This sequestered nook of story

It’s one of the paradoxes of lockdown that with all the time in the world to do it, I can’t seem to get stuck into anything that requires even a modicum of concentration.

But a tweet about someone looking forward to a lovely afternoon of reading has encouraged me to give it another go so I have invested in a history of Scotland by Magnus Magnusson.

As we’re seeing at the moment with the culture war over Britain’s colonial heritage, history can be intensely political, so I thought it would be really interesting to see what an Icelander, albeit one who grew up in Edinburgh, makes of Scotland’s story.

As a Brucie Bonus (a Robert-the-Brucie-bonus, perhaps?) Magnus has chosen to link history and landscape in his re-telling with a really strong focus on archaeology and the physical traces of Scotland’s story, so even though I’m only at Chapter 5 – Malcolm Canmore and St Margaret – I’ve got a list of things that I really do need to go and see, from the Pictish stones of the North East to the hill fort of Dunadd in Argyll.

I’ve shied away from making plans for journeys once the lockdown lifts. Like John Cleese’s character in Clockwise, it’s the hope I can’t stand. But this tiny list – which I’m sure will grow as I get through the book – might give me something to look forward to after all.


Like everything I start in lockdown, this endeavour has ended in failure with the disappointing revelation on page 65 that Mr Magnusson (and his editors) can’t tell the difference between Henry I’s wife Matilda and Henry I’s daughter the Empress Matilda. If you’ve watched (or read!) Cadfael or The Pillars of the Earth – the daughter is the one fighting King Stephen for her right to the throne of England. So it’s not exactly a trivial mistake.


Filed under Riding

7 responses to “This sequestered nook of story

  1. I have travelled over a fair chunk of Scotland in my time, but it has always been for work purposes, driving like a loon to get from one site to the next in time, so I’ve never really managed to actually “see the sights”.
    One day, maybe.

  2. I’ve never been to Scotland, which is a failing I really need to rectify. I was looking at doing the NC500 last year but that didn’t happen for reasons. This year looks doubtful too.

    • highwaylass

      I did the NC500 a few years back in the Lomax. It’s a real double edged sword, while increased tourism is bringing in money, a lot of the visitors have no idea how to use single track roads and passing places and it blights the ability of residents to get about their lives.

  3. Pillars of the Earth was very cool. I enjoyed the development of the engineering of those big buildings. We’ve been watching more YouTube of BBC Escape to the Country and a series of Robson Green walking Hadrian’s wall between Scotland and England. Very interesting series. As is watching this builder convert attics to useable space. Again in Scotland.

    • highwaylass

      I’d put off watching Pillars for a long time but finally cracked just before Christmas. It was a great yarn with some terrible history 😆 The biggest of which, and I still need to check, is that you can’t have a cathedral without a bishop – that’s literally what it is, the chair or seat of the bishop. What the Abbott is building is a priory. But that wouldn’t have made such a good tale.

      • I don’t remember if I’ve ever seen the movie. I read the book, because I got into the author and basically read everything I could of his until I lost track and went off on another tangent.

  4. Pingback: Blogathon 21/21: Unvisited – streams of unconsciousness

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