Have you decided to buy tickets to visit Scotland? Do you count the days for your trip to the beautiful city of Edinburgh? Today I have hidden under my keyboard a post that may interest you a lot if you plan to travel to this beautiful country in the north of the United Kingdom soon.
In addition to recommending that you take a look at all of our posts about what to see in Edinburgh (and what not to see too!), I’d like to put on a few “homework” for you to do at home before it’s time to leave on a trip. It’s a set of things to warm up your engines and make the most of your trip – you don’t have to do them all but… the number one will leave you wanting to keep going until the list is complete!
Six things to do before travelling to Scotland
1. Watch the Braveheart film
We know that the story is not exactly like the beautiful Mel Gibson tells in the Hollywood movie and it’s more than proven that some events didn’t happen as you’ll see them on the screen in your living room. But William Wallace existed and there is one thing that is faithfully reflected throughout the film: the romantic feeling that the Scots (and some adopted, among whom I find myself) feel for their land. When Wallace shouts “freedom,” he gathers the voices of a bunch of Scottish clans who existed in real life and fought for their country tooth and nail.
To understand the idiosyncrasy of this town, its relationship with the rest of the UK (especially England) and soak up the same tartan you’ll see on the streets of Edinburgh, I recommend you see Braveheart before you take the plane to Edinburgh.
2. Watch the movie “The Stone of Destiny”.
Few travellers know it, but Scotland has four crown jewels (instead of the usual three, crown, sword and scepter). The fourth, out of the ordinary, is a giant stone, also known as “Stone of Scone” or “Scone Stone”. This stone has been used since time immemorial to crown the Kings and Queens of Scotland… and unfortunately the English took it to London when Scotland lost its freedom and had no choice but to give in and accept reunification.
Attempts to recover the fourth jewel of the Scottish crown were multiple and always through political and diplomatic channels. Unfortunately, the English government always responded with evasions and long, to the anger of the Scots.
In 1950, university students decide to drive to London and steal the Scone stone, to return it to its rightful place: Scotland. This true story was taken to the cinema in 2008 by director Charles Martin Smith and I think everyone who comes to Edinburgh should see the film.
When you enter the castle and see the stone along with the other jewels, you will no doubt remember Ian and his friends, and the wonderful adventure they lived. You will also have a better understanding of the current relationship between Scotland and England, and you will probably think that they are all half crazy for fighting over a predrusco for so many years.
3. Read “The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde,” by Scottish author Louis Stevenson
Louis Stevenson wrote one of the most internationally known novels in the world, pleasant to read and very intriguing. The life of the exemplary citizen William Brodie (also known as Deacon Brodie), who lived in Edinburgh in the 18th century.
William was a prestigious cabinet maker, providing locks for merchants and other wealthy city dwellers to keep their most valuable possessions. He was such an exemplary and respected citizen that he became a councillor in Edinburgh, director of the city’s group of artisans and masons, and was held in high esteem by all the neighbours.
At night, however, he was the greatest thief of all time. He used his trade as a cabinet maker and locksmith to copy the keys of his clients, who were the richest in the city, and entered their homes to rob them. Little by little, the magnitude of their robberies escalated and they formed a gang of thieves: along with three other henchmen, they entered a bank and left with 800 pounds, in the purest style of La Casa de Papel. With all the money he earned at night, William led a double life, with several lovers and illegitimate children that he had to support; while by day he remained an exemplary citizen.
He was captured in 1786 while docking the courthouse tax office (located in today’s Canongate, Edinburgh) and all the material he used for his thefts was found in his home. Two years later, he was executed (in the 18th century, Edinburgh applied the death penalty).
A tremendously exceptional case that served Stevenson to create the character of Dr. Jekyll, no doubt a recommended reading to evoke William Brodie while strolling through the Royal Mile of Edinburgh.
4. Enjoy the Asterix comic, “Asterix and the Picts”.
In this comic it is related the incredible adventure in which Asterix and Obelix rescue a young man of the tribe of the Picts and decide to undertake a trip to take him back to Caledonia (Scotland). The Loch Ness monster appears and you’re going to learn a lot about the Scottish clans and the fights with the Romans around Hadrian’s Wall.
5. Listen to Flower of Scotland.
This beautiful musical composition has become one of the most popular hymns of Scotland, without being the official recognized by the institutions. It’s the song you’ll hear at rugby matches when the national team plays, as well as many other popular occasions.
When you listen to it you will understand why: music gives you goose bumps and its lyrics are from another world. Phrases like “when we’ll see other equals again who fought and died for your little piece of hill” pay homage to all the Scots who fought for the country’s freedom and against annexation with England, but the thing doesn’t end there as “Flower of Scotland” continues to say “we can still get up and be the nation that resisted against the army of proud Edward”. A real ode to the Scottish feeling and independence that many still want to regain.
6. Listen to some “Runrig” record.
Scotland has given history many musical groups that have become celebrities. Some names you’ve probably heard are Cocteau Twins, Annie Lennox, The Proclaimers… However, in this post I would like to recommend Runrig, one of the Scottish rock-folk groups that is no longer active but that undoubtedly represents these lands of “beyond the wall” very well. Its lyrics are in English but there are some songs that are in Scottish Gaelic.
Our favourite theme, which is repeated at the parties the Scots organise in their homes and which everyone sings at the top of their lungs, is “Loch Lomond”. If you look up his handwriting you’ll find he shares that romantic, nationalistic spirit, with phrases like “take the road up and down, and you’ll have Scotland before you. Where my true love and I will meet again, on the beautiful shores of Lake Lomond”.