#1 A Mars twinning ceremony with Tartan Martians
The Scottish village of Glenelg was the first city on Earth to be twinned with a geological feature on Mars. NASA’s Curiosity rover launched and landed at Glenelg, Mars in 2012 in a mission find life on the Red Planet. NASA decided that naming Mars’ geological features after cities on Earth would make it easier for the public to keep up with the mission. But why was Glenelg bestowed this honour, you might ask? The Curiosity rover will visit the geological feature twice on its journey, which inspired NASA to use a palindrome. So, essentially, they needed a name that would read the same forwards and backwards.
To celebrate the occasion, the 280-population village hosted a ‘twinning ceremony’ where residents dressed up Tartan Martians. The school hall was decorated to look like Mars, where people could drive a simulated Mars rover, stargaze and of course – ceilidh dance. But that’s not the best part. As of 2016, all astronauts heading to Mars have to wear a Mars Exploration Tartan scarf to represent human settlement on Mars.
According to the designer, Charles Cockell, each colour symbolises aspects of the mission:
- Red for Mars
- Four green lines as Mars is the fourth planet from the sun
- Blue for the presence of water
- White for the Martian poles visible from earth
#2 Haggis hurling
Yup, this really is a thing. Although it started as a joke at Gathering of The Clans in 1977, haggis hurling is now an official sport with rules and regulations. The sport involves standing on a platform (ideally, a whisky barrel) and throwing the haggis as far away as possible. It is essential that the haggis has been boiled for 3 hours and consists all the traditional ingredients… Essentially, all the internal organs of a sheep you can find.
At the World Haggis Hurling Championships, the haggis weighs 500 grams and is a maximum diameter of 18cm. However, those competing in the heavyweight events can hurl haggis weighing up to 1kg. The current record holder, Lorne Coltart, hurled the haggis 217 feet. Australian cricket player Tom Moody famously hurled a haggis 230 feet in Scotland in 1989. However, the World Haggis Hurling Association does not recognise Moody’s attempt as an official hurl.
#3 Deep fried Mars Bars (and everything else)
You might think Americans are bad for eating deep fried food, but Scotland does it better. Besides haggis, one of the most famous Scottish delicacies is the deep fried Mars Bar. In fact, walk into any Scottish chippy and they will probably deep fry anything for you. Another classic Scottish dish is the deep fried pizza – incidentally, also one of the most delicious things you’ll ever taste. Pro tip: use your chips as a (fried) pizza topping.
#4 The historic Scottish castle that hosts a music festival
Kelburn Castle, one of the oldest in Scotland and home to the Earl of Glasgow, was in need of concrete replacement in 2007. So, the Earl decided it would be fun to have the castle graffitied by four Brazilian street artists before the concrete was removed. The Earl loved the new look so much, he asked Historic Scotland to keep the graffiti permanently. Inspired by the creativity of the graffiti, the Earl launched the Kelburn Garden Party in 2009. Kelburn Garden Party involves everything from art installations, music performances, dance tents, cabaret, sculpture gardens, plunge pools and pop-up theatre. So, if you think Scottish castles are boring, think again.
#5 The “Aye Mac” computer that runs on Irn Bru
Irn Bru, a bright orange soft drink, is renowned as Scotland’s other national drink (second only to whisky). It remains the number one selling soft drink in Scotland, beating out big dogs like Coca Cola and Pepsi. For some reason, a computer repair shop owner in Edinburgh decided to try juicing his computer battery with Irn Bru. Against all odds, this Scottish hero managed to create the Aye Mac, which you can now see in PC Doctor in Edinburgh. Maybe don’t try this one at home, though.