15 October 2007

Scotophile Monday

Welcome back to Scotophile Monday - the day where I post snippets of Scots-related news, sites, photos and nonsense that I've gleaned from the web throughout the week. All sources credited. Enjoy!

Scots Rated Friendliest
The 2008 edition of the Blue List from travel giant Lonely Planet has placed Scotland in the top 10 of the world's friendliest countries, stating that "Time after time the welcome is warm." Of course, the Australian-based guide can't resist commenting on Scotland's "brutal" weather and "painfully bad" goalkeepers. The guide says to forget "Trainspotting" and the "Glasgow Kiss" and suggests that the country's fighting spirit has left Scots "with an extroverted, buoyant demeanour and a blackly humorous nationalism; you'd want to see the funny side after witnessing some of those goalies. Naturally, this attitude rubs off on travellers and Scots are so loyal they want you to share in the good stuff too." Some football fans did feel that the jibes about Scotland's goalkeepers were out of date, however, particularly after the recent defeat of France, the current World Champions. Apart from that, it was smiles all the way...

Golf...Or Geese?
The billion pound golf resort being planned for Balmeddie, on Aberdeenshire's coast, has raised a lot of controversy, with advocates pointing to the economic benefits and those against pointing to the environmental damage which will be done by creating two golf courses, along with a 450-bedroom hotel, 950 holiday homes, 36 luxury golf villas, 500 private residences, an elite golf academy and a driving range. Part of the 1,400 acres includes an area designated as a "Site of Special Scientific Interest." But even if it gets planning approval, the luxury development could be badly affected by one local fisherman. Mike Forbes owns 23 acres - right bang in the middle of the development - and he is refusing to sell, despite offers which have risen to £350,000. The "working farm" has geese, hens, cats, bits of old tractor, a derelict car and burnt out barrels scattered around. In other words, it's an eyesore. But Mike claims says that he is not budging from where he has lived all his life and his father and grandfather before him. He reckons that Donald Trump "thought we were all a load of cabbages up here and he could just sweep through and clear up." Trump is scathing of his adversary - suggesting that the land was in "total disrepair" and that Mike is just holding out for more money. Trump says that if he can't buy the 23 acres he will build his luxury development around it. Of course, well-heeled golfers may be put off this wild paradise by the rusty tractors used to drag in fishing nets and their frames in from the sea, and the oil cans used as homemade braziers for burning rubbish. The battle continues...

Highland Museum and Art Gallery
The Aberdeen Press and Journal has revealed "secret" plans for a new £15 million Highland museum and art gallery, with three potential sites being identified for an "iconic" building that would showcase the best of the region's historic artefacts and artworks. Potential sites include the former Inverness Royal Academy and another at the Northern Meeting Park, beside St Andrew's Cathedral and Eden Court Theatre. The new building would replace the existing Inverness Museum and Art Gallery, which is considered too cramped and inaccessible. The aim would be to bring back Highland artefacts, currently on display outside the region, back to the north.

Butterfly Stats to Help Environment
You might have thought there were plenty of indicators of the state of the environment available to government statisticians already, but this week it was announced that state of moths and butterflies are to be used by the Scottish Government as an aid to measuring the changes in climate and biodiversity. Of course, Butterfly Conservation Scotland (BCS) said it was delighted by the decision, which it hoped would raise the profile of threatened species. Some resident species have declined in recent years, although the warmer temperatures have encouraged others to move further north. The Orange Tip is now frequently seen in Scotland and there have been sightings in recent years of the Comma butterfly as far north as Scone Palace and Dundee. There are now 33 species of butterfly seen regularly in Scotland, with some, such as the chequered skipper, surviving only in Scotland, having died out in England.

Stirring Stuff
The Golden Spurtle World Porridge Making Championship was won last Sunday by a guesthouse owner from Argyll. A dozen cooks from across the UK assembled at Carrbridge in Strathspey for the annual contest, now in its 14th year. Maria Soep, who runs the Roineabhal Country House at Kilchrenan in Lorn, near Loch Awe in Argyll, emerged victorious in a final three-way cook-off. Ms Soep said she had obtained an edge from the quality of her pinhead oatmeal from a health food shop in Oban, which had been soaked overnight with added salt and "good water". The winner of the "speciality" section featured porridge with stewed apple, cinnamon, raisins, whipped cream, chocolate and grape nuts. Who said porridge was "dull"?

Scottish Web Site of the Week
This week Inverness hosted the first annual meeting of "Scotland's Rural Past," a five-year project to investigate and record Scotland's rural heritage. The project, being led by the Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland (RCAHMS), aims to record evidence that still survives of the pre-industrialised countryside. This includes ruined buildings, farmsteads, townships, field systems, earthworks, boundary dykes, limekilns and sheepfolds. Countless generations of rural communities worked the land and shaped the countryside seen today. This rural way of life has now almost vanished, leaving only the fading remains of their farms, townships and fields. Evidence of this past is seen in the ruins of the settlements they left behind and in the subtle signs which remain in the landscape. A new website at www.scotlandsruralpast.org.uk has been launched.

Info Uncovered on Perthshire's Roman Fort
Archaeologists recently completed a thorough survey of a Roman fort at Strageath in Perthshire, north-east of Muthill. Originally built at the end of the first century, Strageath was one of a line of fortifications built by the Romans on and around the Gask Ridge in Perthshire. They were created to control the central part of the river Earn valley and access to the Highlands via Loch Earn and the Sma' Glen. This frontier system is the earliest Roman land frontier in Britain, built in the 70s AD, 50 years before Hadrian's Wall and 70 years before the Antonine Wall. Recent research suggests it may have been the first Roman land frontier in Europe. Strageath was abandoned, but later re-occupied at the same time as the construction of the Antonine Wall across central Scotland (built between 142 and 144AD). Unlike other Roman Forts north of the Antonine Wall, it seems that Strageath may have been surrounded by a civilian settlement - a so-called "vicus".

This Week in Scottish History
October 14 1285 - Second marriage of King Alexander III (to Yolanda de Dreux).
October 14 1318 - Edward Bruce, brother of Robert the Bruce, killed in a battle near Dundalk, Ireland.
October 14 1633 - Birth at St James' Palace, London of King James VII, second son of King Charles I and brother of King Charles II.
October 14 1969 - The 50 pence decimal coin was first issued, replacing the ten shilling note.
October 15 1686 - Birth of poet Allan Ramsay, father of Allan Ramsay the painter.
October 15 1902 - Edinburgh's Balmoral Hotel opened its doors for the first time.
October 15 1943 - Poet William Souter died in Perth.
October 16 1430 - King James II born.
October 16 1774 - Poet Robert Fergusson died.
October 17 1346 - Battle of Neville's Cross during which King David II was captured by the English.
October 17 1850 - James "Paraffin" Young obtained a patent for the extraction of paraffin from shale, starting the chemical industry in West Lothian.
October 17 1995 - Bridge to the Isle of Skye opened.
October 18 1958 - Denis Law became the youngest footballer to play for Scotland when he took part in the match against Cardiff when he was 18 years and 7 months old.
October 19 1687 - First sedan chairs available for public hire introduced to Edinburgh.
October 20 1971 - Explosion at Clarkston Toll shopping centre, killing 12.

Welcome to Scotland...Connecticut
"Scotland" has been used as a place name (or part of a place name) right across the USA in 19 states. The first settler in Scotland in Connecticut was Issac Magoon. In 1700 he purchased 1,950 acres of land and thus began Scotland’s history - the town named Scotland as a way of commemorating his ancestral home. Scotland became the birthplace of Samuel Huntington, a signer of the Declaration of Independence and a distinguished statesman during the Revolutionary War and early Republic. Last weekend (Columbus Day Weekend) they held the 20th Scotland Connecticut Highland Festival. Spectators were treated to all the normal Highland Games type of events - the constant skirl of pipers, the gentle thumping of the lassies at the dancing competitions and the massed bands, including the Rhode Island Highlanders, who had crossed the state border for the day. The Quaboag Highlanders from Massachusetts wowed the crowd with their pipe adapted version of "America the Beautiful" at the opening ceremony. The slightly American-centric variations of the "games" included "Hay Bale Tossing" (over a rising bar that gets to over 35 feet) and lassies partaking of caber tossing - apparently for this event they had 4 of the top 10 women in the world there on Sunday. And a lady from Uddingston (the original, near Glasgow) was doing a brisk trade in UK sweets and comestibles. See also www.scotlandgames.org.

All of the above are from the Rampant Scotland newsletter.

Outdoors Scotland Newsletter
Events for October. Click here

"Monster" Salmon Caught on River
Claims a "monster" salmon caught on the River Ness in the Highlands are being checked against the record for the largest to be hooked in the UK.
Anglers are hopeful that the male, or cock salmon, will break the 64lbs record set 85 years ago. The anglers who caught the fish on the River Ness in Inverness at the weekend said it was 50in long and had a girth of 40in. Images and its measurements are being analysed at a fisheries laboratory. Read more

Scottish Webcam of the Week
Keep an eye on the beautiful Isle of Skye

Where I Live Screensaver
Have the loveliest Scottish screensaver in your office! Click here

Treasured Places
Vote for your favorite Scottish archive image here.

Save Our Seas - Why We Should Care About This Bird
THE gannet was thought to be the one seabird immune to the food shortages which have caused devastation in colonies across Scotland. Its famed tendency to eat almost anything, its hunting ability and a foraging range of hundreds of miles supposedly safeguarded the gannet from the mass breeding failures affecting colonies of such birds as the puffin, guillemot and kittiwake. Conservationists have watched live on monitoring cameras as kittiwake chicks starved to death because their parents have been unable to find enough food to sustain them. But now, scientists have found the first signs that even gannets - which will eat anything from tiny sandeels to large mackerel - are struggling to find enough food for their young. Read more

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