Wild and Majestic – an exhibition at the National Museum of Scotland, Edinburgh

On the final day of our short break in Edinburgh in July, we had a very exciting evening planned (next post, I promise), so I set up an easy day, with a gentle walk through the old town to the National Museum of Scotland, to view the WILD AND MAJESTIC exhibition.

Quoting from the advertising:

“From the Romantic movement of the 18th and early 19th centuries to Queen Victoria’s highland idyll at Balmoral, Wild and Majestic considers the origins of these ideas and explores how they were used to represent Scotland around the world, expressed through highland and military dress, royal visits, art, literature and the beginnings of the Scottish tourism industry.”

The romanticism of Scotland seems largely to have begun with the poet, James Macpherson, who claimed to have found poetry written by the ancient bard Ossian. He published his translations, which acquired international popularity, being proclaimed as a Celtic equivalent of the Classical epics.

There is much dispute over whether Ossian actually existed, or if the work is really by Macpherson himself, but either way, the poem Fingal, written in 1762, was translated into many European languages, and its appreciation of natural beauty and treatment of the ancient legend has been credited more than any single work with bringing about the Romantic movement in Europe.

From Wikipedia: “Robert Burns (1759–96) and Walter Scott (1771–1832) were highly influenced by the Ossian cycle. Burns, an Ayrshire poet and lyricist, is widely regarded as the national poet of Scotland and a major influence on the Romantic movement. His poem (and song) “Auld Lang Syne” is often sung at Hogmanay.”

In Burn’s own hand…

Again from Wikipedia: “Scott began as a poet and also collected and published Scottish ballads. His first prose work, Waverley in 1814, is often called the first historical novel. It launched a highly successful career, with other historical novels such as Rob Roy (1817), The Heart of Midlothian (1818) and Ivanhoe (1820). Scott probably did more than any other figure to define and popularise Scottish cultural identity in the nineteenth century.”

What an influential author!

Another mega famous name influenced by the romantic movement was this man:

Spine-tingling to see music written by the master himself

And for good measure, another name in this hall of the truly famous, is Lord Byron, who was brought up in Scotland until he acquired his English title.

The romantic movement wrought changes not only in literature and music, but also art, drama, ballet, architecture (the gothic Scottish Baronial style), science, politics, philosophy, and fashion!

This latter becomes the tale of the adoption of clan tartans. Did you know originally there was no such thing as a clan tartan? These were not adopted and formalised until the romantic era swept in.

In the aftermath of the Jacobite rising (1689), the wearing of tartan had been banned, though most of the legislation subsequently had been repealed by the end of the eighteenth century. Tartan was adopted by highland regiments due to the large numbers of poor highlanders joining up, (again, from Wikipedia:)

“but by the nineteenth century it had largely been abandoned by the ordinary people of the region. In the 1820s, tartan and the kilt were adopted by members of the social elite, not just in Scotland, but across Europe. The international craze for tartan, and for idealising a romanticised Highlands, was set off by the Ossian cycle and further popularised by the works of Scott. His “staging” of the royal visit of King George IV to Scotland in 1822 and the king’s wearing of tartan resulted in a massive upsurge in demand for kilts and tartans that could not be met by the Scottish linen industry. Individual clan tartans was largely defined in this period, and they became a major symbol of Scottish identity. This “Highlandism”, by which all of Scotland was identified with the culture of the Highlands, was cemented by Queen Victoria’s interest in the country, her adoption of Balmoral as a major royal retreat and her interest in “tartanry”.”

Now I didn’t know this, and I live here! But then again, history hasn’t been my strong point, although I love to learn about it.

I’ll just follow this little lesson with some of the photos I took, and let them do the rest of the talking…

That’s one sumptuous sporran!

And that, folks, is just a small selection of what took us hours longer to view than I’d anticipated!

Hope you’ve enjoyed the brief history lesson and a peek at some of the exhibits.



  1. Lovely pictures, Deborah. We didn’t manage this particular museum while we were in Scotland.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It was a fabulous exhibition, I’m glad I got to see it. I’d seen the adverts, or I wouldn’t have chosen to go there, it would have been the zoo. Now I have that to do on another visit 😁


      1. We also have to do another visit.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. I’ve done two now, and have totally fallen in love with the city. There is still so much to see!


  2. Wonderful post ♥

    Liked by 1 person

  3. We stayed in a hotel in Edinburgh once where all the furnishings were tartan – we were rather over- tartanned by the time we left, but I believe Queen Victoria had Balmoral’s interior decor in totally tartan.!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I can understand that, though I have to admit, I do love tartan! I’d love to see Balmoral, I have also heard it was totally tartan, and I wouldn’t be surprised if it isn’t pretty much the same still.


  4. I saw this exhibition. Wonderful images and post.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. 😀 It was a wonderful experience, glad you got to see it too.


  5. What a glorious exhibit and so well done. To see the clothing they used to wear–it looks so stiff and uncomfortable! Not like my comfies at home. I love the painting of the soldier with the dog.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I agree – I don’t think comfort came high on their list of priorities when it came to clothing, it was all about displaying status. So glad I live now!


  6. Wow. Those dudes in their kilts are amazing. They emanate a larger than life energy. They appear wild and majestic in their own right.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. 😀 And that’s why the Scots have such an appeal, despite the fact it’s a tiny country. I think they named this exhibition well.


  7. Thanks bunches Deb for sharing this wonderful tour into history. Interesting the tartans didn’t come along til the romantic era. Loved all the exhibits. Thanks for sharing. ❤


    1. I find it interesting how a mistaken belief – that each clan had its own specific tartan – took hold so strongly in the general public’s perception because a monarch said it was so. Just goes to show how influential a respected individual can be, even when they are wrong!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. And boy, do we know that from the madness going on in the world it seems. ❤

        Liked by 1 person

  8. […] The Hermitage was created in the 18th century to honour the blind bard Ossian, narrator and purported author of a cycle of epic poems published by the Scottish poet James Macpherson. These poems became the basis upon which ‘Romantic Scotland’ was built (see my post on the Scottish Museum’s exhibition). […]


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