Castles are something you easily could spend your entire holiday in Scotland visiting.
As many people actually do. Scotland is completely swamped with castles in different stages of decay, or recently restored thanks to the income generated
by the castle-tourists. The majority of the castles have some sort of bloody history attached to them,
quite naturally since the history of Scotland is marked by numerous feuds. Many of the castles are today used as
sets for Hollywood movies. Eilean Donan for example, the castle on this picture, was the background for
the film Highlander.
The countryīs feuds mainly involve England and Scotland,
but through history feuds have also occured between different clans. The clans were not, as usually believed,
a group of blood relatives but most often people of different origin and families who bounded together under the leadership
of the clan chief. There are known cases of people changing their names moving from one clan to another. The clan chief provided protection for his followers and they would in return fight for him if called
upon to do so. The highlander clans wore a simple plaid belted around the waist, but not until the late 17th century
were certain tartans associated with certain clans. The perhaps cruellest clanfeud and certainly the most famous
is the massacre of Glencoe, which took place in february 1692. The clan MacDonald was well known for their support of the previous
ruling dynasty; the Stuarts. The Campbell clan, followers of the protestant king William, visited the MacDonalds in Glencoe and
was offered accommodation. After enjoying the MacDonaldsīs hospitality for two weeks, the clan chiefīs troops stood up
in the middle of the night and slaughtered as many MacDonalds as they could. This caused a national scandal, especially among other clans
where murder under trust, killing the people offering you shelter, was considered a particularly loathsome crime.
The roman conquest of Britain began in 43 AD and by 80 AD the roman governor decided it was time
to begin an invasion of the north. This, however, proved to be the first serious defeat for the mighty conquerors.
Everybody who ever read the series about Prince Valiant knows that the Highlands were defended by
the ferocious picts. To be able to defeat this violent and frightening tribe the romans built
a 40-mile long wall stretching east-west across the country, the Antonine wall, around 150 AD. This was occupied for
about forty years but thereafter the romans were forced to withdraw south. They retired to the more famous
Hadrianīs wall, the first wall built to seal the frontier against the savages of the north. The romans
never conquered the north and the 350 years of roman domination are hardly discernible in Scotland.
The picts, a mysterious people whose origin is unknown, eventually disappeared or were united with the scotti, irish-celtic invaders
who first arrived in Scotland in the fourth century, and later would give the country its name.
The scotti kingdom of Dalriada joined with the picts in 843 AD and became the united kingdom of
Alba. Alba was heavily dominated by the scotti whose language pushed the pictish language aside.
During this period the vikings conquered the islands and settled in the west and north. Besides the
picts, the scotti and the vikings, germanic angles and britons were also struggling for
room in Scotland. It is not too much to say that war was not unusual during the first ten centuries AD.
Alba eventually turned into the kingdom of Scotland and was in 1296 conquered by England.
Edward I, the ruling english king, had shown little mercy during his cruel conquest, thus provoking a truly
national resistance. This was the beginning of a long series of battles between England and Scotland. Scotland turned
to France and formed the Auld Alliance, lasting into the 16th century. As a result, England often had to fight a war on two fronts.
1314 Scotland finally declared their independence, following the defeat of a huge english army at the battle of Bannockburn.
The middle ages were characterized by constant feuds between
the rich and powerful nobility and the weak royal power of the house of Stuart. Civil war between
the royalty and the nobility seriously weakened Scotlandīs position. When King Jacob V died in 1542 following an
unsuccessful attempt to conquer England, his widow again turned to the Auld Alliance for help.
King Jacobīs famous to be daughter Mary Stuart (queen at the age of seven days), was six years old sent to
France to eventually marry the future french king. When she returned in 1561, raised as a catholic, Scotland had officially
asserted the primacy of protestantism. The scottish nobility opposed the french influence, the religion and the private life of Mary Stuart,
which led to her beeing deposed in 1567 and driven into exile in England one year later at the age of 25.
Her son, the infant James, was left behind to be brought up a protestant prince. In England Mary eventually was perceived as such a threat to the
throne that Queen Elizabeth I had her executed in 1587. James VI, now grown, had despite this a good relation to Queen Elizabeth I and became her
successor after her death in 1603. He was then king of both England and Scotland and this contributed to
the union of the two countries in 1707. Risings against the union, the greatest led by a Stuart; Bonnie Prince Charlie,
was finally crushed at the battle of Culloden Moor in 1746. For a time kilts, bagpipe-music and the carrying of arms
were banned. The Highlands were placed under military occupation, forbidding private armies and thus destroying the clan system.
The destruction of the clan system also meant that the nobility no longer had any use for the
crofters living on their land. These people had earlier been a great military asset for the clan chiefs but was now seen as a
major drawback. The crofters had to go and the Highland clearances began. Some of the land owners offered their crofters free emigration for America, others
simply burned down the houses of people not leaving. Starvation was widespread among the homeless highlanders who had to try making their
living off of the few barren bits of land available. Mass emigration for America and Canada during the 19th century emptied
out the Highlands and resulted in the large uninhabited areas still seen today. Shortage of fertile land became
a major problem up until 1919, when the Land Settlement Act finally made provision for the creation of new crofts.
During the 20th century though, the population of the Highlands has continued to decline.