Sarah-Jane Laing
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Sarah-Jane Laing
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Yee-haa for YeHHA!

One example is the Flodden Eco museum, a cross border project which links together over 40 sites and other aspects of heritage nationwide which have a connection to the Battle of Flodden, through history, folklore, or legend. The sites are all existing attractions in the care of their communities, such as castles, bridges, churches, museums, walls, statues, and of course the battlefield itself. This collaborative approach has an abundance of benefits that it brings to the locality: history, education, archaeology, genealogy as well as the add-ons for rural businesses providing accommodation, food and drink, fishing, horse riding, shopping etc.

Also featured is Kelburn Castle, where the work of a Brazilian graffiti artist adorns the 13th century building, and the Grassic Gibbon Centre in Aberdeenshire celebrating the work of the author of Sunset Song – recently voted Scotland’s favourite book (and very familiar to those who, like me, studied it as one of our school set text). These examples illustrate that there is no pigeon hole that history, heritage or archaeology has to fit into – the opportunities to hang our hat (or Stetson) on the YeHHA hook really do appear limitless.

So the opportunities for estates, farms and other land based businesses to increase or add value to their tourism are clear to see. But in this age of social media and disposable culture, is there really a demand?

Well the answer seems to be yes! I was recently very fortunate to be invited to an RSA Scotland guest lecture by Dr Lloyd Grossman, who was awarded a CBE in 2015 in recognition for his services to heritage. Dr Grossman told a rapt audience that regardless of the threats to our built heritage from various global trends, heritage tourism is well placed to take advantage of other meta trends such as the desire for authenticity of experience and the hunger for ‘re-enchantment’. The Internet and in particular social media and apps such as Netflix have actually increased the customer base for Scotland’s specific and distinctive heritage offering. The phenomena of series such as Outlander look set to create a new wave of visits to the iconic locations of the Fraser clan, whilst fans still flock to Doune Castle to purchase their coconut shells and recreate the unforgettable Monty Python scene.

The thirst for genealogy and tracing your family heritage is also still very strong, our Chairman David Johnstone recently attended the Clan Johnstone gathering at the Stone Mountain Highland Games in Atlanta where over 10,000 attendees were keen to demonstrate their Scottish heritage. The American chapter of Clan Johnstone is planning a trip to Scotland next year to visit as many as possible of the sites associated with their family’s past. I’m sure they won’t be the only ones.

YeHAA is not just about looking backwards – as Dr Grossman said in his lecture ‘Heritage without life is meaningless’. Our members have successfully breathed new life into their heritage assets – not just the investment required to turn crumbling piles into viable tourism businesses like Mingary Castle, but also using history and heritage as the backdrop for economic enterprise, creativity and inspirational modern activity. One such case is the young driver training which takes place on the former RAF airfield at Charterhall in the Borders – a night fighter training centre during the Second World War. This partnership between Charterhall estate and Clelands Volvo provides a very worthwhile activity in a historic and breathtaking setting. Kincardine Castle in Kincardine O’Neil is another historic location which is the setting for a very modern activity – with Porches and Lamborghini’s aplenty at the recent Royal Deeside Speed Festival.

Heritage tourism is big business but the wider benefits are many and varied and enrich society as a whole. Scotland is so well placed to provide a world leading heritage offering, our heritage has shaped not only Scotland but the world at large – as Winston Churchill said “of all the small nations of this earth, perhaps only the Greeks surpass the Scots in their contribution to mankind”

So grab your bunnets, glengarrys, woolly hats or stetsons and get ready for YeHAA!

Sarah-Jane Laing, Director of Policy and Parliamentary Affairs 

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