Events planned to celebrate Scotland’s latest themed year

The remains of the Antonine Wall will be celebrated as part of the planned events. Picture: Visit Scotland
The remains of the Antonine Wall will be celebrated as part of the planned events. Picture: Visit Scotland

A spectacular sound and light event at New Lanark, a 19th century festival celebrating the Forth Bridge and a homage to horses in the shadow of the famous Kelpies.

Just some of the 50 events already planned as part of the 2017 Year of History, Heritage and Archaeology.

It’s the latest in a series of themed years which are being used to promote Scotland to overseas visitors while encouraging locals to find out more about their own country.

With more than one third of visitors drawn to Scotland by its history and culture, the 2017 Year of History, Heritage and Archaeology is being hailed as an exciting opportunity to relive our fascinating past through a range of events and activities.

Funded by the Scottish Government and led by Visit Scotland, the year is being built up around nine key events across the country.

One major date will be Tuesday, April 18.

Not only is it World Heritage Day but it is also the Scotland in Six event which will see celebrations take place at each of Scotland’s UNESCO World Heritage Sites from dawn to dusk.

It will include three-minute pop-up festivals from the 1890s at the Forth Bridge and also a special steampunk surprise.

Further south, yarn-bombers and guerrilla knitters will be allowed to run riot at New Lanark to try to cover the 18th century cotton mill village in colourful cotton.

And around Falkirk’s Callendar House, which has remains of the Antonine Wall in its grounds, Picts will chase down Romans over a 5K race, ending with a Great Roman Bake Off for spectators and runners.

Manuela Calchini, from Visit Scotland, said: “Scotland is the land where great legends were made throughout history and so it is only apt that we should have such a unique line-up of events and activities for the 2017 Year of History, Heritage and Archaeology.

“We’re delighted iconic structures will be taking centre stage in a day-long celebration of Scotland’s six UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

“From ancient monuments and cultural traditions to our myths, stories and legends, the year-long programme of activities will spotlight some of our greatest assets and icons as well as our hidden gems.

“We look forward to inviting visitors and locals alike to come face to face with the past next year.”

Themed years first claimed the spolight in 2009 with Homecoming. Designed to give Scottish tourism an edge, they aim to create a strong collaborative platform to promote Scotland and its people.

And it seems to be working.

The Year of Food and Drink in 2015 saw a visitor spend of almost £1 billion on food and drink, the highest ever recorded in Scotland.

International visitor spend on food and drink also rose during 2015, up by 21 per cent from £268 million in 2014 to £339 million in 2015.

The year before, the 2014 Homecoming helped Scotland generate £136 million of additional revenue in a year that also saw the country host the Ryder Cup and Commonwealth Games.

And the recent Year of Innovation, Architecture and Design in 2016 saw 1.4 million attendances across a number of supported events including Luminous Birds, Ignite Dundee, Findhorn Bay Festival, The Rock of Ages, University of Aberdeen May Festival and Craft Scotland’s Meet Your Maker programme.

Chelsea Charles, special projects communications manager at Visit Scotland, said: “The Year of History, Heritage and Archaeology 2017 builds upon the momentum generated by preceding themed years to spotlight, celebrate and promote Scotland’s rich and vibrant heritage in order to engage and attract the people of Scotland and our visitors.

“History and heritage is already a key motivator for visits to Scotland. An estimated 213,000 trips a year to Scotland are by visitors who take part in ancestral research. And more than nine out of 10 Scots indicated that historic features are an important part of the identity of our villages, towns and cities.

“There’s a great variety of events, visitor attractions and activity planned for 2017 – from storytelling to hands-on history, music festivals to celebrating our heritage heroes – it’s hard to pick a favourite.”

Other events planned include celebrations for Burns Night, a live archaeological dig of St Kilda in Minecraft, and a “moments in time” installation at Edinburgh International Science Festival.

And with ancestral tourism worth £101 million to the economy, the Scottish Clan Event Fund is supporting nine more events throughout 2017, including the Clan Maclean International Gathering in June and the Stewart Highland Games in July.

A £500,000 fund from the Heritage Lottery Fund will also be used to encourage people across Scotland to uncover and celebrate their local history, customs and traditions.

The hashtag for the year is #HHA2017 and people are encouraged to share on social media by taking a selfie at historical attractions or hidden gems and using #facethepast.