Weel, Wha’d a ken’tit?

Aug2017This post is by Nancy Jardine.

Weel, Wha’d a ken’tit? – Well, who would have known that? I’m always touting my Scottish heritage and today is yet another of those days! Hallowe’en is over. Done and dusted, costumes stored away for another time…and anyway, I’ve done Scottish Halloween blog posts before, so here are a few things about Scotland that you may… or may (hopefully) not know.haddock head 

  • Crappit Heid. They say that Scots are canny with their money,  very practical people who hate wasting anything. I’d say that’s true for many and I personally hate waste but I wouldn’t go so far as to make and eat ‘Crappit Heid’. I love fish and seafood, eat  haddock frequently, but I’m not keen to try an out-of-fashion Scottish fish dish of ‘stuffed fish heads’. However, like many other subsistence foods of yesteryear, crappit heid is as nutritious as the other more readily edible parts of the fish. In the past it was all about inventing a simple recipe using available staples to make every part of the fish acceptable for eating. (BTW – There really is a old Scottish word ‘crap’ which means to stuff or fill  – hence crappit heid being stuffed heads. I won’t offend sensibilities here by showing an image of the dish but click this link if you dare… and see how Crappit Heid looks when ready.


  • Loch Morar is Scotland’s deepest loch. As Loch Ness is home to the famous monster Nessie, Morar’s monster is named Morag. It might be new knowledge that sightings of Morag hit the headlines well before those of ‘Nessie’! I personally would prefer to meet Morag because she was said by some 19th century ‘viewers’ to be a lot more mermaid like than our traditional Nessie image.
  • Skara Brae is the oldest village in Scotland inhabited around 3100 B.C. and is the best preserved Neolithic settlement in Western Europe.Skara Brae Visit the replica neolithic house on the left to get a taste of what living in Skara Brae was like, then wander round the remnants of the genuine neolithic settlement that was inhabited long before Stonehnge or the Egyptian Pyramids were built. I’m sure there would have been some version of Crappit Heid on their menus as many fish bones were found around their midden areas! https://www.historicenvironment.scot/visit-a-place/places/skara-brae/
  • The tallest and longest hedge in Scotland (some say on earth) is said to be a Beech hedge at Meikleour (A 93 road, Perth and Kinross, Scotland).
    Meikleour Beech Hedge
    Wikimedia Commons

    It’s in the Guiness World Records as being 100 feet high and about 1/3 mile long. It was planted in 1745 by Jean Mercer and her husband, Robert Murray Nairne on the Meikleour Estate. It’s reputed to reach the heavens because Robert Murray Nairne and the men who planted it, as Jacobite sympathisers, were killed at the Battle of Culloden. (The hedge is trimmed approx. every ten years and I totally sympathise with that because I used to hate trimming the beech hedge that lined my driveway. That was about 9 feet high and took me a whole week of my school summer holidays!) 

  • The oldest Yew tree in Europe might be the ‘Fortingall Yew’. Dated around 5000 years old, there are many tales associated with the Fortingall Yew and its surroundings. Near Aberfeldy, Perthshire, it has connections with early Christianity in Scotland.
    Fortingall Yew tree
    Wikimedia Commons

    In 1769, the circumference was measured at 52 feet but what remains now are the relics of the original tree. In the field opposite the village of Fortingall there is an ancient cairn (pile of stones) known as the ‘Cairn of the Dead’. During the 16th century the Great Plague (Galar Mhor) ravaged Scotland and many in the area died. Legend has it that an old woman, unmarked by the plague, carried the plague victims on a horse drawn sledge to a mass grave and placed a cairn there to mark their resting place. 

  • The shortest scheduled passenger flight in the world is from the Orkney island of Westray to Papa Westray. Given good weather conditions the flight is less than ONE MINUTE. (I can’t find a way of directly loading this video but it’s worth watching!) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fwyVWaCAD2A 
  • Scotland may be famous for images of a red stag but the official animal of Scotland is the unicorn. Royal coat fo arms of the kingdom of scotland 12th century to 1603The unicorn has been a Scottish heraldic symbol since the 12th century, the coat of Arms seen here the one that was in use from the 12th century to King James VI of Scotland 1603. 1603 was the year of the Union of the Crowns, when King James VI of Scotland became the ruler of both Scotland and England. In 1604, he decreed he’d be known as King of Great Britain. By 1606, he created a new flag combining the crosses of St. Andrew (Scotland) and St. George (England). It was named the Union Jack, the ‘Jack’ part being a reference to Jacobus the Latin version of James.  https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Royal_Coat_of_Arms_of_the_Kingdom_of_Scotland.svg
  • The Ancient Romans invaded Scotland more than once and settled long enough across the central belt between Edinburgh and Glasgow to leave traces of stone and wooden buildings though, to date, no Ancient Roman stone buildings have been uncovered in northern Scotland.

    The likelihood of any being found is negligible because although General Gnaeus Iulius Agricola is believed to have marched as far north as the Moray Firth area c. A.D. 84, his armies retreated south soon after. Later on the Emperor Severus c. A.D. 210 marched a large army of around 50,000 troops northwards from Eboracum (York/ England). It was written that by the time they reached my part of Scotland, the north east, his armies numbered some 30,000. What happened to the missing ones isn’t known exactly but after some negotiations with the local tribes (and plenty of bribes) Emperor Severus went south to York .  He was a deeply superstitious man, as many Ancient Romans were, and believed he was destined to die at Eboracum (according to his augurs). His death was in February A.D. 211 in York. His son, Caracalla, (seemingly a nasty piece of work) possibly stayed longer in Scotland with some troops but not long enough to build anything in stone.

My fascination with Roman Scotland continues in my FutureLearn #FLVirtualRome  course and in my Historical Fiction writing! (Click the Amazon link below to find out more) 

What’s your favourite info dump from the above? Is it Crappit Heid having looked at the woeful image on the site given, or the ‘in a blink’ fight from Westray to Papa Westray, or some other one? 

Nancy Jardine writes: Contemporary Mysteries; Time Travel Historical Adventure and Historical Fiction. She’s a member of the Romantic Novelists Association, the Scottish Association of Writers and the Federation of Writers Scotland. She’s published by Crooked Cat Books and has delved into self publishing.multiple new TE

You can find her at these places:

Blog: http://nancyjardine.blogspot.co.uk  Website: www.nancyjardineauthor.com/   Facebook: http://on.fb.me/XeQdkG & http://on.fb.me/1Kaeh5G

email: nan_jar@btinternet.com  Twitter https://twitter.com/nansjar

Amazon Author page http://viewauthor.at/mybooksandnewspagehere

Goodreads https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/5139590.Nancy_Jardine





18 thoughts on “Weel, Wha’d a ken’tit?

  1. Some interesting tidbits of Scottish history presented here… and I’d have to say the fish heads don’t sound particularly appetizing to me. I did find the trivial about the hedge and the short airplane hop something that could end up on the Jeopardy game show on TV. Lol.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I guess so, Mike. Funny thing is that I was at a Christmas Fair yesterday selling my novels and one customer was from Westray! I told her about putting that flight on the Wranglers blog and she told me it was her first ever flight. I’m guessing she was about 70 so not sure how many other flights she’s ever had.


  2. I have to say, I’m fascinated by the ancient yew tree and the hedge. Guess I’m a nature girl after all, but I can’t grow a dad-blamed thing. *Sigh*. Fascinating as usual. Doris


    1. You don’t want to grow a beech hedge any more than about one foot high. it’s very tough and twisted and the hedge doesn’t only get higher each year it thickens from the roots- a total nightmare to cut and needs really heavy duty electric shears. The lightweight shears that cut Leylandi conifer hedges is useless on beech.


  3. Very interesting historical facts/stories. I enjoyed them all and watched the video of the short flight and decided the fish heads would not be on my menu. But who knows if you get hungry enough! Thanks for all the information, you make your country seem gigantic and rich in history and people.


  4. The yew tree and the hedge are fascinating. I can’t imagine a hedge growing that high. The fish I plan to forget. I hope Nessie is never found. She’s more important in fantasy than in fact.To me, at least.


    1. I think if Nessie or Morag wanted to be found they’d pop up more often, Kathy! And I agree, the fantasy is much better than any reality because they would never satisfy the ideal of every Nessie hunter.


  5. You certainly gave us plenty to ponder. The one minute flight was fascinating, but I did bot know the Unicorn was Scotland’s National Animal. you know so much history. As you know I have a lot of Scott-Irish ancestry, but know nothing really about the country. I am fascinated. Thanks. Cher’ley


  6. Very interesting post Nancy. I didn’t know the unicorn was the National Animal of Scotland. I enjoyed learning about Morag and the difference between her and the Nessie of today. Like you, I think I’d prefer meeting her.


    1. The unicorn has been a neglected image for centuries- there being some heavy suppression of all things Scottish in UK/British history.


  7. Halloween at our house spans several days. So the clean up takes a few days as well. We begin with pumpkin carving traditionally held the Saturday before Halloween. We have anywhere from 10 to 50 people carve with us each year. On Halloween we hand out candy at the end of the driveway,often with a few friends. This is a neighborhood tradition we adapted when we moved a few years ago. Halloween isn’t quite over until after Halloween when I add to pour decorations for 50% off the day after Halloween. As of today all the Halloween stuff is packed in totes and the totes are all stacked until next year.

    I think the unicorns are quite interesting. I think the hedge would be interesting to see, but I am not up for having fish heads stuffed or not. Thanks for sharing.


    1. That’s a lot of pumpkin flesh, SJ! But I’m sure it must get quite creative. Pumpkins are now used more at Hallowe’en in Scotland because they’re much easier to carve out than a ‘neep’ (orange turnip/swede)which are very hard fleshed and cause a lot of cuts and scrapes! Generally it’s too cold for us to be outside at Hallowe’en so any giving out of treats is done inside or at the open door.


    1. You’re welcome, Debra. You can travel around and see most of Scotland in a relatively short time. The US on the other hand is so massive but I’ve managed a few states so far.


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