history scotland

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Castle Varrich, Highland, Scotland

Castle Varrich’s (Caisteal Bharraich) precise origin and date are unknown. The ruins are located in the far north of the Scottish highlands near the village of Tongue on a local high point of rock overlooking both the Kyle of Tongue and the village of Tongue. Varrich Castle has spectacular views of mountains Ben Loyal and Ben Hope.

The castle was the ancient seat of the Clan Mackay and it is possible that they built the castle over the site of an old Norse fort sometime in the 14th century or later.  Little is known about its history.

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Knap of Howar, Orkney Islands, Scotland

The Knap of Howar on the island of Papa Westray is a Neolithic farmstead which may be the oldest preserved stone house in northern Europe. Radiocarbon dating shows that it was occupied from 3700 BC to 2800 BC, earlier than the similar houses in the settlement at Skara Brae on the Orkney Mainland.The farmstead consists of two adjacent rounded rectangular thick-walled buildings with very low doorways facing the sea. The larger and older structure is linked by a low passageway to the other building, which has been interpreted as a workshop or a second house. Though they now stand close to the shore, they would have originally lain inland. The stone furniture is intact giving a vivid impression of life in the house. Items found in middens (refuse heaps) show that the inhabitants were keeping cattle, sheep and pigs, cultivating barley and wheat and gathering shellfish as well as fishing for species which have to be line caught using boats. Finds of finely-made and decorated Unstan ware pottery link the inhabitants to chambered cairn tombs nearby and to sites far afield including Balbridie and Eilean Domhnuill. The name Howar is believed to be derived from Old Norse word haugr meaning mounds or barrows.

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Creich Castle, Fife, Scotland

Creich Castle was the birthplace of Mary Beaton, one of the “Four Marys” chosen by Mary of Guise to serve her daughter, Mary I of Scotland. In the thirteenth century, Creich Castle belonged to Macduff, Earl of Fife, however, the building we see today was erected in the sixteenth century. The castle was formerly surrounded by a bog but over the years the water was drained.

Frankenstein" Bog Mummies Discovered in Scotland

The mummies were discovered more than a decade ago below the remnants of 11th-century houses at Cladh Hallan, a prehistoric village on the island of South Uist, off the coast of Scotland.  The bodies had been buried in the fetal position 300 to 600 years after death.

Based on the condition and structures of the skeletons, scientists had previously determined that the bodies had been placed in a peat bog just long enough to preserve them and then removed. The skeletons were then reburied hundreds of years later.

There was something wrong about these bodies, though. The woman’s jaw was a little too large for her skull, and the man’s limbs seemed out of place. The female body had been put together with parts from people who had died around the same time. But the parts that made up the male body were from people who had died hundreds of years apart.  

After 10 years, researchers ran DNA tests on the bodies and discovered something disturbing and macabre: These were not the bodies of two people. They were the bodies of six separate people fused together  like a morbid jigsaw puzzle or like Frankenstein’s monster.

Whoever made these jigsaw corpses didn’t simply push bones together. The researchers believed that the bodies were still preserved when they were attached—with mummified flesh still on the bones.

Burnswark’s bloody Roman history becomes clearer

There’s growing evidence that a landmark flat-topped hill in Dumfriesshire was the site of the first major battle of the Roman invasion of Scotland.

By Willie Johnston, 26 August 2016.

Archaeologists have been trying for 300 years to assess the role of Burnswark in the Roman occupation.New excavations suggest the truth is more bloody than had been thought up to now. Burnswark rises a thousand feet from the Solway plain and is clearly visible from miles around.On its summit the remains of a native hill fort. On the north and south slopes, two huge Roman camps capable of housing 6,000 soldiers or more. But what went on here?

One theory is that the Romans used the abandoned fort to train their men in weaponry - an early firing range. Another suggests that the fort was still occupied by local tribes people and came under prolonged siege to starve them out.

But new evidence points to a third - much bloodier - version of events. Lead archaeologist Andrew Nicholson believes it was the first assault in the Roman invasion of Scotland around 140 AD. "What this probably is, is the start of the Antonine push from Hadrian’s Wall, conquering all of southern Scotland,“ he said. "After the emperor Hadrian has died the new emperor Antoninus Pius needs a victory as the incoming emperor. 

"Southern Scotland is beyond the wall, beyond the borders, it is barbarian and Burnswark and the rest of Annandale and everywhere south of the Forth-Clyde line is its intended target." A two-week dig last summer is being following by another now. “I would suspect that probably nobody survived this and the Roman army moved on into the rest of Scotland.” - John Reid, Trimontium Trust.

Using metal detectors it has been found that massive amounts of lead-shot were fired at the fort - and not in a way indicating target practice. More evidence is the known presence of a general Lollius Urbicus brought here from the Middle East to do the emperor’s dirty work. John Reid of the Roman Heritage group the Trimontium Trust says Urbicus had "previous”. "He made his name in the Jewish war which had taken place in Israel in the previous four years where they had literally gone through the whole of Judea taking hill forts one after the other,“ he said.

"He was given the job of taking Scotland, we know that from Roman literary sources. "So he was here and this is where they blood their troops." It seems very clear they meant business. Many of the lead bullets found at Burnswark have identical 4mm holes in them which, initially, was a mystery. John Reid went to Germany to consult an expert in sling shot ballistics, Joerg Sprave.

And the effect of the hole became obvious when replicas were made and fired.

"You’d hear this screeching noise that you’ve never heard before or experienced before in your life,” explained Mr Nicholson. "What sort of unearthly spirits are these dreadful Romans conjuring up to assail you with amongst all their missiles? "I hear this keening sound through the air and the chap with the spear next to me drops dead and I wonder what on earth is doing it. I’d be utterly terrified.“

So, the personnel involved and the quantity and type of slingshot used suggests complete overkill against a weaker, poorly-armed enemy. "The Romans were well recognised for what is called exemplary violence,” said Mr Reid. "These people literally did suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune.

“This literally is a site where people suffered an attrition to the very end and I would suspect that probably nobody survived this and the Roman army moved on into the rest of Scotland." More work will be required to prove this new theory definitively and that’s planned in the years ahead. But those involved here are confident that - in police slang - they’ve got the Romans bang to rights.

The Tontine Buildings, Glasgow. Taken by James Craig Annan in 1868 when he was commissioned by the Improvements Trust to photograph the slums of Glasgow’s old town which were due for demolition under the Glasgow City Improvements Act of 1866. The dark and narrow closes off the High Street and Saltmarket could be difficult to photograph but he overcame the problems and produced an important and sensitive account of the terrible living conditions.

Trongate, from the Tron Steeple.

High Street from College Open.

Close number 157, Bridgegate.

Broad Close no 167 High Street.

Old Vennel, off High Street.

Close number 118 High Street.

Main Street, Gorbals.

Princes Street from King Street.