Scotland wears its heart on its sleeve

STUCK for a romantic destination this Valentine’s day? Fear not. Salvation might just come in the unlikely form of the Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland.

STUCK for a romantic destination this Valentine’s day? Fear not. Salvation might just come in the unlikely form of the Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland.

The organisation has issued a list of Scotland’s most romantic places and, eschewing more traditional romantic hotspots such as restaurants and hotels, has included a heart shaped island, a lover’s stone and a stained glass heart window in a Glasgow church.

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The unusual collection of images, assembled by the RCAHMS to celebrate Valentine’s day, also features historical pictures of society weddings and couples in strange locations, such as an 1870 photograph of a man and woman, accompanied by several sheep, reclining next to an ancient Celtic cross near Knapdale.

“We have millions of photographs of buildings and landscapes and we wanted to select a range of images that reflected the romantic side of Scotland,” said Jamie Crawford, RCAHMS communications manager and author of RCAHMS books including Above Scotland, Scotland’s Cities and Scotland’s Landscapes.

“What we’ve come up with are some places that reflect the romance of Scotland, but in a lighthearted and perhaps unusual way, as well as some historical images that will never have been seen publicly before.”

One of the pictures is an aerial shot of Inchmahome Island, in the Lake of Menteith, near Aberfoyle, once home to Mary Queen of Scots which reveals it for the first time to be in the perfect shape of a heart.

“We take a lot of aerial shots every year and this is one of those pictures that shows us something we didn’t know before, which is that it is heart shaped,” said Crawford.

Another aerial shot near Loch Ussie in Ross-shire, taken in 2007, shows a mysterious heart and flower shape which have been etched into vegetation near the Lochside. Other images include a marriage lintel, put up after a wedding in 1680 above an entrance to the Stag Inn in the Fife village of Falkland and the eye-catching blue stained glass heart window in Queen’s Cross Church in Glasgow, designed by Charles Rennie Mackintosh.

There is even a picture of the Lover’s Stone at Hirta on the remote and uninhabited island of St Kilda, so-called because the young men of St Kilda, before they could marry, had to prove they were able to provide for a family by climbing the rocks to catch birds for food. There are also more conventional destinations such as Drumlanrig Castle, whose ceiling has a distinctive heart-shaped design embedded into the stonework.

The historical pictures also provide an insight into the romantic Scotland of the past, with one wedding image, taken at Douglas Castle in South Lanarkshire in 1895, featuring an un-named bride accompanied by seven bridesmaids all in large black hats, and another un-named wedding couple from 1929 about to embark on a honeymoon tour of Scotland.

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A third shows the 1886 wedding of Elena Cecilia Anne Kinloch, daughter of Sir George Kinloch, to a civil engineer named George Palmer, at Meigle House in Perthshire, and surrounded by their wedding guests who are dressed in Highland regalia.

“Some of our historical pictures are quite enigmatic,” said Crawford. “We might be given a collection by a family and so we won’t know that much about the people featured in them, which can add to the mystery of it.”

One such picture reveals a man with a rifle gazing longingly at a woman who is surrounded by sheep, and who are sitting on either side of Keills Cross, an ancient celtic cross in a remote part of Argyll, and dated 1870.

The RCAHMS is Scotland’s national collection of buildings, archaeology and industry, and has an archive of millions of photographs, maps, drawings and documents about buildings and landscapes dating from prehistory to the present day.

The commission’s survey teams travel across Scotland recording architecture and archaeology, both on the ground and from the air. It adds around 100,000 new items to the collection every year, including archaeological and architectural drawings, as well as aerial and historic photographs, and its National Collection of Aerial Photography has over 1.6 million images of Scotland.

Meanwhile, those looking to pop the question on Valentine’s Day can take advantage of an unusual offer at Edinburgh Castle which allows those proposing to do so from the castle’s minstrel’s gallery. The ‘proposal package’ gives the gallery, above the Great Hall, to a couple for 30 minutes in order for nervy proposers to pluck up their courage, and even offers Champagne and flowers.

Nick Finnigan, executive manager of the castle said: “Edinburgh Castle is located in such a romantic setting that it is the ideal location for a marriage proposal.

“Our staff have assisted in many of the proposals, from hiding flower bouquets from unsuspecting girlfriends, to arranging a table with a bottle of Champagne in one of the castle’s restaurants.”

Twitter: @emmacowing