This small, Gothic-looking chapel has been the subject of numerous rumors for hundreds of years connecting it to the Knights Templar and the Holy Grail. Legend says the Knights returned from the Holy Land with the Grail and hid it in a secret vault deep within Rosslyn. For centuries, scholars and visitors alike have searched in vain among its intricate stone carvings and mysterious pillars for a hidden vault that might contain this most coveted prize.
Easily one of the most popular and enduring legends in all of Europe is that of Scotland's Loch Ness monster. "Nessie," as she is affectionately known, is said to swim the waters of this famous loch (lake) southwest of Inverness. Despite numerous photos and videos taken over the years of the alleged monster, scientific studies have come up empty as to whether a real prehistoric-type beast really exists here.
The kilt, the national "dress" of the Highlands, is a tartan swath of fabric that Scottish men have worn for ages-both in battle and celebration. Handed down from the ancient Celtic tribes, a kilt is actually quite practical in nature. Warm and airy, the kilt hangs high above the mud and grass that might soak other garments. Its many thick layers of pleats ward off chills. Warm enough for a cold day, and cool enough for a warm one, a day in a kilt may turn even the most ardent of pants wearers into a skirt sporter.
Scotland Travel InformationThe modern kilt uses up to eight yards of tartan fabric and is thickly pleated on the sides and back. The pleats are stitched together only at the waistband. This new design differs quite remarkably from the kilts of yore. In the days of the clans, it was called a breacan-feile, or "belted plaid." Warm cloth, five or six yards long, was wrapped around the body like a modern kilt, with the rest thrown over the shoulder and pinned in place. It was the perfect garb for soldiers, who fought in it by day and wrapped themselves up in it to sleep out on the field at night.
Since the clans were broken in 1745, the wearing of the kilt in Scotland has gradually declined. Today, it is not commonly worn, but you will find it on the soldiers of the Highlands Regiments and alongside black-tie attire at formal Scottish gatherings.
Scotland Travel InformationWhile the origin of its name holds no relation to body markings, witnesses of Scotland's famed Military Tattoo surely come away with a permanent impression of Scottish tradition forever marked in their mind. With the splendid Edinburgh Castle as its medieval backdrop, the Military Tattoo, held each August, is an international celebration of sound and solidarity.
It's much more than a performance-it's an experience for all the senses. As the sun sets, the castle casts a mystical glow and the thronged crowd settles to a hush. With a sudden sweep, the enormous oak gates of the castle swing open and the swell of pipes and drums break the anticipatory silence. Bands march out by the hundreds across the drawbridge, belting out tunes that echo Scotland's storied past.
The night goes on to include a variety of performances from around the world. One year's Tattoo may feature Turkish musicians; the next year, Chinese or Native American dancers may delight the audience. In fact, more than 40 countries have participated in the Tattoo since its inception 56 years ago, with a fresh assembly of performers on the docket each year.
But many traditional elements of the Tattoo remain the same year after year, including the uplifting grand finale. Nearing the end of the show, all eyes are drawn to the castle's ramparts, where a single spotlight cues the lone piper to play his haunting lament. The light fades to total darkness before triumphant fireworks set the sky ablaze with color. The Tattoo is not officially over until the audience joins together in singing the Scotland-born song, "Auld Lang Syne." The marchers then leave the castle's Esplanade, followed shortly thereafter by the crowd, and the entire celebration of sound winds its way down Edinburgh's historic High Street. One thing is for certain,the thought of a night in the presence of Scotland's grandest tradition is an "acquaintance that won't soon be forgot."