How to celebrate St Andrew’s Day

TOMORROW we mark St Andrew’s Day, in honour of the patron saint of Scotland, a celebration which dates back to the reign of Malcolm III, the king of Scotland who reigned from 1034 to 1093. Here's a few ideas to get you into the spirit

Birth of a flag

Loading article content

According to folklore, the village of Athelstaneford in East Lothian is where the Saltire was born. This flag’s rich history goes back to 832AD and the battle between the Picts and the Angles. After being crucified by the Romans on a diagonal cross in what is now Greece, Saint Andrew is said to have come to the King of Picts, Óengus II, in a vision.

The morning after, the Picts saw clouds that morphed together to form a white cross. The Picts were victorious in their battle. They credited Saint Andrews for his resilient message and proudly declared him patron saint.

If you want to learn more. visit Athelstaneford Heritage Centre in the parish church, Mainstreet, EH39 5BE. They are open from 9am-6pm. For details phone 01368 863239 or visit scottishflagtrust.com/the-flag-heritage-centre/

Death of a Ruler

If you are intrigued by the history that surrounds Scotland’s ancient rulers, look no further than the Royal Burgh of Whithorn, in Dumfries and Galloway.

This district was once the epitome of Christianity - it was where the first church in Scotland was founded. The church was founded by Saint Ninian and named Candida Casa. St Ninian’s shrine was a popular place of pilgrimage for centuries. It was graced by the presence of royalty in 1329 when Robert the Bruce paid it a visit on his quest to cure his long-standing leprosy. The cure was never found and he died three months after his visit.

Whithorn is renowned for its legends surrounding saints and the death of one of Scotland’s greatest warriors. St Ninian's Priory Church is on Bruce Street, DG8 8PY. For more information, see its facebook page at facebook.com/StNiniansPriory/

Haggis, neeps and fatties

For generations Scotland's produce has been prized by chefs on the continent, and many more Scots are waking up to the treasures of our land and seas.

The Two Fat Ladies in the Buttery on Argyle Street in Glasgow was at the forefront of this awakening and it serves a range of Scottish food including, of course, haggis. See twofatladiesrestaurant.com.

There are other great places to celebrate the food of Scotland on our national day including the Michelin-starred seafood place Loch Bay on Skye, see www.lochbay-restaurant.co.uk.

Edinburgh's Tower Restaurant, at the National Museum in Chambers Street, scores highly for seasonal Scottish fine dining in a bright room atop the museum, with romantic views over the rooftops, see www.tower-restaurant.com.

Drink to that

Few celebrations in Scotland are complete without alcohol, so pop into the Arlington Bar, in Glasgow's Woodlands, for a drink and a fascinating story. While most people think the Stone of Destiny – a block of red sandstone which was used for centuries in the coronation of Scottish monarchs – is safe in Edinburgh Castle, it could really be sitting in this Glasgow bar. On Christmas Day 1950, four students from the University of Glasgow removed the Stone of Scone from Westminster Abbey in London, where it had been taken by English invaders, and took the Stone back to Scotland. The legend goes that they hid it in the bar - and that the Edinburgh Castle stone is a copy. This may not be true but it’s certainly a good excuse to go for a drink.

Crown jewels

The Honours of Scotland are on display at Edinburgh Castle. The jewels include a sceptre and crown that have been worn by royalty such as Mary Queen of Scots. It’s truly breathtaking. The Castle is open from 9.30am-5pm. See www.edinburghcastle.gov.uk or phone 0131 225 9846

Saltire Festival

East Lothian's St Andrew's Day festival begins on Thursday and runs until Sunday (November 30-December 3). There will be a 10k night run, as well as the opportunity to play golf in the dark using LED balls.

The featured performers include Eddi Reader, Breabach, Rura, Joy Dunlop, Skerryvore, Rant, Barluath and East Lothian massed pipes & drums. Comedian Craig Hill will also be appearing. Craft workshops will take place at the John Gray Centre, Haddington on Sunday (December 3) from 1pm-4pm. See www.visiteastlothian.org

Torchlight Parade

The torchlight parade travels through Glasgow’s west end and is a fantastic opportunity to meet up with friends and family and listen to Scottish music. There will be fire-jugglers, samba bands, bagpipers and other eclectic performers. The parade will take place on Thursday night (November 30) and will begin at the top of Queen Margaret Drive. It sets off at 6.30pm and will end at Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum.

Tartan Show

The Tartan Weaving Mill in Edinburgh's Castlehill produces tartan and has an exhibition which shows the production process behind weaving the material. Visitors can be fitted for a kilt. The exhibition is free and and is open from 9am-5.30pm. See www.royal-mile.com/interest/tartanweavingmill.html or phone 0131 225 5541

Arbroath Abbey

The 1320 Declaration of Arbroath, by which Scotland asserted its independence from England, is inextricably linked to the Angus abbey. There is a visitors' centre which provides an insightful audio-visual tour of the great church, which has been there since 1200, and tells the tale of William the Lion, who founded the Abbey. The herb gardens are also worth a visit.

The abbey is open from 9.30am-5:30pm and tickets can be purchased at www.historicenvironment.scot/visit-a-place/places/arbroath-abbey or phone 01241 878756

Pipe up

While there's no evidence Saint Andrew ever played the bagpipes (though he did live in what is now Greece, which has a strong piping tradition, so you never know), The Museum of Piping in Glasgow is a splendidly Scottish venue. It holds 300 years of piping heritage including artefacts from the rich collections of the National Museums of Scotland. This is the most authoritative display of its kind anywhere in the world.

An outstanding item is the chanter of Iain Dall (Blind John) MacKay (1650-1740), the oldest surviving chanter of the Highland bagpipe. The exhibition also shows bagpipes from Lowland Scotland as well as from mainland Europe and features displays on bagpipe manufacture and the printing of pipe music. There is also a fascinating film on the history, culture and music of the bagpipe. It's open every day apart from Sundays and admission is £4.50, with concessions for senior citizens, children and students and you can try out piping as well. Handily, there is an acclaimed restaurant and bar where you can recover from your exertions.

London Calling

If you are stranded in London on St Andrew's Day, this bash at the Whisky Bar, in Devonshire Square, might help take the edge off. There will be a band, a champion piper and a three dram whisky tasting. There will be a toast to Saint Andrew with a very special vintage bottling presented by John McCheyne. Tickets are £48 - well, it is London. See www.smws.com

Irvine’s Illuminating festival

There will be a spectacular fireworks display in Irvine to mark the big day - and the start of the Harbour Festival of Light. The festival, near the River Irvine, will run until December 3 with street food, stalls, Maritime Museum exhibits and a whisky tasting. And the good news is that it's all free. See http://illuminationfestival.co.uk/

Savour the saint

The Fife festival, Savour St Andrews, showcases the town's golf course and university along with local food and drink. Hospitality students, top chefs and businesses from the area will present an exquisite St Andrew’s Day meal on November 30 at the Old Course Hotel, Golf Resort and Spa. See www.oldcoursehotel.co.uk

Stornoway

The winter festivities at Stornoway's cultural hub, An Lanntair, kick off with a week of St Andrew's Day fun, including cinema, food and drink taster sessions, a quiz night and the best contemporary and traditional music. See http://lanntair.com/