Scotland prepares to show off its medieval heritage

As the movie Brave draws in big crowds around the world, Scotland is set to take advantage of this new attention to showcase its medieval heritage. Two important exhibits will be taking place next year at the National Museum of Scotland, while construction is underway to create a visitors centre at the site of the Battle of Bannockburn.

Earlier this month the National Museum of Scotland announced that it will be holding two special exhibitions in Edinburgh, entitled Vikings and Mary Queen of Scots.


Vikings (1 February – 26 May 2013) explores the perceptions of the Vikings as warriors, explorers, pirates and merchants. The exhibition gives fascinating insights into death rituals, the power of mythology and the symbolism of the Viking ships, their crafts and workmanship and also their domestic lives. Among the objects on display will be spectacular jewellery and metalwork, textiles, glass, bone, amber and religious artefacts.

Craft, especially metal craft had metaphysical and mythological significance in the Viking Age and the treasures in the exhibition will showcase their astonishing workmanship. The displays will include a silver pendant crucifix, a stunning silver necklace in the form of the fertility goddess, Freyja and a brooch of gold, bronze and garnet.


George Dalgleish, Keeper of Scottish History and Archaeology, said “We are delighted to be bringing two major exhibitions of key periods in Scottish and Scandinavian history to the National Museum of Scotland for 2013. Over 500 objects from the world-renowned collections of the Historiska Museet in Stockholm will form the basis of Vikings, providing a unique opportunity to view these exciting exhibits.”

Mary Queen of Scots (Summer 2013) is arguably one of the most enigmatic figures in Scottish history. Her story arouses strong emotions: was she betrayed by those she trusted, condemned to die a Catholic martyr or was she a murdering adulteress with her husband’s blood on her hands?

The exhibition will provide an opportunity to re-visit much that has been written and speculated about Mary, one of the most charismatic monarchs of all time. Taking a fresh, innovative approach, using jewels, textiles, furniture, documents and portraits, Mary’s dramatic story and this fascinating period in Scottish history will be explored in detail.

An intriguing item is the silver ryal or 30 shillings coin which commemorated the marriage of Mary, Queen of Scots and Henry, Lord Darnley. This was struck in Scotland in 1565 and then quickly withdrawn from circulation. It was then redesigned in 1566 with Mary’s image and name appearing before that of her husband.


George Dalgleish adds  “I know that Mary Queen of Scots will prove a hugely popular exhibition as there is a continuing fascination with her life story which has over decades been the subject of many books, plays and films. Drawing together surviving relics intimately connected with Mary Stewart and wider Renaissance material from public and private collections, the exhibition will tell the incredible story of the sovereign and the woman.”

In recent years, the National Museum of Scotland has spent £47 million to revitalize itself and create new exhibitions. Meanwhile, close to £10 million is being spent on a new visitor centre at the site of the Battle of Bannockburn.

The new building, which will be ready for celebrations marking the 700th anniversary of the battle, will house a unique and exciting exhibition. The use of state-of-the-art 3D technology will bring visitors face to face with medieval battle in a way that has never been experienced before.


Fiona Hyslop, the Cabinet Secretary for Culture and External Affairs, said “The eyes of the world will be on Scotland during the year of Homecoming in 2014, when our country will host international events such as the Commonwealth Games and the Ryder Cup and marking the 700th anniversary of the Battle of Bannockburn. This project will allow us to celebrate our heritage and promote Scotland as a world-class tourist destination to the world.

“This is a once in a generation opportunity to create a state-of-the-art visitor centre at Bannockburn and repair the protected monuments that previous generations commemorated the battle with and I am delighted that work is on track.”

Kate Mavor, Chief Executive of the National Trust for Scotland, added “Now that construction work has commenced, the Battle of Bannockburn project has taken another significant step forward and the two-year countdown to the 700 year anniversary of the battle has begun.

“Bannockburn is one of the most significant sites in Scotland. We know that when it comes to the battle, plenty of people have heard the myths, we want the new centre to be the place where you get the facts. The Trust takes pride in ensuring that the story of the battle is told accurately and compellingly, giving every visitor the chance to learn more about this critical point in history.”


The movie Brave has already garnered over $150 million in the worldwide box office, and Scotland’s National Tourist Organisation has started a marketing campaign to promote its medieval history.

Click here to learn more about the movie Brave.

Sources: Historic Scotland, National Museum of Scotland