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Year of History, Heritage & Archaeology 2017

Each year the Scottish Government and Visit Scotland - along with a slew of other public and private bodies - put together epic theme years. They have come up with Year of Active, Year of Food and Drink and, perhaps most memorably, the Year of Homecoming in 2014. The current theme year is a whopper taking in three themes under one umbrella in the Year of History, Heritage and Archaeology Scotland 2017.

The main aims behind this year, in common with all of these annual theme years, are twofold. Firstly to get people thinking about all aspects of the extravaganza and how it applies to Scotland - so this time the nation’s rich heritage, eclectic history and remarkable archaeology. The second aim is to motivate people to get out and visit attractions all over the country, whether it be for a special theme year event or just a regular visit at any time during the year. The designated years are pitched at both Scots themselves and tourists, whether they be from elsewhere in Great Britain or overseas.

These theme years are given substantial financial backing, but they also reply on partners to use their imagination, be creative and incorporate the themes into events that they are already staging. These tweaked events dovetail well with the one off spectaculars that are staged just for the theme year.

A list of some of the most dramatic events during the Year of History, Heritage and Archaeology has already been released, but there will be many more being announced throughout what promises to be a bumper year for Scottish tourism and people travelling around the country.

One of the first big events is fittingly in the historic Scottish capital. Edinburgh’s Georgian Shadows, from February 23 to March 26, will see half a dozen New Town buildings brought alive with a spectacular lighting display. The highlight will be St Andrew Square, where a son et lumiere show will literally illuminate the story of the Georgian residents of this landmark historic square. In late April into May look out in the capital for Tradfest, a brilliant annual celebration of mixed arts that this year takes on a Year of History, Heritage and Archaeology hue.
Ring of Brodgar © Robin McKelvie

Things spread from the capital around the country in April with Scotland in Six on April 18, World Heritage Day. Scotland’s half dozen UNESCO World Heritage listed sites will be under the microscope, from Edinburgh’s Old and New Towns to the heritage complex of New Lanark and on to the Roman heritage of the Antoine Wall, the Forth Bridge, remote St Kilda and as far away as the Heart of Neolithic Orkney in the Northern Isles.

Not to be left out, one of Scotland’s most ambitious towns, Paisley, is celebrating with Paisley’s International Festival of Weaving, on July 1 and 2, as it steps up its bid to be a future European City of Culture. Here Paisley’s weaving heritage – it is the home of the world famous Paisley Pattern - is delved into, as are its global textile links. A highlight will be a massive parade through the city streets, the Sma Shot Parade.

In the Western Isles the An Lanntair Arts Centre in Stornoway on Lewis in the Outer Hebrides is hosting a huge exploration of South Asian arts and their links with Scotland.  Further north Shetland enters the Year of History, Heritage and Archaeology fray with a Follow the Vikings Roadshow and Festival in September, which will bring the Norse heritage of the archipelago to life in the capital of Lerwick and the most northerly inhabited isle in the UK, Unst.
© Alan Bird 2016

The Year of History, Heritage and Archaeology really does touch upon all parts of Scotland. Other highlights to look out for include HorsePower, a celebration of all things equestrian on September 9 in Falkirk at the Helix Park by the Kelpies, the Mary Queen of Scots Festival in September in and around Kinross and Loch Leven and Shining Lives, which sees a spectacular light and sound show bring the history of New Lanark even more into the public eye.

The beauty of these theme years is that there really is something for everyone whether you are eight or eighty. The events constantly evolve over the year as more and more people and organisations jump on the welcoming bandwagon. And what a bandwagon it will be as Scotland’s rich, eclectic and always enthralling history, heritage and archaeology come alive through this very special theme year.

Hirta © Robin McKelvie