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Stories from Scotland: Kelvingrove Sets the Tone

By | January 13, 2016
Loch Lomond

Cruising Loch Lomond. Credit: Janice Gimbel

There we encountered several classic sites of Scottish memory that had been introduced at Kelvingrove.  On the slopes of Glencoe, we remembered the mid-winter massacre of Clan MacDonald in 1692. 

At the Battlefield and Visitor Centre of Culloden, we gained firsthand knowledge of the weapons wielded by the Jacobite troops in 1746. 

Dunrobin Castle

Dunrobin Castle. Credit: Chris Miller

And at Dunrobin Castle, we wandered the rooms, gardens and private museum of the Sutherland family seat.  As we’d learned, the Sutherland’s treatment of their tenants during the Clearances contrasted sharply with the fairy-tale elegance of their home. But the tragedies evoked at Kelvingrove of Glencoe, Culloden and the Clearances and reinforced on our journey were offset by more positive images.  Tassie’s portrait medallions and Donald Dewar’s bust at the museum called to mind the achievements of the Scottish Enlightenment in the eighteenth century and the return of Scotland’s parliament of Edinburgh in the twentieth.  And the irreverence we sensed at the museum never flagged during our trip.  Everyone we met -- from the falconer at Dunrobin to the shepherd at Kincraig to our whiskey specialists at Pitlochry and Edinburgh -- all seemed to relish a certain very Scottish disregard for conventions.  Even the sweet-voiced grandmother in the cèilidh band who sang traditional songs for us had mischief in her eye, relating local plots to topple and demolish the giant statue of the Duke of Sutherland that still stands on Ben Bhraggie.


Shepherd at Kincraig. Credit: Weldon Gimbel

Like Kelvingrove, Scotland also seemed full of unexpected juxtapositions.  Christian met Viking at the village of Luss for instance, where the hog-backed memorial we found in the churchyard warned against seeing all Norse in Scotland as virgin-snatching heathens.  


Cassandra Hannahs

With a Ph.D. in medieval history, Cassandra Hannahs spent most of her academic career at Middlebury College in Vermont, where she was a tenured professor of history. At Middlebury, Cassandra regularly taught courses on Celtic, Viking and Anglo-Norman Studies, as well as more general courses on the Middle Ages, the Renaissance, and the history of Christianity. In her research and lectures, Cassandra explores the cultural and political exchanges that have historically linked Ireland, Scotland, England, and Europe. As Study Leader for the Smithsonian since 2000, she enjoys sharing her love and knowledge of the British Isles and Ireland with travelers on land and sea.

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