Many people come to Scotland expecting a massive historic bounty of castles, abbeys, caves and more.
Few leave Scotland disappointed in this regard… Scotland is a country of pioneers and innovators, and so it’s no surprise that Scotland has its fair share of ‘firsts’ that still exist to this day – the oldest items of Scotland’s history.
Although 2017 was the Visit Scotland Year of History, Heritage and Archaeology, we think anytime is a great time to look at Scotland’s oldest places!
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The Oldest Pub in Scotland
Scotland is renowned for its people’s many hours spent in cherished watering holes, both in the past and in the present.
It then comes as no surprise, that Scotland has a handful of old pubs, where over many decades and centuries, Scottish men and women have wined and dined and enjoyed the friendly atmosphere of our pubs.
The Sheep Heid Inn is Scotland’s oldest pub – found in the East End of Edinburgh. It has been serving drinks in Duddingston for no less than 650 years! It’s really long, and therefore a lot of litres of excellent beer has been poured out in this awesome place.
There is much speculation as to where the pub’s name came from. Sheep reared in Holyrood were brought to the slaughter in Duddingston, and since there was so little demand for their heads or ‘heids’ in Scots, they were kept by the residents of Duddingston – and soon they became known for their strange gastronomic delight – a sheep head broth.
In reality, its name more likely came from a gift of a sheep’s head from James VI of Scotland, but that’s not as interesting as sheep head soup!
Being in existence for so long, The Sheep Heid Inn has endured a significant change in Scottish life and has played host to several renowned groups and people in Scottish lore. On route to the Battle of Prestonpans, the Jacobite Army was said to stop by the pub for a few drinks.
While there are many fantastic pubs in the land, none are thought to be as old as this one, and none have such a storied history! It’s very hard not to pop in there for a pint and taste the first-hand history.
The Oldest Golf Course in the World
One of Scotland’s many gifts to the world was golf. Scotland is the home of golf, and so it comes to no surprise that Scotland’s oldest golf club is also the oldest in the whole World.
While many believe St Andrews to be the home of golf, it is actually the East Lothian town of Musselburgh that plays host to the World’s first golf course. Musselburgh Links is recognised as such in the Guinness Book of World Records.
Evidence exists to prove that golf was played at Musselburgh Links as early as March 1672, however, the famous Mary Queen of Scots was said to have played here as early as 1567.
In more recent times, continuing the regal theme, Queen Elizabeth II and the Duke of Edinburgh were inadvertently forced to land their helicopter there.
Fog in Edinburgh forced the Queen to land in front of the first tee on a visit in 2010. At just 9 holes, you could fit the links into your afternoon reasonably easily, and you never know what royal company you’ll run into when you’re there! It is worth to have a try to experience it on your own skin.
The Oldest Inhabited House in Scotland
Nestled in the secluded, idyllic Scottish Borders is Traquair House, a grand mansion that is said to be the oldest continually inhabited house in Scotland.
Traquair House is more than 900 years old and has been visited by an unbelievable 27 Kings and Queens. King Alexander I (1078-1124) was the first Scottish monarch to reside and hunt at Traquair.
When Alexander I stayed there, Traquair House was a remote weekend retreat for the King, but upon the tragic death of Alexander III at Kinghorn and the ensuing succession crisis, Traquair was suddenly thrust onto the frontier in the Tweed Valley, guarding against Edward I, ‘Longshanks’, and his wandering eye for the Scottish crown.
In the centuries following, Traquair House switched hands between the Scottish and English a number of times.
Traquair is an unbelievable size. In the house, there are an astonishing 50 rooms, including ‘The King’s Room’ where Mary Queen of Scots stayed in 1566 – she left some personal items behind, which are still there today! I don’t know about you, but I’d love to take a closer look at them. Such an occasion doesn’t happen very often.
The Oldest Tree in Britain
In the churchyard of a rural Perthshire village, the ancient Fortingall Yew still stands. While experts are primarily undecided as to the certain age of the tree, modern estimates claim the age is at least between 2,000 and 3,000 years old.
Some liberal estimates state that Fortingall Yew is perhaps even 9,000 years old, which would make it one of Europe’s oldest trees, but still younger than some Norway Spruces in Sweden.
Regardless of whether it is really 2,000 or 3,000 or 9,000 years old, Fortingall Yew is likely the oldest tree in all of Great Britain.
The tree was once 52 feet wide in its trunk, so not too bad for a quick moment in the shade when the roasting weather comes to Perthshire that one time every year!
The Oldest Museum in Scotland
In the grounds of the second-oldest university in Scotland, Glasgow is Scotland’s oldest museum – the Hunterian Museum.
The Museum was opened in 1807, comprised of the massive personal collection of the anatomist William Hunter, which he left to the University of Glasgow. Today, the Museum has a varied collection, with exhibits on such topics as Roman Scotland and Fossils, amongst other treasures.
Entry is free, and if you don’t get lost in the beautiful expanses of Glasgow’s West End, the fascinating Hunterian Museum will keep you entertained for the entire afternoon…
The Oldest Hill Fort in Scotland
If we talk about the Oldest places in Scotland, there is an absolute must to introduce the pair of the largest and the most spectacular hill forts in Scotland. The view from the Brown and White Caterthuns is remarkable.
However, first I want to explain why this place is so unique and considered as the Oldest Hill Fort in Scotland.
So Caterthuns are outstanding in the fact that they are the site of two unique fortresses from the Iron Age known as the White Caterthun and the Brown Caterthun. You got it right, The Iron Age! That sound unreal.
The White Caterthun is located on the western side and is mainly dominated by an oval fortress consisting of a huge wall made up of dry stones, with something like a well in the middle. The name of this place comes from the light-coloured stone wall.
The Brown Caterthun is located in the east, consists of a series of earth embankments and its name derives from their
It is a place which is worth to be seen and discovered by you. These splendid views will knock you off your feet.
The Oldest Village in Scotland
The task to find the oldest village in Scotland is not an easy one. However, I’ve decided to choose the Skara Brae which may be considered as a village, but some view this place more as a settlement.
This stone-built Neolithic village is placed on the Bay of Skaill which is located on the west coast of the largest island of Scottish archipelago, Mainland.
Some call this place a ‘Scottish Pompeii’ due to the excellent preservation of the clustered houses which are older than the Great Pyramids and Stonehenge.
How amazing is that? Even UNESCO had appreciated the uniqueness of Skara Brae and added it to the list of the World Heritage Site.
I do not think that you could miss the opportunity to experience this outstanding place and many more while visiting Scotland.
The Oldest Capital of Scotland
Correct me if I am wrong, but I had heard that the first capital of Scotland was Dunfermline.
So this is how I introduce you to the oldest capital of Scotland. Dunfermline is a town with by some is dated as far back as the Bronze Age, which means that it is an ancient settlement.
This town was also a former Royal Burgh in Fife and for those who do not know it is located around the northern shore of the Firth of Forth.
Dunfermline is a place which is so worth to visit not only because of its great history and stunning views as well as a location but also due to The Abbey Church of Dunfermline. It is one of the most magnificent churches in Scotland.
The Abbey Church of Dunfermline actually contains two completely different churches connected into one. The effect is unexpected and unusual and at the same time is considered an icon of Scottish architecture. This is a place definitely worth your attention.
I know that you certainly want more and there is much more old places, building, monuments and other things considered as oldest in Scotland. However, I cannot list them all! It is too much of them, and they all unique in their own way.
Nerveless I believe that this post gives you some idea on how historically diverse and interesting Scotland is and why beach holidays are not always the best choice.
Sometimes it’s nice to lose yourself in history and find something that was in this world much earlier than you and me.