Glasgow: Nat Geo Traveler’s Top 20

Nov 23, 2015 by

Glasgow hasn’t always been a top destination spot for tourists, who hear all about the city’s crime rate, and its gritty, industrial exterior.

Well, forget that outdated description of Glasgow: it’s Scotland’s hottest city, according to National Geographic!

Above: Glasgow’s SSE Hydro Arena, second busiest event venue in the world

Nat Geo’s features editor, Amy Alipio, is an enthusiastic supporter of Scotland’s largest city:

“Glasgow landed on our list for 2016 because it’s one of the most exciting cities in the world right now. 

“Its art scene is just too hot to ignore. Case in point: the Turner Prize is in Scotland for the first time, and the exhibit culminates at Glasgow’s Tramway gallery in January. 

“But fans the world over know that it’s the city’s unrivalled music scene that really embodies Glasgow’s energy and swagger.”

Source: Glasgow named in National Geographic Traveler’s top 20 list for 2016

Kelvingrove art center in Glasgow

Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum exhibit in Glasgow. Source: Damien Entwistle on Flickr


Here’s a video that gives you a wee look at this vibrant Scottish city:

Ready to take a tour? Click on the links below for great Glasgow guidebooks:

Glasgow Scotland 55 Secrets – The Locals Travel Guide For Your Trip to Glasgow

Glasgow Travel Guide 2015: Shops, Restaurants, Attractions and Nightlife

Insight Guides: Great Breaks Glasgow (Insight Great Breaks)

On The Trail of Outlander Glasgow Day Trip

Glasgow A Photographic Glimpse (Places To Visit Book 4)

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Jacobite Mansion Up For Sale

Oct 26, 2015 by

The recent listing of an 18th century Jacobite mansion presents a rare opportunity for Scottish history buffs.  If you have a yen to restore a secluded ruin that was a major center of the 1715 Jacobite rebellion, and 150,000 pounds to spend, Grange House may be the fixer upper of your dreams.



“Grange House East Neuk, Fife, now stands as a secluded historic ruin – looking out across a local golf course and the Firth of Forth.

But 300 years ago the first Jacobite rebellion of 1715 was planned by royal usurper James Malcolm within its walls.

Malcolm built the home in 1708 – and used it as the base for a bloody attempt to replace King George I of Britain with the exiled monarch James VIII and III.

The rebellion failed – and the house was burnt into ruins in the years since – but now any history buff with £150,000 to spare can buy the historic ruins to return them to their former glory.”

Source: For sale: a fixer upper where a plot to overthrow the crown was hatched | Deadline News


The land on which Grange House sits was used by local nuns, between the 13th and 16th centuries, as a farm to grow food for the poor. James Malcolm purchased the land in 1708, building himself a grand–and heavily fortified– manor house.

“Fortified with a large surrounding wall on a high vantage point – and with a hidden secret chamber – it is now widely accepted that the house was built as a military base for his cause.

And it was within the walls of the house that the Jacobite rebellion of 1715 was planned to seize Scotland back from George I. The rebellion officially began in August of 1715 – when the banner of James was raised in Aberdeenshire.

By October the 20,000 Jacobites had taken all of Scotland north of the Firth of Forth – but after an indecisive and bloody battle at Sheriffmuir the rebellion lost its momentum and floundered.

After the rebellion many Jacobites were taken prisoner, tried for treason and sentenced to death, and Malcolm was forced to forfeit his possessions and his home to the crown.”

Source: For sale: a fixer upper where a plot to overthrow the crown was hatched | Deadline News

Restoration of the Jacobite mansion will require adherence to a strict set of regulations set by local authorities. Materials will have to be historically accurate and match the existing ruins of Grange house.

The rewards, however, are potentially great: a beautiful, historic piece of Scotland with a view of the Firth of Forth and enough stories to pass down for generations to come.

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Victorian Welsh Women

Oct 21, 2015 by

Victorian Welsh women of the working class led hard lives and were rarely photographed.

The following photos, however,  show the beauty and character unique to those 19th century  ladies of Wales.

Such a lovely young woman–notice the wide variety of patterns in her garments, including plaid. She is wearing what we have come to know as the traditional dress or costume of Welsh women.  It has its origins in the rural farms of  Wales, where visitors to the country in the early 1700’s took note of the farm wives’ distinctive attire.   In contrast, women along the border with England and in prosperous towns wore English fashions.

The white cap she wears under her hat is known as a mob cap, a linen or cotton head cover with goffered (an ornamental frill made by pleating and pressing fabric ) fabric around the face.  Some  Welsh caps had long lappets which hung down the front below shoulder level.

The  most distinctive feature of traditional Welsh women’s attire is the hat, with its broad, stiff, flat brim and tall crown.  There were two main shapes of crown: those with drum shaped crowns were worn in north-west Wales and those with slightly tapering crowns were found in the rest of Wales. They were probably originally made of felt ( the hat in this photo appears to be felt) ,  but most surviving examples are of silk plush on a stiffened buckram base. A third type of hat, known as the cockle hat, was worn in the Swansea area.

First of two photos of a pair of women, identified as Sioned and Cadi.

  Here, they are dressed in their work clothes, old garments that once were new and fresh…

…like the dresses that Sioned and Cadi wear in this companion photo, also dated 1875.  The colors are dark, but the details–polka dots, velvet trim and ruffles–reveal the feminine side of these Victorian Welsh ladies.

Another woman dressed in traditional costume, this time standing beside a large spinning wheel. Note that her drum-shaped crown is much taller than the hat in the first photo.


There is a long tradition of knitting in Wales; in the 17th-19th centuries, farm women spent many hours creating woolen scarves and shawls to sell to the English and other visitors.  It provided a much-needed additional source of income for poor farm families.


A captivating photo of a young Victorian girl in Wales, posing with her large dog.  Her clothing is indicative of a prosperous upbringing, far different from Welsh farm women.

Beautiful hair!  Even in black and white , this woman’s long braided hair has a rich sheen.

A scene you will often find when viewing vintage photos of Victorian Welsh women: ladies having tea.  The large frills on the cap on the right are lovely, but I imagine they would seriously impair your peripheral vision.

An earlier Victorian photo showing a hand-woven shawl with long fringe, an accessory used by most Welsh farm women. The shawl could be used to cover a nursing baby, carry food or kindling, or as head cover in inclement weather.


A grouping of older Victorian Welsh women in traditional clothing with various hat styles.  Note that some of the mob caps have been dyed black, a mourning custom of the Victorian era. 

I love the little lady on the right–she’s barely taller than the seated women!

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Irish Men Sexiest

Aug 13, 2015 by

In a recent poll, a majority of women questioned by voted Irish men sexiest–mostly because of those sexy Irish accents.

The dulcet tones of Irish actors such as Jamie Dornan (below), star of Fifty Shades of Grey and Colin O’Donoghue, Captain Hook in NBC’s Once Upon A Time,  have created a new generation of Irish accent fans.

I wonder how many of those women have traveled to Ireland to hear the real deal?

  For those who deem Irish men sexiest, a visit to the Emerald Isle is a pilgrimage not to be missed. Go on– it’ll be grand!

Irish men ranked first in a new survey of the world’s sexiest nationalities. Irish women did not fare as well.

Source: Congratulations, Irish men – you’ve been voted sexiest in the world –

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Irish Gaelic Disliked By Facebook

Aug 10, 2015 by

Recent studies show that Irish people are the biggest Facebook users among English-speaking users.

  No surprise there, I say–the Irish are highly social, friendly people. In fact, that’s a trait shared by many people from the Celtic nations and those who have ancestry from a Celtic nation. For us Celts, there’s no such thing as a short story.

IRISH people use Facebook more often than people in any other country in the English-speaking world, new figures suggest.

Source: Irish are the biggest Facebook users in English-speaking world –

Even so, Facebook isn’t feeling the love from all their Irish users.

Irish Gaelic disliked by Facebook

Irish people are big users of Facebook–so long as they don’t try to use their Irish Gaelic names.

It seems that Facebook doesn’t like Irish GAELIC names, only the anglicized versions of those names. Scottish Gaelic names appear to be similarly treated by Facebook. A recent court ruling, however, ensures Germans can use any name (real or fictional, German or not) they want on the social media behemoth’s pages.

What?! Has Facebook never heard of Éirí Amach na Cásca–oh, excuse me, “the Easter Rising” of 1916?  Irish men and women fought and died in part for the right to speak and be recognized IN THEIR NATIVE IRISH GAELIC LANGUAGE.

You should know this Facebook, because your European headquarters are in…wait for it…IRELAND.

Gaeilge (Irish Gaelic) is the FIRST official language of the Republic of Ireland and the national language of Ireland.  In Northern Ireland–a completely different country, BTW, Facebook–English is the first language, but Irish Gaelic is frequently spoken and considered culturally significant.

I’ve been to Ireland many times and can say without hesitation that Irish Gaelic(Gaeilge) is spoken by many people in Ireland.

Irish Gaelic users need not apply to Facebook?

Irish Gaelic users need not apply to Facebook?

Why this so called “true identity” campaign by Facebook?  They claim the policy  “protects people’s privacy and safety by ensuring people know who they’re sharing and connecting with.”

How noble of Facebook, looking out for our best interests.

More cynical people, including me, see a different reason for this Facebook policy:

What the policy also does, of course, is give Facebook a far more reliable mine of information that can be sold to advertisers. While the company promises not to sell individual personal data, the policy cuts out much of the dross that would derive from multiple, disposable accounts.

Forbes, 07/29/2015, Emma Woollacot, contributor.

Petitions and negative press sometimes encourage FB to change their decisions.

  I wouldn’t hold my Irish Gaelic breath on this one, though.

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Londonderry Renaming

Aug 2, 2015 by

Londonderry is the second largest city in Northern Ireland and the fourth largest on the Emerald Isle as a whole.  The city council voted in 1984 to refer to itself as the Derry City council, and recently voted in favor of changing the city’s official name to Derry. 

Unionists (pro-British) are outraged, as you would expect, while nationalists (pro-Irish) are quite pleased. Although it’s official name has been Londonderry since 1613, it was originally named Derry, from the Irish Gaelic word daire or doire, meaning oak wood.  Many people–residents and non-residents, Catholics and protestants– commonly refer to their ancient walled city on the River Foyle as Derry.


Sinn Fein put forward the proposal for the change to Derry:

“The name Londonderry causes social and political problems, reminds victims of the atrocities that have been committed there, causes problems identifying the city and is against what the people of Derry wish.”

Previous attempts to change Londonderry’s name have failed. Maybe this is finally Derry’s time.

Londonderry in Northern ireland

Thousands of people have signed rival petitions as controversy over the proposed renaming of Londonderry to Derry grows.

Source: Should Londonderry be renamed Derry? Thousands sign petitions as battle heats up

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Irish Amateur Paul Dunne Ties Open Lead

Jul 19, 2015 by

He can’t collect the prize money, but Irish amateur golfer Paul Dunne from County Wicklow, Ireland still has high hopes of winning the 2015 Open at St. Andrew’s, Scotland.

Dunne is the first amateur to lead the open after 54 holes since 1927, when golf legend Bobby Jones did it, and then went on to win the Open. The last amateur to win the Open was also Bobby Jones, when he took home the prize in 1930.

Dunne is a graduate of the University of Alabama-Birmingham, where he played NCAA golf and was coached by fellow Irishman Allan Murrey, who is now Dunne’s caddy, on left in picture below.

Irish amateur

Irish amateur Paul Dunne’s driver head cover is the University of Alabama-Birmingham mascot, Blaze the Dragon. (Stuart Franklin/Getty Images) and Independent .IE

Is Dunne feeling pressure going into the last day? Not at all:

“I mean, I’m well capable of shooting the scores that I need to win if everyone else doesn’t play their best.

“Whether it happens or not, I can’t really control. I can just go out and try to play my game and see where it leaves me at the end of the day. Hopefully I play great again and post a good number.

“It’s surreal I’m leading The Open, but I can easily believe that I shot the three scores that I shot. If we were playing an amateur event here, I wouldn’t be too surprised by the scores I shot. It’s just lucky that it happens to be in the biggest event in the world!

“Hopefully I can do it again tomorrow, but whether I do or not, I’ll survive either way.”

Source: Waterford News and Star — Irish amateur Paul Dunne shares lead at The Open

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Kilted Charmer in Dublin

Jul 16, 2015 by

Last month, an American woman newly arrived in Dublin was swept off her feet by a kilted charmer from the Tartan Army, in town for the big Ireland -Scotland soccer match. 

“As I was paying the driver, I saw two kilts outside, so I called to the men that they could have my cab.

“But as I then moved to the door, a hand reached out and helped me out the cab and I came face-to-face with this man who turned to me and said, ‘God, you’re beautiful’.

“I don’t usually react this way, but I became totally flustered and went weak at the knees and we stood there for what felt like forever. He spoke in such a thick Scottish accent, but I made his name out as Mike or Mick and then he said he wanted me to come to the game with him.

“I put my hands on his chest and said if I hadn’t been going to the whisky tasting I’d have gone with him.

She gave him her number at his request, but her phone wasn’t accepting international calls yet. Not about to let her mystery Scotsman think she gave him a false number, she’s undertaken a Facebook campaign to find her Scottish mystery man.


Here’s a look at the Tartan Army moving through Dublin in June, 2015:


Aye, lass, finding that Scottish kilted charmer seems like a worthy quest to me.

TAMMY Contreraz was working in the city on the day of the recent Ireland v Scotland match – and was swept away by the Tartan Army hunk.

Source: Tartan Charmy: American woman takes to Facebook in bid to track down kilted Scots fan she kissed in Dublin – Daily Record

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Celtic Red Hair From Vikings?

Jun 11, 2015 by

If you have Scottish and/or Irish ancestry AND red hair, you probably also have VIKING ancestry, according to a new study.

The director for Nordic Studies at the University of the Highlands and Islands says red hair is modern evidence of the influence of the ancient Vikings in Celtic lands.

Professor Donna Heddle is the director for both the University of the Highlands and Islands’ Centre for Nordic Studies. She is a leading expert on the Norse and has reached the conclusion that Scotland’s famous red hair is a vestige from the invading Vikings. If the compelling case which Heddle makes is true, it means the Vikings were very successful at spreading their DNA in this Northern kingdom.

Heddle explains that the perception that the invading Vikings were blond is a myth. The Vikings were likely red headed. Relatively few people in the world have red hair. Statistics are that only 0.6% of the population have that hair color. However, countries with the highest concentrations of red hair are all part of ancient Viking trading routes. Scandinavia, though long stereotyped for a high number blonds, has a high concentration of red haired people.

“The perception that the Norse were blond is nothing more than a prevalent myth,” she said. “Genetically speaking, the chances of them having blond hair weren’t that likely. The chances are that they would have had red hair. Interestingly, if you look at where red hair occurs in the world you can almost map it to Viking trading routes.”

Professor Heddle explains that in Ireland, the red hair concentrations are in the areas where the Vikings settled. She states that an observation of dispersal patterns shows a dark red spot in Scotland and a corresponding spot in Scandinavia. There is nothing similar to be found in Europe which lends further credence that the DNA gene for red hair had to have been imported from the Vikings and the Norse.

Source: Vikings Responsible for Scottish Red Hair Gene? | eCanadaNow

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Ruined Wales

Jun 8, 2015 by

Want to know where to go to see the best of ruined Wales?


David Hamilton has a new book, Wild Ruins, that has an extensive list of the most mysterious, most beautiful of Wales’ ruined castles, abbeys and keeps.


Here’s an excerpt from a Wales Online article about this new guide to exploring ruined Wales:


From crag-top castles to crumbling quarries in ancient forests, here’s how to find ruined Wales in all its mysterious glory with the help of author David Hamilton’s book, Wild Ruins.

The substantial remains of Neath Abbey lie on the banks of the gentle flowing waters of the Tennant Canal. It was a favourite of the Romantics and is still a very beautiful place to have a picnic. It was founded in the year 1130, and absorbed by the Cistercian order in 1147. At one time it would have been one of the largest and most powerful abbeys in Wales. You can see the extensive remains of the abbey and a 16th-century mansion.


Paddle in the river, climb up the steep hill to Clun Castle and relax in one of the many pubs or cafés in the village of Clun. Built in the 11th century, the powerful Marcher castle defended the English-Welsh border during the Norman occupation.

Much of the large keep still stands high on this naturally occurring knoll overlooking the Saxon village. It’s also not too far from the Offa’s Dyke Path and the Shropshire Way walking routes.

Read more here: 13 incredible Welsh ruins frozen in time forever – Wales Online

To purchase David Hamilton’s Wild Ruins, in either book or Kindle format, click HERE.

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Guinness Barbecue Sauce

Jun 8, 2015 by

Summertime is the right time for a cookout with my favorite stout, Guinness. To give your ribs, chicken or whatever you’re grilling a Celtic kick, try this tasty “dark side” barbecue recipe from Cooking With Curls.

There’s always time for Guinness barbecue sauce!

Guinness barbecue sauce


Sweet, tangy Guinness Barbecue Sauce is perfect on ribs, chicken, steak, burgers, or just about anything you can get your hands on.


  • 1 cup all-natural ketchup
  • 1 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 11.2 oz bottle Guinness Draught*
  • 1 1/2 Cups organic dark brown sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon fresh gound pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon chipotle chili powder


          Pour all ingredients into a medium sized sauce pan, and bring to a boil.

          Reduce heat and simmer for 30 – 40 minutes.

          Serve immediately, or store in a sealed container in the refrigerator.



Complete Recipe Here: Guinness Barbecue Sauce & think green – Cooking With Curls

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Outlander Fans In Fife 

Jun 7, 2015 by

Outlander fans go star spotting as filming takes place in Fife


Lead actors Caitriona Balfe and Sam Heughan were on set in Dysart Harbour, which has been transformed to portray the French port of Le Havre during the 1740s.


Dressed in period costume Balfe, who plays time-travelling nurse Claire Randall, and Heughan, who plays Highlander Jamie Fraser, shot scenes for the second series.


Outlander, dubbed Scotland’s Game of Thrones, has a legion of fans in the US and Canada, but is only available on Amazon Prime Instant Video in the UK.

Sourced from :Outlander fans go star spotting as filming takes place in Fife – Fife / Local / News / The Courier

~Haven’t read the books yet? Click HERE to get any of Diana Gabaldon’s first four novels in the Outlander series.  The DVD set of Starz’ Outlander cable series, Season One, Part One, is available HERE.

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17th Century French Noblewoman Found in Tomb

Jun 6, 2015 by

The body of a French noblewoman found in tomb, buried more than 350 years ago, has been uncovered – and is so well preserved she still has most of her hair, skin and brain intact.

French scientists believe the remains, uncovered during the construction of a convention centre in Rennes, are those of Louise De Quengo, a Breton noblewoman who died in 1656.

~Corpse is so well preserved it still has hair, skin and most of its brain
~French Noblewoman Found in lead-lined coffin alongside heart of husband Toussaint Perrien, a powerful knight from Brittany

It was customary for nobles in France to donate their organs to either a loved one or a religious institution. It is thought Louise went to the convent after her husband’s death, then requested to be buried with his heart

Maybe I’m just a Celtic history geek, but this discovery strikes me as a romantic, medieval love story. Reminds me of Gerard Butler as Marek  and Anna Friel as French noblewoman Lady Claire in 2003’s Timeline film, based on the Michael Crichton novel.
It’s a great novel–click HERE to purchase paperback or Kindle versions. The DVD of Timeline is available HERE for preview and purchase or rental.

Source: Body of 17th Century French noblewoman is uncovered in French tomb | Daily Mail Online

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Celtic Trivia Time

Jun 4, 2015 by

I’ll give you a few clues–see if you can guess the answer without using the internet. The highlighted areas will link you to info in that clue–don’t click until you’re finished.  No cheating, aye?

Celtic trivia time

Celtic Trivia Time: Can you identify me?

In Celtic trivia, the clues are listed in descending order of difficulty….

~This legendary medieval stronghold was built in 1466 by an Irish High King who sent 4000 men to supplement the forces of Robert the Bruce at the battle of Bannockburn in 1314.

~It has 3 underground caves situated below the battlements, known as the Badgers Caves, which allowed the castle’s garrison to flee Oliver Cromwell’s siege.

~It was once owned by the Hollow Sword Blade Company, who subsequently sold it to Sir James St. John Jefferyes, Governor of Cork in 1688.

OK, the Celtic trivia clues get easier….

~At the beginning of the 18th century, the Jefferyes family laid out a landscape garden known as the Rock Close with a remarkable collection of massive boulders and rocks arranged around what seemed to have been druid remains from pre-historic times. The grounds also include a Poison Garden, which hosts a number of poisonous plants, including wolfsbane, mandrake, ricin, opium and cannabis.

Last Celtic trivia clue…

~It’s name in Irish is Caisleán na Blarnan.

Click HERE to see if you have the correct answer to today’s Celtic trivia.

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Robert Tannahill, Weaver Poet

Jun 3, 2015 by

Born June 3, 1774 in Paisley, Robert Tannahill is Scotland’s second most favorite poet, after Robert Burns.  Tannahill was apprenticed to his father, a silk weaver, at an early age. By 1802, however, Robert Tannahill began pursuing his passion: poetry and music.  He was a big fan of Robert Burns and paid honor to Burns by writing in the Scots dialect.  Paisley was a bustling center of the weaving trade, and produced many other (less well-known) “weaver poets”, in addition to Tannahill.  Despondent over a publishing rejection, Robert Tannahill drowned himself in a Paisley culvert in  1810, leaving behind many poems and songs that are still popular in Scotland and around the world.


Robert Tannahill, weaver poet

Engraved portrait of Robert Tannahill



One of my favorite songs by Robert Tannahill is Are Ye Sleeping, Maggie, and my favorite version is this one, by The Tannahill Weavers:

Click HERE to read the lyrics of Are Ye Sleeping, Maggie?


The Braes o’ Balquhither is another beautiful song written by Robert Tannahill:


Let us go, lassie, go
Tae the braes o’ Balquhidder
Whar the blueberries grow
‘Mang the bonnie Hielan’ heather
Whar the deer and the rae
Lichtly bounding thegither
Sport the lang summer day
On the braes o’ Balquhidder

I will twin thee a bow’r
By the clear silver fountain
And I’ll cover it o’er
Wi’ the flooers o’ the mountain
I will range through the wilds
And the deep glens sae dreary
And return wi’ their spoils
Tae the bow’r o’ my dearie


When the rude wintry win’
Idly raves roun’ oor dwellin’
And the roar o’ the linn
On the nicht breeze is swellin’
So merrily we’ll sing
As the storm rattles o’er us
Till the dear shielin’ ring
Wi’ the licht liltin’ chorus


Noo the summers in prime
Wi’ the flooers richly bloomin’
Wi’ the wild mountain thyme
A’ the moorlan’s perfumin’
Tae oor dear native scenes
Let us journey thegither
Whar glad innocence reigns
‘Mang the braes o’ Balquhidder


Here’s The Tannahill Weavers’ version:


In 1957, Francis McPeake, a Belfast singer and songwriter, published a variation of Tannahill’s The Braes of Balquhither, called Wild Mountain Thyme. It has become one of the most popular folk songs of all time, and has been covered hundreds of times (sometimes as Purple Heather or Will Ye Go, Lassie?) by many artists, including Rod Stewart, Joan Baez and The Real MacKenzies.

Here’s a beautiful version with Emmylou Harris and others:

My favorite version is by the grumpy, but inimitable Van Morrison–enjoy!

Another of Robert Tannahill’s songs, Thou Bonnie Wood of Craigielea, was modified to form the tune for Australia’s unofficial national anthem, Waltzing Matilda:

I’ll close with another popular song inspired by one of Robert Tannahill’s songs, specifically The Soldier’s Adieu. Tannahill’s song became the basis for The Nova Scotia Song (Farewell to Nova Scotia), a wonderful tribute to the beautiful Canadian province’s Scottish heritage:

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