Time Team star Tony Robinson has backed a campaign by VisitScotland, Scotlands national tourism board, promoting archaeological tourism in the country of such world-renowned UNESCO Heritage Sites as St Kilda and Skara Brae, and remarkable heritage treasures including The Lewis Chessmen and the Orkney Venus.
The message to visitors: forget all those dull clichs about tartan, haggis and caber tossing, and instead get around the country and discover a rich well of history which runs many thousands of years deeper than William Wallace and the narrow vision of Scotlands past popularised by Braveheart. Scotlands history runs through the Viking and Roman eras, all the way back to the Neolithic period, when a number of Britains first settlements some of them remarkably advanced were founded.
The Archaeological Treasures Trail programme, which was unveiled by Robinson last week at an event on Inchcolm Island in the Firth of Forth home to the best-preserved group of early monastic buildings in Scotland will provide tourists with a series of free, five-day online itineraries allowing them to take in a range of sites, artefacts and historical insights, predominantly around the islands of Orkney, Shetland and the Outer Hebrides where most of Scotlands ancient archeological heritage lies.
As well as describing the sites in question, the itineraries also give information on the best transport routes and methods to and from destinations, as well as suggestions on where to eat and historic hotels and B&Bs to stay in.
Scotland is so jam-packed full of archaeology but being such a large country, of course its all spread out, commented Robinson at the launch event. So one of the wonderful things about these archaeological trails is that it shows you how to move from one to the other without wasting a lot of time, as well as showing you things like decent places to eat in between, interesting walks to do, birds to have a look at. So if youre taking your kids, for example, you can have really quite an exciting day without feeling like theyre being dragged around place to place.
Get Your Head Around History
Time Team is the longest-running archaeological series on television, and has visited Scotland on several occasions, most recently for a dig on the Isle of Mull as part of the programmes current series. So Robinson who is also well-known for his role as Baldrick in historical comedy Blackadder is well-qualified to enthuse about the countrys rich archaeological landscape, and how visiting sites such as Inchcolm Abbey can help history enthusiasts visualise the way people lived hundreds or even thousands of years ago.
Historys often a hard thing to get your head round, the idea that there used to be people who were like us but dressed differently, talked differently and had pointy shoes on, said Robinson. But once youre out here, once you see that monastery, suddenly you know there were monks here on this beach, playing ball or whatever monks did, it all becomes different.
The Orkney tour itinerary recommends such places as the Orkney Museum, the Ring of Brodgar, the Stones of Stenness Circle and Henge and Maeshowe all on the first day. Then on its on to such sites Skara Brae a remarkably intact (but sadly endangered) 5,000-year-old sunken stone Neolithic village which was so advanced it even has a toilet with a drain the Broch of Gurness, the Tomb of the Eagles and Links of Noltland (where the Orkney Venus was found), in a packed five-day schedule.
Among the recommendations on the Shetland archaeological trail are Shetland Museum and Archives and the Brochs of Clickimin, Mousa and Scatness, while the Hebrides tour takes in Museum Nan Eilean which will host the Lewis Chessmen Unmasked exhibition from April 5, 2011 to September 12, 2011 the Calanais Standing Stones, Uig Bay (where the Lewis Chessmen are said to have been discovered) and Cladh Hallan, where the Cladh Hallan Mummies were uncovered.
The islands of Scotland are the perfect place to visit during the summer months and this trail is the ideal way to incorporate an archaeological quest into your trip, added Robinson. It doesnt matter how old or young you are, or how much you already know. Even if you have visited the islands before, the trail shows how there is always more to discover and encourage you to go back and enjoy a different type of holiday.
This is your chance to step back in time and discover Scotlands Stonehenge, explore ancient burial monuments and wander through prehistoric villages complete with stone beds, dressers and central hearths. Who knows what else is buried out there just waiting to reveal its treasures and tell us more about our ancestors of old?
See the Visit Scotland website for the full Archaeological Treasures Trail programme.