The History of Scotland in 25 objects

Every artefact tells a story. From ancient prehistoric carvings in Orkney to the place where Sir Walter Scott penned some of his most famous works, discover the country’s intriguing past through 25 unique objects, each revealing something truly fascinating about Scotland.

You are invited to connect with Scotland’s land, people and culture in a way you never have before.

You can learn more in the History of Scotland in 25 Objects eBook and find out where you can see these fascinating pieces of the past up close.   

Here are just a few of the objects waiting to ignite your imagination.

The Lewis Chessmenchessmen

The game of chess is an absolute classic and in Scotland, the love affair with the game has spanned centuries. Discover more by seeing the Lewis Chessmen, a set of medieval chess pieces dating back to the late 12th or early 13th century. They were found in 1831 in a small stone kist in a sand dune at Uig on Lewis, in the Outer Hebrides. A selection of the pieces are now on display in the National Museum of Scotland in Edinburgh and at the museum in Lews Castle on Lewis, not far from where they were originally found.

Anytime is a great time to make a magical trip to the Outer Hebrides, with unique island experiences waiting around every corner.

World’s Oldest Football

Another game loved by Scotland is football or ‘fitba’ as the locals might say. At Stirling Castle, one of the world’s oldest footballs was discovered in Mary Queen of Scots’ chamber in 1981. The ball is made from a pig’s bladder and is covered in cow leather with large visible stitching. Experts believe it was created between 1540 and 1570, making it around 500 years old. You can see it at the Smith Art Gallery and Museum in Stirling.

Bonnie Prince Charlie’s Travelling Canteen

Journey back to the era of the Jacobites and view this elaborate set of travelling cutlery and two wine cups. Now displayed in the National Museum of Scotland, it is believed to have been a 21st birthday present for Prince Charles Edward Stuart, known to many as Bonnie Prince Charlie and the ‘Young Pretender’. It was discovered in his baggage at Culloden Battlefield, after the Jacobite defeat. If you’re a fan of the TV series Outlander, why not get to know the man behind the character and re-live the gripping tale of the Jacobites along the new Bonnie Prince Charlie Trail across Scotland? 

Carved Footprintsfootprints

Kilmartin Glen in Argyll is one of the most archaeologically significant landscapes in Scotland, home to a myriad of Bronze Age and Neolithic remains and over 350 ancient monuments, including burial cairns and standing stones. View two footprints carved into rocks at the Dunadd Hill fort, which are early evidence of the inauguration of Gaelic kings between 500 – 800 AD. A new ruler would place his foot in the footprint to symbolise his marriage to the land he would be reigning over. Keep an eye out for other significant carved footprints in the Argyll area, such as the one of St Columba.

Dolly the Sheep

Dolly was the first cloned mammal to be created from an adult cell. Born in 1996, Dolly had three mothers: one provided a fertilised egg, another her DNA, and a third acted as a surrogate. Named after Dolly Parton, she died in 2003 and was taxidermied for posterity. Her skin is mounted and on display at the National Museum of Scotland in Edinburgh. If you’re exploring the capital this autumn, don’t miss the chance to look at more fascinating objects dotted around the capital. Visit Edinburgh in 101 Objects for more information.

See more of Scotland at and download VistScotland’s History of Scotland in 25 Objects eBook to find out where you can see these fascinating pieces of the past up close.


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