Scotland, which is at present celebrating the Year of Stories 2022, is steeped in historical past and legend. It’s additionally a most fun nation, with formidable landscapes, thrilling cities and, most significantly, nice imaginative wealth. Numerous writers, songmakers and poets have been impressed by its mountains, its castles, its heroes and battles, its fairies and monsters. The road between the previous and the current, and between what’s actual and imaginary, feels extra porous right here. My sons, who got here north continuously on household holidays, liked the sense that historical past in Scotland one way or the other feels extra current and actual – you’ll be able to see armour, you’ll be able to climb round previous moats, you’ll be able to contact portcullises. Actually, there may be nowhere fairly like Scotland for residing fantasy. After I was a baby rising up in Edinburgh, my zoologist father was pretty recurrently fielding completely critical questions on Nessie, the Loch Ness monster.
I’d begin any journey to Scotland in Dumfries and Galloway – all of southern Scotland has a unprecedented wealth of tales and sights that kids will love. A few of the nation’s biggest writers, comparable to Robert Burns and Robert Louis Stevenson, had shut connections with the world. There could be no higher launch pad than Wigtown, a reasonably coastal city within the south-west and Scotland’s reply to Hay-on-Wye. Wigtown has greater than a dozen secondhand bookshops and the annual Wigtown Book Festival hosts reveals and workshops for kids as a part of the 10-day literary celebration in Scotland’s Nationwide Guide City. Simply exterior the city lies the magnificent stone circle of Torhouse – residence to the tomb of Galdus, the legendary Scottish king.
A few of the Wigtown Guide Competition’s kids’s occasions happen in Dumfries, which is about an hour’s drive east. Right here you must undoubtedly go to Moat Brae: a phenomenal, absolutely restored Georgian home and backyard that JM Barrie visited recurrently as a baby and apparently impressed him to write down Peter Pan, which has been remodeled into the National Centre for Children’s Literature and Storytelling – a museum and interactive playspace-cum-library. The home has a dressing up field and drawers to open, keyholes to look by means of and little cubby holes and sprawling bean baggage the place kids can cool down with a guide from the gathering. Exterior there’s a big pirate ship climbing body and a backyard scattered with wire figures bringing Barrie’s characters to life. Kids also can go seeking the ten crocodiles cunningly hidden within the grounds.
One other nice Scottish storyteller was the novelist Sir Walter Scott, and nowhere might be extra entrancing – or extra intriguing – than his nation home Abbotsford, close to Melrose within the Scottish Borders. That is Scottish baronial structure at its most excessive: a gothic extravaganza of crowsteps, turrets and gargoyles. Within the entrance corridor stand dummies in full armour brandishing broadswords and throughout are deer antlers and animal skulls. Scott collected the whole lot from tremendous china to beautiful lace doilies. However he had a particular love for weaponry; right here there’s a panoply of swords, poniards, battle axes, maces, blunderbusses, flintlocks, even a breastplate with a bullet gap – and it’s this type of ugly element that kids love.
Equally atmospheric, however very totally different and on a a lot smaller scale, is Smailholm Tower, simply half an hour’s drive from Abbotsford. Smailholm was constructed within the fifteenth century when the Scottish Borders had been overrun by “reivers” (or cattle raiders) and my boys used to like clambering round on the nice stony mound that the tower sits on. At Smailholm you could have a really actual sense of residing in a fort. The partitions are two and a half metres thick, so inside it feels tiny and there may be solely actually one room per flooring. Additionally, the very steep, spiral staircase has uneven steps – a standard characteristic of Scottish castles and supposed to improper foot any attacker.
Scott knew Smailholm effectively. He had stayed within the close by farm as a baby and later revealed an anthology of border ballads – love tales, tales of fairies, feuds and battles. These ballads have been the inspiration for an exhibition of very lovely dolls made by the artist Anne Carrick and on everlasting present at Smailholm. The glittering, diaphanous horses of the Faerie Queen are particularly fantastic.
Simply over an hour’s drive north and also you come to Edinburgh, the childhood residence of Robert Louis Stevenson and the place JK Rowling wrote among the Harry Potter books in cafes close to the Royal Mile (the historic avenue connecting Edinburgh Castle to the Palace of Holyroodhouse). The road itself is dotted with fantastic websites for kids, together with the Museum of Childhood, which homes a considerable assortment of toys, video games, dolls and extra relationship from the nineteenth century to the current. On the fort they’ll see an actual portcullis, a trebuchet and an infinite stone cannonball believed to have been slung on the partitions throughout the siege of 1296. And at 1pm day by day you’ll be able to watch the One o’Clock gun being fired by a gunner in full regimental regalia. The noise is unbelievable – it may be heard all around the metropolis.
On the Scottish Storytelling Centre in John Knox Home (components of which date again to the late-medieval interval, making it the oldest constructing on the Royal Mile), kids can discover a Seventeenth-century home and draper’s store, watch puppet reveals and hearken to skilled storytellers. Farther up the Royal Mile lies Gladstone’s Land – a unusual previous tenement constructing the place, particularly till the New City was constructed within the 18th century, folks lived higgledy-piggledy on high of one another. Kids are sometimes very open to sensory experiences and this makes Gladstone’s Land an excellent place to go to, because the museum has tried to breed genuine sounds and smells on every flooring of the constructing.
No journey to Scotland is full and not using a go to to the Highlands. Going straight north from Edinburgh you attain Perthshire first, the place Beatrix Potter spent many childhood holidays and the place, in Birnam, exterior Dunkeld, you’ll be able to go to the interactive Beatrix Potter Garden – which celebrates the truth that the story of Peter Rabbit was impressed by Potter’s time within the village. Then head on to the fascinating Badenoch area and go to the Highland Folk Museum at Newtonmore. The open-air museum is a scattering of buildings that recreate Highland life from the 1700s by means of to the Fifties. The previous blackhouses, the place the Highlanders lived with their cattle, are astonishingly primitive – it’s stated that the time period “blackhouse” derives from the actual fact they had been constructed with out chimneys, thus coating the interiors in soot – and the enthusiastic crew of dressed-up actors are very effectively knowledgeable. The extra fashionable homes are additionally fascinating – you’ll be able to hint the gradual emergence of a extra comfy life over the 18th and nineteenth centuries. However the pièce de résistance is the Thirties faculty home the place kids can check out copperplate handwriting workout routines utilizing pen and ink.
The locations talked about above are solely a style of what Scotland has to supply households with kids. There are numerous different tales to find, together with child-orientated castles, folks museums and battlefields to go to. For at most of those locations, historical past, fantasy and legend are likely to mingle – and that, I believe, is what provides them their very particular attraction. If you’d like your baby to think about extra deeply, take them to Scotland.
Amanda Mitchison is a kids’s author and novelist. Her newest guide The Wolf Hunters is an grownup crime novel set within the Scottish Highlands.
Scotland’s Yr of Tales 2022 spotlights, celebrates and promotes the wealth of tales impressed by, written, or created in Scotland. Extra information on the programme may be discovered here