Many Scottish castles really wouldn't look out of place in a Disney fairytale, often undeniably romantic, however castles were usually constructed by our ancestors in strategic locations on islands, beside lochs or in glens to defend against both marauding invaders and wily foes. We really have our ancestors strategic planning to thank when enjoying the beautiful settings they created. While many now lie in ruin, there are many of Scotland's great castles which continue to stand the test of time. A Scottish Castle could be the prefect romantic getaway this Valentine's day, with the opportunity to relax in the rooms once graced by royalty and the nobles of Scotland. Many of these restored castles are now four or five star hotels, where in some you can book your own private turret or if you really want to spoil yourselves hire a whole castle and feel like the lord and lady of the Scottish land surrounding you. The castle pictured is the beautiful Kilchurn Castle, built during the 15th and 17th centuries on a rocky peninsula within Loch Awe. Occasionally when water levels rise within the loch access to the castle becomes restricted and the site effectively becomes it's own temporary island.
Irn-Bru, Scotland's carbonated soft drink is often described as “Scotland’s other national drink” after whisky. The drinks innovative and sometimes controversial marketing campaigns have kept it as the number one selling soft drink in Scotland, where it competes directly with global brands such as Coca-Cola and Pepsi. This is quite an achievement for Irn-Bru as Scotland is one of only a handful of countries in which Cola-Cola is not the biggest selling soft drink, other countries include Peru where the native Inca Kola is most popular and Japan where canned tea and coffee based drinks lead. Irn-Bru is known for its bright orange colour with many references made throughout Scottish pop-culture to the 'ginger' drink. Irn-Bru recently launched a range a range of 57 tartan clad bottles covering approximately 10,000 last names. If your not related to one of the clans, you are invited to join Clan Irn-Bru which features the officially registered Irn-Bru tartan, a very bright orange blue and white tartan which certainly stands out. Lovingly known as a great pick me up after a long night of partying - great for your valentines celebrations.
Scotland is home to a wonderfully diverse range of wildlife, from the bottlenose dolphins in the Moray Firth to the red squirrels still thriving in the pinewoods of the Highlands. We are incredibly lucky to have all of this wonderful wildlife and spectacular scenery on our doorstep, all of which continues to take our breath away. Red Deer are the undisputed Monarch of the Glen, the largest of all Britain's land mammals. One of Europe's most spectacular wildlife phenomena is the annual Scottish red deer 'rut' which takes place each autumn as stags battle for dominance and for the chance to mate. Our favourite of all Scottish wildlife are the incredibly cute Highland Cows, which are known as a hardy breed due to the rugged nature of their native Scottish Highlands, with high rainfall and very strong winds. With many beautiful country parks and gardens as well as exciting wildlife parks, zoos, safaris and wildlife cruises there really is something for all the family to enjoy this valentine's day. While the modern game of golf originated in 15th-century Scotland, the game's ancient origins are unclear and are often much debated. Golf is very unique in the fact that it is one of the only ball games that does not require a standardised playing area. Instead, the game is played on a course, all consisting of either nine or 18 holes and all containing a tee box and a putting green including the actual hole, other than these key points, the hazards and layout throughout the course are all completely unique, giving a different playing experience on every course. Scotland is home to some of the best golf courses in the world, including Gleneagles, which was host to the 2014 Ryder Cup. This was a real treat for all Scottish Golf fans and we were very proud to host such a prestigious event. The Ryder Cup Tartan was designed to celebrate the 40th Ryder Cup match. Created by our local mill and internationally-renowned tartan designers, Lochcarron of Scotland, the bold tartan features four shades of blue inspired by the landscape of Scotland. The design also incorporates white – a nod of the cap to the Saltire – Scotland’s national flag of St Andrew – and blue and gold to reflect the colours of the European flag, all reflecting the unique quality and drama of the most treasured trophy in Golf. Get the perfect gift for your golf fan this Valentine's day from the 2014 Ryder Cup Collection. Haggis, the national dish of Scotland is a well loved dish across the world, despite the list of ingredients included in the dish not being the most appetising. Haggis contains sheep's heart, liver and lungs minced with onion, oatmeal, suet, spices, salt and stock, traditionally encased in a sheep's stomach, although nowadays often encased in an artificial casing. Haggis is commonly served with neeps and tatties (turnip and potatoes). Haggis has risen in popularity within other delicacies such as pizza toppings, coated in batter and deep fried as part of a Chip shop supper, as well as being used in nachos, burgers, pakora and salads, which all sounds rather odd but we do recommend giving all of these a try. One of the most popular of Robert Burns poems is called 'Address to a Haggis' which is traditionally read out before haggis is served as the main course of a Burns supper and involves the dramatic cutting open of the haggis, the poem begins "Fair fa' your honest, sonsie face, Great chieftain o' the puddin-race!" Haggis is surprisingly also used in a sport know as haggis hurling which involves, as the name suggests hurling a haggis as far as possible. The haggis hurling world record was achieved by Lorne Coltart in 2011, who hurled his haggis 217ft or 66m. This isn't the only haggis related world record, in 2008 competitive eater Eric Livingston set a world record by consuming 1.4 kg of haggis in 8 minutes, we won't be attempting to beat this record anytime soon! If your looking for a lovely Scottish valentine's dish, haggis, neeps and tatties is a great option. Scotland is internationally renowned for its traditional music, which has continued to be popular throughout the 21st century. The most famous of our traditional instruments is the great highland bagpipe which has achieved widespread recognition through its usage in both military and pipe bands. Bagpipes also take centre stage within the many world pipe band competitions which are all fiercely competitive. fiddle, harp, tin whistle and accordion can also be heard throughout traditional Scottish music. As well as our immensely popular traditional music Scotland is home to many pop, rock and dance musicians such as Annie Lennox, the Bay City Rollers, and The Proclaimers. More recently we've seen success with artists Biffy Clyro, Twin Atlantic, KT Tunstall, Emeli Sande and Calvin Harris to name a few. Shortbread is generally associated with and originated in Scotland but due to its popularity is now made across the whole of the United Kingdom. Shortbread developed from a medieval biscuit bread, which was a twice-baked, enriched bread roll dusted with both sugar and spices hardened into a hard, dry and sweetened biscuit, eventually yeast was replaced with butter as it became a staple food in Britain. Although shortbread was prepared throughout much of the 12th century, the refinement of Shortbread is credited to Mary, Queen of Scots. One of the most traditional forms of shortbread, petticoat tails, is believed to have been named by Mary, Queen of Scots; more recently shortbread has also been made in the form of sheep and Scottie dogs. Walkers shortbread is Scotland's largest food exporter. This is a very popular ScotlandShop office favourite. A great sugary treat for Valentine's day. The thistle, although a humble weed, is our national flower, which has evolved in to a commonly used national emblem. You many see thistles used within many Scottish logo's and designs, for example: Police Scotland, the Scottish national rugby team and Partick Thistle football club. There is a legend which talks of an invading Norse army, who were attempting to sneak up at night upon a Scottish army camp. During the advance one barefoot Norseman accidentally stood upon a thistle which caused him to cry out in pain, alerting the Scottish army to the invasion.. It is thought that due to the thistle aiding the Scottish army this may be why we have now adopted the thistle in to Scottish culture. As well as the thistle being our national flower, Unicorn's are the national animal of Scotland, which is somewhat surprising. Two unicorn's feature within the Scottish Royal Coat of Arms along with an array of thistles. If looking for a valentine’s present including lovely Scottish thistle’s our Machair Scottish Brooch features thistle heads set with stones of the finest lead crystal in the traditional amethyst colour and is inspired by Scottish Machair - a gaelic word describing an extensive low-lying fertile plain. This is one of the rarest habitat types in Europe and is home to the Scottish wild thistle. Highland Games are traditionally held in Scotland as a way of celebrating Scottish Culture, these events are now also hugely popular worldwide. Certain events from the games such as the caber toss are so well known that they have become emblematic of Scotland. The competition mainly includes events such as piping and drumming, highland dancing and heavy Scottish athletics. The heavy Scottish athletic events comprise of the all-important Caber toss as well as the Stone Put, Hammer Throw and Sheaf Toss, these events are still considered as being what the games are all about. The largest of all the highland games is the Cowal Highland Gathering, held in Dunoon every August which can attract around 3,500 competitors and 23,000 spectators. At modern games armories will display their collections of swords and armour to perform mock battles. Various vendors will also attend to sell various Scottish memorabilia, food and drink. We receive many spectacular photos from our customers sporting their clan tartan at their local highland games and would love to see some more. There’s an old Scottish saying that goes, "there's no such thing as bad weather, only the wrong clothes!" So even though we aren't blessed with the year-round sunshine and tropical temperatures that we dream of, it doesn't get in the way of us loving Scotland all the same. Scotland’s weather is famous for being changeable to the point that we can commonly see weather associated with all four seasons in one day. Scotland is actually the windiest country in Europe due to eastward moving strong winds from the Atlantic, which provdes a paradise for windsurfers in the Outer Hebrides. Scotland’s high latitude means that on the longest day of the year there is no complete darkness over the northern isles of Scotland. The Shetland Isles, have about four hours more daylight at midsummer than the South of England, although this is reversed in midwinter. The highest temperature ever recorded in Scotland was 39.9 °C in August 2003 in the village of Greycrook within the Scottish Borders, lucky for us this is local to our office, so we were able to enjoy this unexpected warmth. Scotland today is mostly an English-speaking country, but it was not always so. The land has three indigenous languages: English, Gaelic and Scots. Across Scotland, Gaelic was once the dominant language and you can still hear it spoken today, particularly in the Highlands and the Outer Hebrides. There are significant efforts to keep the language alive, you may find many place names written in both English and Gaelic on signposts, still spoken by around 60,000 people in Scotland. Scots is a sister language to English, which will vary dependant on which region of Scotland you are in, this is still used in everyday speech by around 1.5 million people. Also commonly featured in modern Scottish literature and song. Some of our favourite Scottish sayings include, "Lang may yer lum reek" translated as "Long may your chimney smoke" - meaning 'May you live long and keep well'. “Gie it Laldy” translated to “Do something with gusto” and “It’s a dreich day!” which is said in reference to the wonderful Scottish weather when it’s cold, damp and miserable. <a The original name for tweed was tweel, the scots word for twill - as tweed is generally woven in a twilled pattern. A traditional story explains the name originating by chance. In the 1830’s a London cloth merchant received a letter from a Hawick firm about some tweels. The London merchant misinterpreted the handwriting, understanding it to be a trade-name taken from the river tweed that flows through the Scottish Borders textile area. Based on this the London Merchant advertised the cloths as Tweed and the name has remained ever since. Traditionally tweed was used for upper class country-clothing like shooting jackets and became immensely popular among Edwardian middle classes who associated it with leisurely pursuits of the elite. Recently tweed has again risen in popularity with actors such as Benedict Cumberbatch wearing tweed overcoats during his role as Sherlock and Matt Smith wearing tweed suit jackets in Dr Who. Tweed Run’s have also become popular as events for people to appreciate both excellent quality tweed and vintage bicycles. We love tweed fabric, with over 100 tweeds in stock we have a good range of fabric for all tweed fans. Tartan, with its colourful yarns, criss-crossing horizontally in traditional patterns, is Scotland’s most famous textile. This patterned woven cloth has become one of the most iconic symbols of Scottish culture. Tartan originated in the Highlands where clanspeople used local plants, mosses and berries to dye wool before spinning and weaving it into tartan. Until the middle of the nineteenth century, the highland tartans were only associated with either regions or districts, rather than any specific Scottish clan. This was because like other materials, tartan designs were produced by local weavers for local tastes as well as the local plants varying from district to district. The idea of clan and family tartans is thought to be a relatively new invention, following the standardisation of tartans worn by the Highland regiments of the 18th century. We have a selection of over 500 tartans, catering to many regions and clans, but don’t worry if you’re not directly linked to a clan we have many wonderful tartans that can be worn by all.