of the great historic sites of Scotland.

The Castle itself was built in stages from the 13th century onwards. However, it was given a total remodelling in the early 1800s which it retains today in the form of its striking outer medieval shell.

A Traditional Clan Coat of Arms

A labeled clan plaque

One of the most detailed and unique products we offer is our Woodcarver Coat of Arms Plaque. Unlike a clan crest, a heraldic coat of arms can differ when representing an individual family within a clan.  Therefore, some clan coats of arms can be hard to understand with a plethora of different characteristics and devices on show. To make it easier, we’ve created a little diagram and key to help!

Clan Name – The clan name of the individual the coat of arms is representing. It is located on an escrol below the shield.

Clan Motto – The clan motto of the individual the coat of arms is representing. It is located on an escrol above the clan crest.

Clan Tartan – The traditional tartan associated with the clan of the individual the plaque is representing – each clan will have its own specific tartan. On our coat of arms plaques, the tartan sits behind the coat of arms on a wooden shield.

Clan Crest – A portrayal of any object genuine or fictitious which represents the clan. As with all other heraldic objects, it will almost always face to the left unless otherwise stated.

Helmet – Taking its place between the shield and the clan crest is the helmet of the coat of arms. Usually, the design of the helmet is determined by rank. The helmet will always face to the left unless there are multiple, if this is the case, they face inwards. The time period from which the helmet originates may vary. However, it should always match the period that the coat of arms’ shield is from. The helmet is usually the same size as the shield as this would have been the case in a traditional set of medieval armour.

Mantling – Originally a simple decorative piece of fabric worn from the helmet, the mantling has evolved into a more elaborate piece of the clan crest over the years. Despite often being taken to ridiculous extremes, it offers a good way for the artist to fill blank areas of the design.

Shield – Often acting as the most prominent feature of the design, it is the shield that is usually used for identification when looking at a coat of arms. The shield does not need to be a specific shape and is therefore usually designed to fit the other aspects depicted. It is usually positioned either upright or at an angle as if it is suspended from a strap. While there are some ancient families who simply have a shield devoid of any symbols,  the majority of coats of arms will have some sort of device on the front.

Wooden Shield – The backing on which our woodcarver coat of arms plaques sits.

Click here to view our Woodcarver Coat of Arms Plaque!

Culzean Castle, South Ayrshire

Easily one of the most stunning castles in Scotland, Culzean Castle can be found overlooking the Firth of Clyde from its clifftop perch in South Ayrshire.

Originally built in the late 18th century upon request by David Kennedy, 10th Earl of Cassilis, the castle replaced a stone tower as Kennedy, a man of opulence, decided that such a structure was not fitting of his family’s reputation. Instead, no expense was spared and with the help of architect Robert Adam, the building we know today was constructed.

Kennedy and Adam would not, however, survive to see it completed as they both died within a few months of each other in 1792. Neither would they be the most famous people connected to the castle as, following the conclusion of World War Two, the top floor was given to General (later president) Eisenhower of the US Army as a gift of thanks for his success in the war. Eisenhower would stay at the castle on four occasions, one of which was during his time as President.

Later, the castle would also feature in popular culture as the home of Lord Summerisle in the cult horror film, The Wicker Man (1973) and on the back of the Bank of Scotland five-pound note. It is now under the ownership of the national trust and can be visited by the general public.