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In our latest blog, find out about some of the many stories Angus has to tell, from notable individuals who still influence our lives today to fictional figures that became household names.

Throughout 2022, we will be sharing a series of blogs celebrating the Year of Stories.

Year of Stories

As part of Scotland’s Year of Stories celebrations in 2022, we’re sharing some of the most famous tales from Angus.

From notable individuals who still influence our lives today to fictional figures that became household names, Angus has many stories to tell. Here are just a few.

Arbroath Abbey
Image: Arbroath Abbey

Declaration of Arbroath

The Declaration of Arbroath is a letter written in 1320 by the barons and entire community of the kingdom of Scotland to the Pope. It asked the Pope to recognise Scotland’s independence and acknowledge Robert the Bruce as its lawful king.

“As long as but a hundred of us remain alive, never will we on any conditions be brought under English rule. It is in truth not for glory, nor riches, nor honours, that we are fighting, but for freedom – for that alone, which no honest man gives up but with life itself”.

This is the most widely known part of the Declaration of Arbroath. It was written in Latin and sealed by eight earls and around forty barons. The Declaration was part of a larger plan to show the Pope and others that Scotland was an independent kingdom and had a right to rule itself.

The Pope was impressed by the Declaration and he encouraged Edward II to make peace with the Scots. However, peace talks lasted until 1321 without the English recognising Scottish independence. Finally, in October 1328, a peace treaty was agreed between Scotland and England.

Today, the Declaration of Arbroath is arguably the most famous document in Scottish history. In 1998, The United States Congress resolved that the US Declaration of Independence has been modelled on the Declaration of Arbroath. It was further resolved that April 6th was from that day on officially National Tartan Day in commemoration of that famous document.

The Declaration was sent from Arbroath Abbey, a spectacular abbey founded by William the Lion in 1178. You can visit this spectacular abbey to read more about the Declaration and admire the substantial ruins of a Tironensian monastery. The abbey’s new visitor centre features a fantastic exhibition about the abbey’s historical timeline and more information about the Declaration of Arbroath.

Gin Bothy Experience
Image: The Bothy Experience, Glamis

Scottish Bothies

In some of the most remote and wild places in Angus, small buildings called bothies once offered a basic place of refuge when clouds gathered, darkness fell, or weary limbs demanded a rest.

But bothies often became much more than just a place to sleep. Bothies were a place where travellers converged as kindred spirits. Hip flasks full of gin and other spirits were passed around, often as a source of warmth and comfort in harsh conditions.

At their best, they represented a culture and a community. They were a place of stories and songs – many ‘bothie bands’ were formed in these small shelters.

The name bothie is believed to come from the Scots Gaelic or Irish bothan, meaning ‘hut’, or the Welsh bwthyn, meaning ‘cottage’. Old farm buildings, cottages and crofts used by walkers are referred to as bothies throughout northern England, Wales and Northern Ireland too. While you can find bothies elsewhere, it’s Scottish bothies that really epitomise the bothy experience.

Almost all the bothies in Scotland are maintained by the Mountain Bothies Association (MBA). This was established in 1965 to restore and manage the various abandoned buildings that were already being used by cyclists, hillwalkers and climbers.

You can find bothies scattered across Angus. Use them to shelter for a while in the event of challenging weather or just for a well-earned rest. These simple, single-room stone structures with wooden doors and tiny windows are typically unlocked and free to use for a temporary shelter or an overnight stay.

Some bothies have been used for slightly more unusual purposes. Entrepreneur Kim Cameron began hand-bottling batches of her artisan gin in a tiny bothy at Peel Farm, Lintrathen. The gins were incredibly popular and the business was swamped with orders. Today, Kim’s Gin Bothy business makes award-winning gin using local produce.

Visit The Bothy Experience in Kirkwynd, near Glamis, to learn how the Gin Bothy make their gin products, and have a taste for yourself. Their Bothy Beginnings room takes you through the entire gin-making journey and their Bothy Tales room gives you an in-depth history of bothies across Scotland, with fascinating stories and songs to enjoy.

Engraved Paving at Cumberland Close, Kirriemuir
Image: Engraved paving at Cumberland Close, Kirriemuir

Sir Hugh Munro

Sir Hugh Thomas Munro was the first person to systematically list all the Scottish mountains above 3,000 feet (914m). Born in 1856, Munro was the eldest of a family of nine. The family would spend part of each year in London and the rest at their estate at Lindertis, near Kirriemuir in Angus.

As a 17 year old, Munro went to Stuttgart to learn German and fell in love with the Alps and mountain exploration. After some time in South Africa, ​​he returned home to manage the family estate and explore a career in politics.

Munro loved to travel and regularly took his wife and daughters on long overseas trips. When war broke out in 1914, Munro acted as King’s Messenger, carrying diplomatic papers to British embassies abroad. This brought even more travel opportunities.

Inspired by his time in the Alps during his youth, Munro helped found the Scottish Mountaineering Club in 1889. And then, in September 1891, he published his list of Scottish mountains. It was entitled, “Tables giving all the Scottish mountains exceeding 3,000 feet in height”.

The exact criteria for what counts as a Munro was somewhat vague. This has resulted in much debate over the years. Since Munro’s death in 1919, the list of Munros has been revised on several occasions, most recently in 1997. His unexpected death in France during the post-war influenza pandemic meant Munro fell just short of climbing all of his own list of peaks and tops, managing 535 out of 538.

Today, climbing these large Scottish peaks is known as ‘Munro bagging’, a popular pastime where walking enthusiasts challenge themselves to climb as many of the peaks as they can. Some keen hikers bag two Munros in a single day and even up to four over a very energetic weekend.

The Angus Glens have 10 Munros for you to climb and explore while enjoying the beautiful moorland colours and intoxicating scent of heather. Angus features some of the best Munros in Scotland for beginners. These include Mount Keen, which starts from the end of the public road in Glen Esk, and the twin Munros of Driesh and Mayar, accessible from Glen Doll.

Why not plan a visit to Angus and bag some Munros this year?

Image: Glamis Castle

Macbeth – Glamis Castle

Glamis Castle is the childhood home of the Queen Mother and legendary setting for William Shakespeare’s Macbeth.

In the play’s opening scenes, Macbeth is a Scot who has just been made Thane of Glamis. He later becomes Thane of Cawdor and then king of Scotland. It is said that Shakespeare’s famous Macbeth character may have been inspired by a real, murderous 11th Century Scottish king.

As well as being associated with the Macbeth story, Glamis Castle is also famed as a living, breathing monument to Scottish heritage and hospitality. It was the birthplace of Princess Margaret and family home of the Earls of Strathmore and Kinghorne.

You can enjoy a self-guided tour of this historic 1000-year-old castle using your own mobile device or pre-book a space on one of the informative and entertaining guided tours. Take in the glorious details of the castle’s stunning paintings and antique furniture as you listen to stories about former Royal residents and famous visitors over the years.

The castle’s majestic grounds and gardens are beautiful all year round and offer the opportunity for an unforgettable walk in a special location. Take the Macbeth Trail in the pinetum (a collection of trees consisting mainly of conifers) to see impressive wooden sculptures of the play’s major scenes, including those featuring the Three Witches and Lady Macbeth.

The artist’s work is figurative but perfectly captures the madness, mental turmoil, and even the tempestuous weather of the play. The scenes are sculpted from oak, douglas fir and noble fir trees from the estate.

Forfar Witches
Image: Memorial to the Forfar Witches at Forfar Loch

Forfar Witches

In the 17th century, the Angus town of Forfar earned itself a notorious reputation due to the number of women burned for witchcraft.

The tale of the Forfar Witches is a true account of the witch trials that took place in the town during the 1660s. Over the course of several brutal years, over 40 men, women and children were caught up in the witch hunt hysteria that enveloped many Scottish towns at the time.

At least 22 people were publicly executed. Their alleged crimes included destroying ships and crops by magic, ‘consorting’ with Satan, and cannibalism. Given how small Forfar was at the time, its notorious reputation would have significantly impacted the town’s economic welfare.

Visit the Meffan Museum and Art Gallery on West High Street to learn more about the grim tale of the Forfar Witches. You will also learn more about the mysterious Picts through a collection of enigmatic sculptured stones and walk down the museum’s recreation of an old, narrow cobbled street, The Vennel.

You can see a memorial stone dedicated to the Forfar Witches on the north side of Forfar Loch. The loch sits within Forfar Country Park and offers fantastic walking opportunities in a relaxed, scenic setting. And while you search for the Forfar Witches memorial stone, keep your eyes open for kingfishers, otters, foxes, roe deer, and osprey.

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