Duncan MacCalman

On the Way to The Highlands

After visiting St. Abbs, exploring outdoor activities in the Isle of Arran, taking a rest in the Isle of Sky and discovering Rosslyn Chapel’s secrets, it’s time for another trip. Have you ever been to the Highlands? Or maybe you are one of those lucky guys who actually lives there? No matter your answer, since you are here reading this blog, I’m sure you are interested in the Highlands as much as we are! But this blog series is not only about the Highland area itself. It’s rather about the long, but magnificent way to the Highlands with all that the country of kilts has to offer. We’ll take you through astonishing glens, mysterious lochs and historical landscapes.

Read about Isle of Arran

The Way to the HighlandsFor those who live there, or whose ancestors did, the Highlands is not just a Scottish region, it can hardly be defined in the geographical sense, filled with unforgettable landscapes. For tourists who’ve visited this place at least once in their lives, this place is perceived as one of the most beautiful they’ve ever seen. That’s the reason why so many people are getting back to the Highlands each year.

Our trip starts in Edinburgh – one of the main arrival points to Scotland, and finishes in Inverness, the “capital” of the Highlands which itself opens the door to the whole area including Isle Of Skye, Sutherland, Orkney and Isles. Obviously, the easiest way to get to Inverness is to take the motorway M90 which then changes to the A. Choosing this way helps to save about 2 hours of travelling time, but also means missing many stirring landscapes and the stories behind them. Therefore, I absolutely recommend taking the old route to the Highlands which takes about 5 hours. If you decide to use these tips regarding the most important and interesting places to see and visit on your way, your travel time will surely extend. Not only because of these fabulous places which you cannot miss, but also due to many narrow sections of road that will necessitate slower driving for safety.

Learn more about Isle of Skye

The first part of our alternative road to the Highlands will run along the 39 miles long Antonine Wall built in AD 140s by the Romans. Then we turn to A82 road, passing the largest loch in Scotland, Loch Lomond, and the Trossachs National Park. From water the road leads us to breathtaking glens, widely known from the latest part of James Bond’s adventure. After reaching Fort William and the highest Scottish mountain – Ben Nevis, we finally reach the famous Loch Ness, which contains more fresh water than found in all the English and Welsh lakes combined. About 8 miles past the loch we finally achieve our destination – Inverness.

According to the Scotland Visitor Survey published by VisitScotland.org in 2011, 93% of visitors were satisfied or very satisfied with their experiences and half of all respondents said they’d definitely return to the Highlands in the next few years. But although these recommendations are encouraging, some potential visitors may still be wavering on whether to visit or re-visit the Highlands, either through lack of knowledge of what there is to see and do – not only in the Highlands area itself – but also on the journey there. That’s exactly what this blog series is about!

I hope this short introduction to possibilities available has encouraged you to visit GlimpseOfScotland regularly.  The route we love is not the easiest or fastest way comparing to the M90, but like brave Scots – we do like challenges!

Rosslyn Chapel and its long lost secrets

Rosslyn ChapelScotland is famous not only for its breathtaking landscapes of e.g. Isle of Arran or Isle of Skye. There’s a lot of mystery in the country of kilts, too…

Forty minutes by the public bus to be transported a hundred years away from the Edinburgh of today. The mystery of Rosslyn Chapel is captivating. You just can’t pass it by. Starting from the legends and stories around this place and ending with its astounding interior, Rosslyn Chapel may be described in thousand different ways on a million pieces of papers. However, I know that many of you are here for just a few minutes, so let’s make it brief but quaint.

The Chapel was founded in 1446 by the William St Clair, the Prince of Orkney. Due to the fact that the construction plans have not been preserved, we do not know exactly what the chapel was intended to look like. However, the foundations uncovered in the 19th century showed that it was to be a large church rather than a chapel. Building work was stopped when William St Clair died in 1484. The Chapel is his resting place.

The whole Chapel is covered by sculptures and reliefs. I would even venture to say that there’s not an empty square meter on the Green Manvaults, walls or pillars. Reliefs are situated side by side, from the one below grows another above. Their diversity seems to be even more outstanding and extraordinary due to the “crowd” on the walls and ceilings. Rosslyn Chapel maintains the symbols of many different and somehow opposite cultures. You can admire bible stories as well as Pagan, Mason and Viking symbols. Therefore, in the neighborhood of the Christian cross, you will see an angel with pipes, Lucifer turned upside-down, David’s stars, astrological signs, some fruits, vegetables and flowers as well as a Robert Bruce’s heart held by William St. Clair himself. Unbelievable, isn’t it? But the most astonishing, in my honest opinion, is the Green Man sculpture. Or rather sculptures. Green Man is a form of a human face with leaves in his mouth, which is a Celtic symbol of harvest. There are over 100 Green Men inside and around the Chapel!

Tour guides tell a lot of stories and legends that concern Rosslyn Chapel. The most interesting is perhaps the one about the Holy Grail. According to legend, this most important of all holy icons rests somewhere in the Chapel, hidden by Knights Templar members who had emigrated from France to Scotland. The legend says the Sinclair family hid Templar and Masonic artifacts and documents, which they had brought to Scotland, in the vaults. This story also shows up in a famous Dan Brown novel The Da Vinci Code (2003) and after that also in the Hollywood blockbuster based on the book (filming took place at the Chapel in August 2005). Since then, the number of visitors has increased significantly, placing the Chapel among the most popular Scottish destinations.

Apprentice PillarAnother story concerns the famous Apprentice Pillar. The legend says that during his journey to Rome, William St Clair literally fell in love with a pillar he saw. He thought it would be fine to have the same in Rosslyn and came back to Scotland with a model of that wonderful pillar. The master mason, who was asked to carve that centerpiece pillar couldn’t manage the task, and went to Rome in order to see it for himself. On his return, it turned out that his apprentice had finished the work. The master mason was so angry, jealous, and disappointed that he cracked the apprentice across the skull killing him. Rumor says that the apprentice is still present in the Chapel – as the carving of a man with the gash on his head…

A window on the south side of the Chapel hides (or maybe reveals?) another secret. Intriguing sculptures of Maizecorn and aloe vera indicate that these exotic plants had been known before Christopher Columbus returned from America. Some people suggest masons who were working in the Chapel were descendents from Vikings who in turn are often considered to have landed in the New World earlier than Columbus (for those of you who do not know yet: Orkney was a Norse land before becoming part of Scotland). On the other hand, some debunk this myth saying that these sculptures were added later.

If you are scared enough of listening legends, go outside and take a walk! Not only is the interior of Rosslyn Chapel worth praise, but the gardens and paths which it is surrounded by will let you rest your mind after the unbelievable lesson about this place. Rosslyn is not only the Chapel. When you look further you will find yourself in the Pentland Hills Regional Park, which is a 20 miles long range of hills. The Pentland Hills area is perfect for a one day trip, especially for those who live in Edinburgh or in its neighborhood. It’s absolutely popular among those who enjoy short mountain (or rather hill) tours and walking.

Rosslyn Chapel is oPentland Hillspen almost every day (except 12/24, 25 and 12/31, 1/1), the adult’s ticket costs £9. The Chapel’s authorities remind the visitors that due to the conservation work the building will be covered by scaffolding until December 2012. However, the Chapel doesn’t lose its charm despite this essential work.

The Rosslyn Chapel is spectacular and beyond one’s expectations. It keeps a number of long lost secrets. The Da Vinci Code has not truly revealed a single one, only raised the interest and speculations around Rosslyn’s mysteries. Is anything in the vaults? Should it ever be excavated at all? What are your thoughts? The debate continues…

 

The Rosslyn Chapel’s website: http://www.rosslynchapel.org.uk/

The place where time means nothing: Isle of Skye

Isle of Skye roadBreathtaking landscapes, amazing experiences and feelings of freedom. Undoubtedly, all these terms refer to one of the most incredible places on the whole planet – Scotland. Isle of Skye, one of the most popular tourist destination and probably the most attractive Highlands’ locations does not differ from the general perception of the country of kilts.

There is so much to say about the Isle of Skye, its attractiveness and diversity, therefore I will focus only on one peninsula – Trotternish.

The Trotternish region starts at the foot of Portree, the island’s largest town and central arrival place. Its name derives from Gaelic language and means “King’s Harbor”, which in turn comes from James V who arrived to the Island in order to pacify nearby clans. Nowadays Portree is inhabited by approximately 2,500 people out of which 40% can speak the ancient Celtic language.

Trotternish is rounded by the two-way road – generally uncommon for this area. Getting around the whole peninsula may be difficult for those who are not used to driving on single lane roads. Passing places have probably saved many lives so far! : )

Quiraing“To visit Skye without experiencing the Quiraing seems unthinkable” says TheSkyeGuide.com. This wonderful landslip is one of the most phenomenal places in that area. You can follow Quiraing’s available paths if you like and also climb outlying rock formations with intriguing names, for example, the Prison – a rocky peak reminiscent of a medieval jail or keep – and the Table – a flat, grassy area with stunning views. Your 3-5 mile long walk will probably leave you quite tired, but trust me – it’s worth it! No matter if it’s sunny, cloudy or windy, the experience is unforgettable – and different each time. The Quiraing area is surrounded by breathtaking and exciting, single lane road steamers.

Old Man of Storr is a 50m tall rock formation, one of the Highlands’ most famous landmarks.  Even though it seems to be impossible to get to the top of stack, people really do this! However, it remained unclimbed until the 1950s. There are many legends surrounding the Isle of Skye and The Old Man of Storr itself. One of them says that The Old Man of Storr and his wife were running away from the giant beings living there, when they turn around to look at them. That was obviously a mistake because of which both of them were turned to stones.

Kilt RockThe area has by many other tempting attractions you won’t want to miss. One of them is Kilt-rock, magnificent 200 foot high cliff composed of basalt and dolerite. This rock formation, named after its appearance which really looks like kilt pleats, remains one of the most breathtaking places in the whole Trotternish peninsula. No matter if the day is sunny or the mist is around, views from the top are gorgeous. However, the sightseers are asked to take care and not to cross the guard rails. There is a danger of falling from this cliff but it is perfectly safe if the advised precautions are observed. It is also possible to have a look at this gorgeous cliff from the water level by taking a boat trip.

Not only waterfalls and beautiful landscapes were created in the Isle of Skye by Mother Nature. The fauna also, quite literally, left its footprints on the Trotternish ground. To be more specific, dinosaurs walked across the beach at An Corran, Staffin about 165 million years ago. Their fossilized footprints were discovered in 1996. Those dinosaurs were two legged Ornithopods. The footprints may be found close to the ramp which goes down to the Staffin beach. Is there anyone in front of their monitor right now who doesn’t want to search for the footprints on the ground? That’s also fine you know. You are absolutely welcomed in the Staffin Museum, next to the Kilt-rock, where you will find other dinosaur, footprints including the world’s smallest one!Dinosaur footprint on Staffin beach

The area of Isle of Skye is strongly connected with the film industry. Scenes of many films have been based on the beautiful Scottish rock formations.

A terrifying battle for the future of human race has been fought in the Isle of Skye, recently. The latest Ridley Scott’s film, Prometheus. The Old Man of Storr is not only a star of Skye but also a star of Prometheus. Making the image somber, the Isle of Skye, a magical place full of admirable green landscapes surrounded by lakes and waterfalls seems to be the perfect scenery for a journey to the darkest corners of the universe.

Prometheus wasn’t the only film in which the Isle of Skye’s Prometheus - Isle of Skyeamazing scenery was utilised. Another recent one was the fantasy film, Stardust, telling the story of a young man who makes a promise to his lady that he’ll venture to the magical world to get a fallen star back. It’s not that difficult to guess which real places had played the role of that magical land. Beside Iceland and England, there were magical landscapes of Quiraing in front of the cameras. The Isle of Skye has everything that film directors and producers expect to find in the Highlands. These amazing places, which seem to have come out of a fairy tale, make Skye very special for film directors and producers.

Undoubtedly, along with places such as Isle of Arran or St. Abbs, the Isle of Skye with its Trotternish peninsula is one of the most beautiful Scottish places, with breathtaking views and stunning landmarks. No wonder that the Isle of Skye is adored by the film directors and producers, as well as by tourists and the locals luck enough to live here – it has everything that they expect to find in the Highlands and more. So why are you waiting? Visit Trotternish and experience the place where time means nothing…

Scottish kilt outfits – which should I use?

After finally obtaining your first kilt (whether that be an 8 yard handmade wool “tank” or a more modest 5 yarder that has perhaps been machine sewn or made with poly-viscose fabric) one of the most daunting aspects of Highland dress (after getting to know how kilts are made) can be trying to learn all the different styles of the available outfits.

Jacket style is paramount in defining the smartness of your outfit, and deciding what type of jacket to wear, and working out which type of sporran, tie or hose complement your chosen style can sometimes become very stressful for the new kilt wearer! In this post we will aim to educate about traditional Highland clothing, and teach a little about the standards of dress for the modern kiltie!

First and best known of the popular kilt jackets is the Prince Charlie. This is essential for all evening events where a high level of formality is required, and is roughly equivalent to black tie. The Prince Charlie jacket, also known as a “coatee” is a formal, tailed jacket with satin lapels and Braemar style cuffs. This is traditionally worn with a three-button waistcoat, cut low to show the front of the shirt which should feature a pointed wing collar and be worn with a bow-tie. Complete your outfit with a full-dress sporran with polished cantle, and a jewelled kilt pin and sgian dubh. Proper kilt hose, smart flashes and leather brogues are also a must, of course. The key in pulling off a full-regalia Prince Charlie outfit is attention to detail; as the most formal of the kilt outfits there is much less room for improvisation, however many discerning gentlemen find that patterned hose, unusual sgian dubhs and eye-catching kilt pins are the perfect way to elevate this commonly seen outfit from the typical hire-company fare and really produce a knock-out effect.

Argyle kilt outfitThe next style we shall consider is the Argyle jacket. An Argyle is less formal than a Prince Charlie – and also a lot more versatile! The Argyle features self-faced lapels and a straight-cut back but still shows a flash of formality with polished chrome buttons and gauntlet cuffs. This can be worn without a waistcoat, and with wing-collar shirt and bow tie, as a black tie alternative should a Prince Charlie be unavailable. The Argyle however, can also be used as a suit equivalent with 5-button waistcoat and tie or cravat for less dressy events. For suit equivalent use, your sporran and other leather goods are the key. For evening wedding receptions and other parties impart a sense of gravity by wearing a full-dress fur sporran and ensure all leather items are well-polished and black. For day-time events and smart-casual evening wear consider an all-leather dress or fur semi-dress sporran and shake things up a little by introducing rich brown leather hues into your outfit.

Tweed JacketSo you’re now covered from ballroom to dinner party, what about more casual events? Those times, such as an afternoon at a Highland Games, or lunch with the in-laws, where you’d like to make a good impression and show the kilt off to its best advantage, but at the same time wish to be comfortable and not stand out too much from the crowd. In this case a tweed daywear jacket can be the ideal compromise. Tweeds are now available in a huge range of shades, allowing you to find the perfect complimentary shade for your tartan kilt, and the diversity of pocket arrangements, cuff styles, button materials (such as stag horn or wood), and other modifications can really allow you to let your personal style shine through. Walking shoes or brown brogues are perfect for this, with a semi-dress fur sporran or an all leather casual sporran. A Tattersall shirt and tie is one option for a smart-casual afternoon, although this method of dress also opens you up to wearing turtlenecks, polo shirts and many other tops where no tie is needed! Additionally, due to the lack of waistcoat, you can also now consider wearing a kilt belt and buckle, another great way to add the personal touch to your ensemble, with a mind-boggling range of designs available. Richly coloured kilt hose and an appropriate sgian dubh, perhaps with a carved blackwood handle, are again ideal for adding a touch of luxury and a sense of completion to this type of outfit.

Coming down the scale yet again we are now in a position where a jacket is no longer required, but that is no reason not to be conscious of your overall impression. Kilts look fantastic when worn with chunky boots, rolled down hose and a thick Aran jumper for a trip to the pub, or, for the preppy look, why not try a crisp polo shirt with Balmoral tam? Accessories are still the key and an attractive kilt pin, appropriate sporran (for this level most likely a simple leather pouch, perhaps with some embossing or other detail) and nice belt will ensure you really look the part no matter what the occasion!

Jacobean kilt outfitOne final major style remains to be discussed; the Jacobean outfit. This is a recently popularised style, which evokes the romance of the early kilt wearers. With flowing ghillie shirts and wool or leather waistcoats these outfits are very popular for casual weddings and among young men who wish to wear a simple and highly identifiable Scottish kilt outfit on holidays, stag nights and other fun events. As a casual style the Jacobean waistcoat can be worn with a wide range of accessories, but for an authentic feel just a few items such as sword style kilt pin and leather sporran are ideal. As this waistcoat is worn open, belts can also be worn without ruining the line of the outfit and this is another great way to elevate the outfit slightly and give a finished look.

I hope this entry has given you some food for thought, and possibly opened your eyes a little as to the true diversity of the kilt! Share in the comments below if you have a particular favourite outfit, or even just one particular piece that makes you feel like a million pounds whenever you wear it. For my part that item would have to be my Harris Tweed daywear jacket, in lovely muted beiges with a red over-check… I can wear this almost anywhere with my clan kilt and favourite brogues and always feel I look my best!

Isle of Arran: So-called ‘Island Time’

Goatfell, Isle of ArranWhether you are a full-time employee and your free time is limited to one or two days per week, or you are travelling, and the time you can spend in one particular place also runs out quickly, it’s almost impossible to discover the beauty of the whole country or even parts of it (such as Isle of Skye). Fortunately, the country of kilts enchants with places that are perfect for the people in the positions described above.

What kind of place do I have on my mind? The Isle of Arran!

When you step aboard the ferry to Arran you will start to experience a sensation known as ‘Island time’. The moment you set foot on Arran’s ground you will feel comfortable, a thousand miles away from the stress and problems of everyday life.

Scotland’s seventh largest island sits in the Firth of Clyde between Ayrshire and Kintyre, this location means it is also one of the southernmost of the Scottish islands. At 19 miles long by 10 miles wide, Arran can be driven around in less than four hours. There is one more important thing when it comes to the Isle of Arran – it’s located close to Glasgow and Scotland’s Ayrshire coast, which makes Arran a popular and easily accessible tourist destination.

It is said that Isle of Arran is a “Scotland in Miniature”. Arran owes this proud name to its resemblance of the geology of mainland Scotland: sparsely populated and mountainous northern half and a flatter southern half. Therefore, visitors can enjoy the scenery of the country of kilts in one, relatively small island.

Still hesitate to go there? Then let me tell you what attraction you may miss.

Brodick CastleLet’s take Brodick Castle for instance – its history takes us back to Viking times. The staggering setting makes the Brodick Castle even more like a fairytale: 200 meters from the sea, surrounded by hills and decorated with gardens. There are also many interesting things to see inside the castle.  Among these, items of furniture dating from the 17th century, excellent paintings, porcelain, silver and also a collection of sporting pictures and trophies. The Country Park is full of waterfalls, gorges and wildlife. Look out for the red squirrels!

Arran’s terrain is perfect for walking, cycling and many other outdoor activities, no matter if it’s for a few days or long holiday. For golf enthusiasts, the Isle of Arran offers The Arran Golf Pass which entitles the owner to play one round on each of Arran’s seven popular courses: Brodick, Corrie, Lamlash, Lochranza, Machrie Bay, Shiskine and Whiting Bay. The perfect opportunity to wear your tartan trousers, or kilt if you like!

View from GoatfellBut if you prefer enjoying Arran in a more ‘dynamic’ way – climb Goat Fell! There are 5 routes to the highest peak of the island (874 m = 2,866 ft). The most popular, 5 km long path (around 3 miles), starts in Cladach and follows through the forested grounds, rhododendron bushes and moorland at the end. When you reach the peak, on a clear day, you may even see Ireland!

As I said before, the interesting geology structure of Arran makes it tempting and encouraging, especially for cyclists. This Scottish island is great for cycling on and off road alike. Crossing the island by bike is extremely exciting and provides breathtaking views. But remember, it is better to take the route from the north-west to south-east. Although, if you prefer extremely steep uphill cycling, you can always travel the other way around ; ).

Holy IsleThe Isle of Arran doesn’t only suits tourists interested in physical activities, there’s more for the spirit. There is a smaller island just off-shore, called The Holy Isle, where you can rest mentally in the Centre for World Peace and Health. Under the care of Lama Yeshe Rinpoche a Tibetan Buddhist meditation master you may discover the Kagyu tradition. The Centre is open to visitors from March to October, for both Buddhists and non-Buddhists alike, no matter if you wear a kilt or not.

Not only great landscapes and interesting activities may convince you to visit the Isle of Arran. There is also something for cheese gourmets.  The Scottish climate and geography are well suited to cheese-making. Nowadays, there are more than 20 cheese-makers across the country of kilts, and Arran is one of the most popular locations for this type of industry. Additionally to this, Arran has it’s very own microbrewery, the Arran Brewery creates a unique range of traditional beers, and with tasting sessions and tours available all year round, this may well provide the opportunity to enjoy a diverting afternoon and discover a new favourite pint!

ArranThere is one more thing you should know before going to this Isle. There are lots of sheep everywhere! Sometimes it is even more likely to meet a sheep than a car on the road.

Thanks to the A841 road getting around the Isle of Arran is a piece of cake. This follows a circuitous route around the island, sticking close to the coast, so the whole island can be traversed easily. The Isle of Arran is absolutely perfect for a one-day trip and, with so much to see and do, ideal for long holidays as well. Nothing will give you a better perspective than your own experience, so pack up your kilt and go! :).

How Kilts Are Made? – Kilt Construction

Luxury 8 Yard Kilt with Flashes by John MorrisonThe creation of that famous Scottish garment, the clan kilt, is a bit of a mystery to most people outside of Scotland – and for many of those living in Scotland also!

As part of this series to discover more about Scotland I made it my mission to find out more about this unique piece of men’s Scottish clothing. After several years of wearing off-the-peg cheap kilts I wanted to learn all about this intriguing process and fully understand the (sometimes bewildering) array of options available to me before ordering my first made to measure kilt.

First of all of course – which cloth should I purchase? As I was having a handmade kilt I wanted a family connection and these links drew me to select a Fraser tartan fabric, but with so many different cloths bearing the Fraser name how was I supposed to decide which one was “right”? Looking into this revealed all and here are my two top tips for deciphering tartan names…

  • Words such as Hunting, Dress, Wedding, and Old refer to different “setts”, or patterns. These often originated in circumstances where a different pattern was desired for social events and occasions. Clan is often used to show the standard pattern.
  • Words such as Ancient, Weathered, Muted, and Reproduction refer to the shades used to dye the threads, and affect the colour of the tartan but not the pattern. Modern is the default.

After selecting my cloth (Fraser Red Reproduction) I began to look into ordering my kilt. Since the popularisation of the modern kilt, a number of aspects have become available for personalising your individual garment. I will not pretend to understand the minutiae of all of these aspects as kilt makers in Scotland train long and hard to attain the knowledge and skills they hold, and space here is limited, however the main points are as follows:

  • how kilt is madeAprons – the flat front panels of a kilt which are wrapped from hip to hip.
  • Apron fringe – a layer of fringing along the edge of the over- apron to provide a finished edge to the front of the kilt, some people choose not to have a fringe and some choose to have a very thick, long fringe, known as a triple fringe.
  • Fell – the part of a kilt from waistband to the seat where the pleats are stitched into place to stop them flaring out over the rump, and to allow the rest of the pleated area to move and “swish” properly.
  • Pleats – the kilt pleats are the most important defining feature of a traditional kilt, these appear at the rear of the kilt and, while the number and depth will vary depending on the amount of fabric being used, and pattern size of the cloth, they are an integral part of any proper kilt. Two pleating methods are used, knife pleats which all face the same way (kind of like a folding fan!), and box pleats. One box pleat consists of two knife pleats facing each other, giving a flat portion facing out. Of course kilts which utilise box-pleating generally have far fewer pleats than knife pleating!
  • knife pleatPleating Pattern – kilts can be pleated to the stripe, or pleated to the sett. When pleating to the stripe one vertical line of the pattern is picked and this line is used to determine the folding point for each pleat. In the finished product the horizontal bands of the pattern are emphasised. The other method, pleating to the sett, will have pleats of varying depths as the aim is to preserve the pattern of the tartan across the pleated section of the kilt, so each pleat will have to be folded at a different point. This is a much more popular method of pleating in modern times.
  • Kick-pleat – the purpose of the kick-pleat on a knife pleated kilt is to ensure that the pleats lie correctly on both sides, this pleat is smaller and faces in towards the last pleat, keeping it in place and giving an even look from the front of the kilt. The kick pleat is also the only part of a kilt which will have a hem, as this pleat is at a slight angle a curved section of less than half an inch is hemmed up along perhaps 3-6 inches of selvedge to ensure a smooth finish.
  • Buckles – the average Scottish kilt will have either two or three buckles, usually three. The under-apron has one buckle which slots through and fastens on the left hip, the right hip has one buckle at the same height, and a second buckle just an inch or two beneath that. This extra buckle allows the wearer to secure the over-apron more securely.
  • Sporran loops – two loops are often provided on the back of a kilt for the sporran strap to be threaded through and ensure the weight of your sporran does not pull the chain down and out of place.

I have now placed my order and expect to receive my finished kilt in just a few weeks. A hand-made 8 yard kilt, knife pleated to the sett, with double fringe, three black leather straps, two cloth sporran loops and a whole lot of Scottish pride*!

Now my next goal is to convince my good lady wife (by the way, I should tell her more about tartan for ladies) that a pair of matching tartan trousers for the golf range is essential. Although, to be quite honest, a good Scottish kilt is very versatile and can be worn to almost any event. Teamed with a rugby shirt and stout boots for hill walking (or pub crawling!), with a leather sporran and Argyle jacket for day-time smart events or dinner parties, or with the full regalia of Prince Charlie, cantled sporran, polished ghillie brogues and a whole host of other Scottish accessories for weddings, and black tie – the possibilities with a traditional tartan kilt outfits are endless and I cannot wait to try mine out when it arrives!

*If you are interested I have bought this kilt.

St.Abbs – Scotland in a Nutshell

St.AbbsHere I am, an American, traveler and Scottish enthusiast. My grandparents came from Scotland so thanks to the stories about Scottish landscapes, kilt making and styles of kilt outfits they were telling me all my childhood I simply fell in love with this amazing country.

My personal goal in this new blog series is to let you know which places are worth seeing, what exactly you should visit in the country of kilts and what to experience.

Beauty of Scotland. These words fit together. It leaves no doubt for those lucky ones who’ve had the chance to taste the Scottish flavours at least once in their lives. It doesn’t surprise at all that, although the rain is falling much of the time, Scottish landscapes remain absolutely breath taking.
We all know places like Edinburgh, Aberdeen or Isle of Skye, whether you’ve been there or not and regardless of if you live in Scotland, or in any other place in the world. The country of kilts has something more to offer, places visited less often, almost unknown to tourists. How to get to know them?

Cliffs in St.AbbsHere is the first glimpse of Scotland – a small fishing village located about 50 miles from Edinburgh – St. Abbs.

There are few important and convincing reasons why I’ve decided to visit this wonderful place.
First of all – the location. St. Abbs is situated in the vicinity of Edinburgh, where the Scottish adventure begins very often. Therefore, St. Abbs seems to be a popular place for both tourists who travel in order to see as much as they can, and local city dwellers looking for a day trip, due to the lack of time in this modern world perhaps.

lighthouse in St.AbbsScottish enthusiasts know exactly where to find cliffs in Scotland – mostly in the North. I recommend the short cliff walk at St.Abbs, with the route starting just before the village on the left hand side and then come back through National Nature Reserve. Alternatively you could try out the nearby coastal path. On the coastal way you can encounter a small lighthouse. In the nature reserve, alongside beautiful landscapes, you will find colonies of seabirds including guillemots, kittiwakes, razorbills, shags, fulmars, puffins and herring gulls. There are no words to describe the excitement that accompanied me on the road.

Coffee shop St.AbbsAfter such a lovely walk I thought it’d be good to have a cup of coffee in one of the St. Abbs’ coffee shops. An acquaintance recommended The Old Schoolhouse Coffee Shop to me. When you finally get there, trust me, order their scone. This small bread is made of wheat, barley or oatmeal and a baking powder. Scones, originally hailing from both Scotland and the South West England, are even more delicious with a cup of coffee or tea.

If the exciting cliff-walk and relaxing cup of tea is not enough for you, try to go deeper! St. Abbs is a mecca for scuba divers. The cliffs are around 100m high, but they also descend 30m down under the sea. The quality of water in the Marine Reserve is excellent, mainly due to the location, well away from the centres of industry and denser populations. 10, 12 or even 20m visibility is also possible, thanks to the spring tides and on-shore winds. For many visitors the extraordinary underwater scenery may be much more delightful than the land.

scuba divers in St.AbbsIt is clear to me that St. Abbs is one of the “must see” places. Amazing landscapes along with rich heritage makes it tempting and exciting. This small village on the south east coast offers all that the Scotland does best: seaside, cliffs, lighthouses, meadows and heathers. Believe me, it’s a good start for exploring Scotland scenes and be prepared for the full Scottish experience.