Rare Scottish Wildcat Kittens Born

Jul 29, 2017 by

Three rare Scottish wildcat kittens have been born at a wildlife centre as efforts continue to save the species from extinction.

The three kittens, born to mother Ness and father Zak, were born on April 11 at Highland Wildlife Park in Kingussie and are now becoming more independent of their mother.

The animals are beginning to leave their dens and explore their enclosures.

Scottish wildcats are under threat in the wild from habitat loss and cross-breeding with domestic cats, with numbers as low as 110.

Rare Scottish wildcat kittens

Rare Scottish wildcat kittens born at Highland wildlife Park

Read more here: Three new Scottish wildcat kittens born at wildlife park

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The Penclawdd Cockles of Wales

Feb 28, 2017 by

In Wales, one of the oldest occupations found along the coastline is cockle gathering, a task which archaeological evidence suggests dates back to at least the Roman era.  

Penclawdd (pronounced Pen-clawth),  a seaside village in Swansea, Wales, on the Gower Penninsula, is renowned for its local cockle industry.  The Welsh clams are collected from the extensive sandy flats in the Burry Estuary and then sold worldwide as the famous “Penclawdd [or Gower] cockles.”

Cockles are small saltwater clams widely used in cooking  throughout the world, but are especially popular in Wales. 

  Here’s an unusual bit of trivia to impress your friends: In England and Wales, Magna Carta grants every citizen the right to collect up to eight pounds of cockles from the foreshore; pickers wishing to collect more than eight pounds are deemed to be engaging in commercial fishing and are required to obtain a permit from the Inshore Fisheries and Conservation Authority.   To see what happens when cockle pickers get greedy, read this BBC story.

Though small and humble, cockles have had more than a mere fifteen minutes of fame.  In a popular song that has become the unofficial anthem for Dublin, Ireland,  a tune also covered by U2,  sweet Molly Malone wheels her barrow through the streets of Dublin, crying, “Cockles and mussels, alive, alive, oh!”    If you feel deeply contented by something, that thing (often a good quality whisky or beer) is said  “to warm the cockles” of your heart, although I’m fairly certain there are no cockle valves in the human heart.   

Even gardeners, such as the famously contrary Mistress Mary,  have a history with cockles, sometimes using the ridged shells as edging and soil conditioners in their gardens.

 

Samples of these famous cockles can be purchased at the stalls in Swansea Market and locally in the village itself.  The Penclawdd cockles are also shipped worldwide for fans of this tasty Welsh seafood. 

Penclawdd cockles for sale.

Penclawdd cockles for sale. Image by Scott Dexter

Laverbread made with Penclawdd cockles from Gower.

Laverbread made with Penclawdd cockles from Gower. Image by Smylers.

If you travel to Wales and ask for a full Welsh breakfast, you are likely to get cockles fried in bacon fat alongside your eggs and laverbread cakesCockle pie is a traditional Welsh dish and quite tasty–click HERE for a recipe to try.  

From the mid 19th century up until the 1970s in Wales, the cockles were gathered by women using hand-rakes and riddles (coarse sieves) with the help of donkey carts, often braving very hard conditions.

Some women set up stalls at local markets, while other women sold their harvest door to door. Cockles, boiled and removed from their shells (cocs rhython), were usually carried in a wooden pail, balanced on the vendor’s head, while the untreated variety (cocs cregyn) were carried in a large basket on the arm.

Now they are harvested mostly by men, still by hand, but using tractors or Land Rovers instead of little donkeys. The original small, family-owned factories in Penclawdd have been demolished and cockles are now processed in two large, modern factories in the nearby village of Crofty; the product is largely exported to continental Europe.

Sources:  For more history about the cockle women of Wales, try this wonderful blog post that has many vintage pictures of Welsh women gathering the cockle  harvest.

More stories about harvesting cockles are HERE and HERE, and more info about Penclawdd is available on Wikipedia  and on the Gower website.

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Entrudo, Portugal’s Celtic Mardi Gras

Feb 20, 2017 by

Entrudo Portugal, a uniquely Portuguese type of Mardi Gras, marks the last night of feasting before the start of the Lenten season.

In Portugal, Fat Tuesday (the day before Lent begins) is celebrated with an ancient Celtic festival called Entrudo.

Entrudo has its roots in ancient Celtic fertility celebrations, although it is now tied to the Christian customs of Lent.

Similar to Mardi Gras festivities (but much more localized and family friendly), Entrudo  is a colorful celebration involving hand carved wooden masks, parades, music, lots of food and drink, and mischievous behavior.

 

 

Masked Entrudo reveller

Masked figure at Entrudo fest in the village of Lazarim, Portugal– Source

 

The Careto tradition is a pre-historical Celtic religious ritual still practiced in some regions of Portugal, namely in the villages of Podence (Macedo de Cavaleiros, Bragança District) and Lazarim (Lamego, Viseu District).

It currently takes place during Carnival and is one of the oldest traditions being practiced in Portugal today.

The careto is very much evident in Entrudo Portugal celebrations.

Caretos are masked young men dressed in suits made of yellow, red, black, blue and green fringe wool quilts. They wear brass bells, leather or wooden masks, and rattles in their belts. Caretos run about wildly, “stealing” wine, and “frightening” people, especially single women.

Entrudo Portugal, in Podence

Caretos at Entrudo Portugal, in Podence —Source

 

 

 

This short video shows that the Entrudo Portugal definitely has its roots in ancient Celtic fertility rituals:

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Even the very young participate in the Entrudo parade, sometimes doing a little clean up along the route.

 

Entrudo Portugal child in parade

Child in colorful costume, Entrudo Portugal–Source

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If you go to Entrudo, be sure to bring a camera, a Portuguese phrasebook, and wear warm clothes. It’s cold in the mountainous villages that host the oldest Entrudos.

Enjoy the local stews and drinks, most made especially for the event.

Mostly, though, just enjoy this ancient revelry from our Celtic past!

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Outer Hebrides Teenagers: Life Out Here

Nov 20, 2016 by

Life in Scotland’s Outer Hebrides, also known as the Western Isles,  is both harsh and beautiful. Outer Hebrides teenagers learn early on that their island life is unique.

Steeped in Celtic and Viking culture, the Outer Hebrides has lost population over the years.  Villages run the gamut from tiny to small, with typical teenage nightlife and adventures far away on the Mainland.

So, what makes an Outer Hebrides teenager, born and raised on the islands, want to stay?

French photographer Laetitia Vancon set out to answer this question about life in the Outer Hebrides.  She came away with some compelling images and a deeper understanding of what island life is all about.

Click the link below for the full story.

FRENCH Photographer Laetitia Vancon tries to find out how isles’ youngsters reach their decision to stay at home to seek a new life on the mainland.

Source: Island life on Outer Hebrides captured in snapper’s candid peek at ordinary lives on Scotland’s fringe – Daily Record

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Virtual Glen Coe, Autumn Snow

Nov 19, 2016 by

 If you can’t get to Scotland this week, try virtual Glen Coe instead.

This new video takes a virtual tour of this stunning Highland wonderland:

THIS incredible video footage allows viewers to take a journey through virtual Glen Coe from the comfort of their own home. Filmed earlier this month, the five minute clip was shared on YouTube by Sky View Video.The company specialise in 360 degree videos from the ground and also from the air using drones.This was their first time … Continued

Source: VIDEO: Journey through Glen Coe captured on 360 degree camera – Sunday Post

 

 

virtualglencoewinter2016

2016: Autumn meets winter, looking into Glen Etive and the Glencoe Visitor Centre–Image via National Trust for Scotland Mountain Path Team

Another beautiful photo of snowy Glen Coe, November, 2016:

virtual glen coe

The road to Glen Etive, a snow covered Stob Dearg. Image via National Trust for Scotland Mountain Path Team

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To learn more about Glen Coe’s history, geology and conservation click HERE.

The link will take you to the National Trust for Scotland’s info page for Glen Coe, perhaps the most famous of all Scottish glens.

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Caernarfon Weeping Window : A WWI Tribute

Nov 3, 2016 by

Caernarfon Castle in Wales has recently opened a poignant tribute to the many Welsh soldiers who died in World War I: The Weeping Window.

 

Caernarfon Weeping Window

    Caernarfon Weeping Window poppies display–Image via LonelyPlanet

The Caernarfon Castle exhibit, entitled “Weeping Window”, is made up of more than 6000 red ceramic poppies.

  The poppies were first exhibited at the Tower of London in 2014, as part of the ‘Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red’ memorial.

That display had over 880,000 hand made poppies, which marked every British and colonial death in the 1914-1918 conflict.

 

Artist Paul Cummins assembled the sculpture and said it had taken nearly six days to install. 

Designer Tom Piper said:

“We have got over 5,000 poppies here, representing probably a fraction of the Royal Welch Fusiliers who died in the First World War.”

Caernarfon Weeping Window

Cascading red poppies of the Caernarfon Weeping Window– Image via WalesOnline

Piper also said it was purely chance that the exhibit ended up looking like a red dragon’s claw.  The red dragon, of course, is a renowned national symbol of Wales.

 

Caernarfon Weeping Window

Observers have noted that the Caernarfon Weeping Window display looks like a dragon’s foot Image via Daily Post

Speaking to the Daily Post, Mr Cummins said:

“It wasn’t planned. What happened was on the last day, when they were planting the last ones, it was a bit of a rush, and there archaeological things on the site that meant we were not allowed to spike in certain places.

“You can only go down a few inches in certain places, so we had to go round those places. It’s just fate.”

Here’s a time lapse video of the installation of the Caernarfon Weeping Window:

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Ceramic poppies used in Caernarfon Weeping Window exhibit

        Ceramic poppies used in Caernarfon Weeping Window exhibit Image

The exhibit is free to the public, but tickets are limited (get them online at Caernarfon’s website here) and demand has been high.

Staff at the castle say the Caernarfon Weeping Window drew almost 40,000 visitors in just two weeks.

The stunning exhibit will remain on display until November 20, 2016.

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Traditional Scottish Tablet

Oct 31, 2016 by

Oh, Scottish tablet! How do I love thee? Let me count the ways…

I’m waxing poetic about one of my favorite Scottish comfort foods: Scottish tablet.

Scottish tablet

                                                         Scottish tablet

It’s the grainy cousin of fudge and consists ALMOST ENTIRELY of sugar!

 

 

Scots Tablet differs from fudge in that it has a brittle, grainy texture, where fudge is much softer. Well-made tablet is a medium-hard confection, not as soft as fudge, but not as hard as hard candy.

Easy to make and easy to adapt with additions, like whisky, vanilla and/or nuts.

 

scottish tablet whisky

Click HERE for a tablet recipe with whisky

Eat tablet in wee pieces and the food guilt blues won’t hit you quite so hard. 😉

You can buy traditional tablet online or at the local Tesco, but WHY?! It’s simple to whip up a batch in less than an hour, and homemade always tastes better.

 

Lee's Scottish Tablet Bar

     Lee’s Scottish Tablet Bar

 

 

Here’s a good video that explains how to make this traditional Scottish treat with just 3 ingredients:

Remember: Homemade Scottish tablet makes a terrific

Christmas gift, hint hint.

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Celtic Halloween Samhain

Oct 31, 2016 by

Have a Happy CELTIC Halloween!

Here are few memes and videos to get you into the spirit this Samhain eve.  Just be careful which spirits you let in the door on Celtic Halloween!

 

Celtic Halloween

Celtic Halloween, when the veil between worlds grows thin…

Celtic halloween witch

Beware the Celtic witch!

 

A history of Halloween in Ireland:

 

 

Make way for zombies from Wales! Welsh band Peasant’s King just released a tribute to the ultimate Halloween video, Michael Jackson’s Thriller–that  Danny has a dang good voice for a zombie:

 

 

 

Castle Ghosts of Ireland, an excellent BBC video, explores the bewitching castles of the Emerald Isle:

More castle ghosts for Celtic Halloween, rising out of Scotland’s bloody history:

Wales has its share of haunted castles, too:

For the ancient Celts, Samhain (sunset on October 31 through sunset on November 1) was a night when then the wall between our world and the Other World thinned, allowing their ancestors to walk among their descendants.

The thinning of the veil also allowed the fairies and fae to walk in the mortal world, though, so people took precautions to protect themselves. Guizing, or wearing masks to hide your identity, was one way to avoid the fairies.   Lighting bonfires, dancing, offering sacrifices from the harvest, all were ancient Celtic customs that have evolved over the centuries into the night we modern Celts now call Halloween.

As Loreena McKennitt sings, tonight is for fun, but also for remembering our Celtic past:

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Culloden Jacobites Not Primitive Savages

Aug 4, 2016 by

Murray Pittock of the University of Glasgow has uncovered evidence he believes shows the Culloden Jacobites were far more professional in their formation and weaponry than has been portrayed in history books.

‘Seldom has the adage that history is written by the victors been more accurate or appropriate than in the case of Culloden.

‘For two centuries after the battle, British historiography framed Jacobitism as primitive because of the threat it posed, and the function the defeat of that threat had in a national narrative of foundational reconciliation and the development of the British Empire.

‘It is no coincidence that this approach has begun to founder since 1970, as the imperial state which grew to maturity in part as a consequence of the defeat of the Jacobite threat has itself taken on more fragmentary, modern and multicultural modes of existence.’

The Battle of Culloden: Culloden Jacobites

The Battle of Culloden: A historian claims Culloden Jacobites were framed in British history as ill-equipped because of the threat they posed – and the function the defeat played in a narrative of the British Empire’s development.

The Jacobite army has long been depicted as poorly-led, ill-disciplined, claymore-wielding Highland savages. No surprise then that they were routed by British redcoats deploying muskets and cannon fire.

But did the victors deliberately miscast the Culloden Jacobites as savages?

 

In this brief video, Professor Pittock explains his theory:

 

Source: Bonny Prince Charlie’s vanquished troops were NOT an army of Highland savages | Daily Mail Online

 

Click HERE to pre-order Dr. Pittock’s new book, Great Battles: Culloden on Amazon.

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OUTLANDER RETURNS

Apr 9, 2016 by

Outlander returns tonight–are ye ready?

Outlander returns to Starz

Season Two has Claire and Jamie Fraser journeying to Paris. They will engage in a desperate game of espionage and diplomacy in order to stop the 1745 Jacobite Rising.

Their goal is change history and save the Scottish Highlands from the brutal changes Claire knows will be imposed after the Scottish loss at Culloden.

One thing I need to clarify:  Outlander returns tonight, but not always to Scotland.

Unlike the first season, season two is not filmed mostly in Scotland. The exterior scenes and Paris scenes are filmed in Prague( a bee-you-tiful city), other spots in Europe, and even the south of England.  The scenery will still be spectacular, just not the beauty of Scotland.


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