Life in the Highlands

before Culloden

We invite you to discover Scotland and in particular the Highlands before Culloden, until the middle of the eighteenth century.

Life has been immutable since the High Middle Ages.

Scotland, this old European kingdom, will be disturbed in the Renaissance by the wars of religion.

He will become a collateral victim of these politico-religious quarrels.


 The geography of Scotland  

The Highlands, where Gaelic is spoken, from the Celtic civilization, are composed of mountains and have known until the eighteenth century the regime of clans and tribal wars.

«  Let's fight the Saxons before they take our country from us. Let us fight for our country like our brothers in Ireland. Let us throw them back into the sea as those in Ireland do »  

said a gaelic poem. 

Scotland is distinguished into two well-defined areas: the Lowlands in the south and the Highlands in the north. Two completely different cultures rub shoulders.


The Lowlands,a country of hills, easier to access, opened up to anglo-Saxon civilization.


They absorbed the language, to give a dialect, Scots or Lallans.


They were quickly ruled by the feudal system of the Anglo-Saxons and Normans and by the power of royal power, just as in France. The notion of clans, families has persisted, but to a lesser extent than in the Highlands


The fatty meadows, the fields of wheat and barley, peas, beans and vegetables gave the first necessary wealth.


The resources of the raw materials of this region explain its rapid development: coal and iron ore will very quickly lead to the birth of heavy industries.

As early as the fourteenth century, the few foreign visitors had noticed a contrast between Scotland of the plains and coastal regions of the East and that of the mountains and islands.

The people of the plains are of civilized morals, reliable, patient, polite, decently dressed, affable, peaceful, devout in the service of God, although always ready to resist the attacks of their enemies; those of the mountains and islands, on the contrary, are a wild and indocile race, independent, devoted to rapine, loving pleasure, intelligent and quick to learn, dressed in a shocking way, hating the English and those who speak their language, even their own congeners because of the diversity of dialects, and excessively cruel » 

wrote the Aberdeen cleric John of Fordun, circa 1380.

Political and religious life in Scotland  


Here is a little historical reminder in some facts and dates to understand the context.


Scotland was seduced by religious reforms

Text :  Françoise Rochet 

Illustration : Gratianne Garcia 

Relecture et conseils avisés : Claudine Leroy 

As for the islands, they are considered inaccessible and wild until the end of the eighteenth century

When Elizabeth I, the Anglican Queen, died on 24 March 1603, it was to Mary Stuart's son, the Catholic, that she bequeathed the crown of England.


The arrival of King James I Stuart (James VI for the Scots), on the throne of England will be the beginning of a long series of trials.


From now on, the Kingdoms of Scotland and England are united, not for the best of the lives of the Scots but for the worse, as history will show us.

The South saw the birth of the Presbyterian Church or Church of Scotland under the leadership of its founder, John Knox (1514-1572) who studied Calvin's reforms.


As for the North in the Highlands, the country has remained predominantly Catholic, but it will not escape the upheaval of this reform.

Unlike his mother, James professed the Calvinist faith, which was not without problems, both with the Scots, in part, Presbyterians in the Lawlands, and with the English, mostly Anglican (or Episcopalians).


During the reign of his son Charles I, the Scots concluded on 28 February 1638 a religious alliance, the National Covenant, to resist Anglican episcopal pressure. The result is both a national and a religious conflict

These are the "episcopal wars".


This brief conflict contributed to the uprising of part of the English against this King Stuart, who was beheaded in 1649 and to the establishment of the dictatorial republic of Oliver Cromwell, the Puritan.


The restoration of the Stuarts to the English throne in 1660, in the person of Charles II, son of Charles I, did not calm relations between Scots and English. As the latter regularly violated the agreements, the Covenant, and persisted in wanting to plant the Anglican Episcopal Church in Scotland, the former rose up several times. It was not until after 1688 and the final eviction of the Stuarts that they finally gained respect for their faith.


Large areas of the Highlands remained, until the eighteenth century and beyond, faithful to Catholicism.


There were no Wars of Religion in Scotland as in France, nor bloody persecution of Catholics as in England during elizabeth's reign.


The Scottish Catholic lords of the Highlands allowed themselves to be won over by the nostalgia of the Stuarts and formed the Jacobite party. Until the middle of the eighteenth century, he will not stop fighting the English.

The situation worsened when, in 1707, the Scottish elites concluded, during the reign of Queen Anne, the Act of Union of England and Scotland under the name of the United Kingdom of Great Britain.


Until that date, the two kingdoms had a common sovereign, but they each had their own Parliament, one in Edinburgh and the other in London.


They now have only one Parliament, that of Westminster (London).

The consequences of the act of union  


The Act of Union had left many important aspects of the institutional merger desired by the legislator unclear.

Nothing was said about how Scotland would henceforth be governed.

But with their 45 MPs facing the English 513, the Scots did not weigh heavily in Parliament.

• Thus was decided with an overwhelming majority the Hanoverian succession, which put in a marginal position the supporters of the pretender Stuart, a refugee in France.

• Another decision was the abolition of the Privy Council of Scotland: the former kingdom was without an administrative body. Scottish affairs were entrusted to a special secretary of state in the British cabinet.


• The financial and fiscal problems were not solved and the English were reluctant to pay Scotland the compensatory amounts provided for in the treaty.

• At the level of justice, the Scots discovered that the Act of Union did not protect as fully as they had thought; the independence of the judiciary in their country was not guaranteed.


• In addition, taxes, customs duties, fees began to accumulate on the heads of the Scots.


It did not take more for Jacobinism to take off.


Many Scots were beginning to feel cheated and nostalgic loyalty to the old dynasty was regaining vigour.


Many Jacobite uprisings took place between 1715 and 1745.


The adventure will end in Culloden.

This victory prompted the English to "pacify" all of Scotland: roads were laid out and bridges built to facilitate the movement of troops in the northern territories; peasants were driven from their lands during the Highland Clearances and emigrated to America.


See: Outlander, his heroes and their religions  



A land and men of the Highlands.  

One cannot speak of the Highlands without recalling its harsh climate, its infertile land and the influence that these natural elements have exerted on men.

The harshness of the natural conditions of the Highlands explains their character: austerity, obstinacy, instinctive distrust of foreigners, a sense of economy due to poverty and deprivation. This poverty has often provoked violence and revolts.

But it is a country of freedom where the word pride is not an empty word!


The Highlanders had until the eighteenth century an often well-justified reputation as looters.

Smuggling has long been a true national industry.


It is to escape poverty, at all times, that the Highlanders will be enlisted as mercenaries or will try their luck in distant lands.

It is therefore austerity and poverty that have created an enterprising, courageous and hard-working people to whom the Celtic heritage has given a share of fantasy and dreams.


All washed down by whisky, a gift of barley, peat and water from the granite mountains.


We are far from the traditional Anglo-Saxon coldness.


It is a country that lives.

The social system in the Highlands, its administration, its resources, its economy  

It was based, as in all Celtic peoples, on the "family" in the broad sense, that is, the "clan" that often lived in quasi-autarky on a well-defined territory and over which the head of the family exercised his authority until the third or fourth generation.

This chief owned a territory and administered it.

The land was redistributed to the members.

This division was accompanied by duties and obligations towards the chief. The members of the clan owed obedience and service to the chief; in return, he owed them protection and sustenance. An offense inflicted on a member of the clan resulted in revenge by the whole of it.

The coherence of this model put the collective interest of the clan before the individuality of its members: a member of one clan could, for one crime, be tried instead of another.


This system of family relations creates, around the heads of families or clans, a vast network of hierarchical loyalties, which is its characteristic.

However, not all members of a clan belonged to the same family. They could simply be people looking for work and turning to a leader for protection. From then on, these inhabitants were incorporated into the clan and had the same obligations as all members of the clan.


But receiving protection from a clan leader was not free. You had to be willing to work on the farm or take up arms for him. He also had to be paid a contribution in kind, and the chiefs were in fact, often excessively wealthy.


In addition, the bonds and loyalty between the clans were extremely strong. It can be considered that there were alliances of clans in order to extend the powers. Especially in the fight against the English hereditary enemy. On the other hand, between certain clans, frequent wars and their power sometimes embarrassed the Scottish and later English kings who, on many occasions, tried to reduce their


See the post on Clans  


The clans disappeared in the eighteenth century, under the influence of the English who took control of Scotland.

The villages (burghs), grouped around castles and churches, were provided with seigneurial charters guaranteeing their privileges and freedoms.

All had their administration, their internal organization decided by the clan chief.

Most of the peasants were tenants or sharecroppers, benefiting from short-term leases whose renewal was by no means assured.

Rents, or rents, were overwhelmingly payable in kind.

It was not until the sixteenth century that long-term leases paid in cash were made when Scottish money production existed.

But the tradition of paying in kind will remain among the poorest.


Which made the clan leader fall into the clan chief's shoes too many chickens, too many pigs... too much food and few sounding and stumbling species!

The Highlands live poorly from a subsistence economy, with a minimum of exchanges between communities and this, since the Middle Ages.


The peasants were mainly confined to hamlets (touns) of two or three families, or even ten families.

Rural housing was rudimentary:


the masures were with adobe or peat walls, thatched roofs or grass.


It is a very difficult country to cultivate and poor in yield but there is livestock that compensates for this lack of fertility.


The fields give only barley and oats, the land is full of swamps and barren heaths.

The rural economy is therefore composed of agriculture, livestock, hunting and fishing.


Men find something to live on.


In addition, on these infertile lands, livestock farming allows the export of wool and leather.

In the absence of winter fodder, the animals were slaughtered in November, the meat smoked or salted in coastal regions where salt was abundant.

The abundant consumption of meat and fish struck foreigners: "The people eat flesh and fish to satiety, while bread is a luxury commodity," noted Aeneas Sylvius Piccolomini, future Pope Pius II, in 1435.

Ordinary food was porridge and oat cakes, peas and lentils, bacon, milk, cheese, meat, fish, barley beer.

Fishing was abundant in the islands and all over the coast but also in the rivers.


Salmon, trout and herring are the most frequently mentioned species; salted fish was part of regular exports.

The burghs have their craftsmen, more or less experts, who produce most of the objects necessary for life, and street vendors pass from village to village.



Wood engraving of the eighteenth

And everything related to luxury, precious fabrics, jewelry, prestigious weapons, is imported from abroad, England, France, Italy.


Scotland has maintained trade with the rich regions of Flanders, including Bruges, as well as France since the Middle Ages, thanks to its skins and wool.


Foreign trade will be interrupted by the continental wars and will resume from the reign of Mary Stuart. More than in the past, Flanders and its port of Antwerp are the preferred trading partner as well as the Hanseatic cities. In France, only Rouen remains, one of the strong points of Scottish trade.

In the sixteenth century, the disorders that followed the fall of Mary Stuart led to a slowdown in the economy.

Epidemics (especially in 1584 and 1597) claimed more victims than wars.

Thus, the Scottish economy, around 1600, is very weak compared to the continent.

Catastrophic harvests, recurrent famines and multiple plague epidemics will impoverish Scotland including the Highlands in particular.


James VI had no sympathy for Gaelic mores. He saw nothing but savagery and described them as "totally barbaric, entirely devoid of civilization and order."


He conceived the idea of applying, in the islands and the Highlands, the policy of "plantation" undertaken by Henry VIII and Elizabeth I in Ireland: the eviction of the occupants of the premises and their replacement by settlers - voluntary or not - from elsewhere.

The beneficiaries of the land had to populate and develop it.


But the operation was a failure against the irreducible Highlanders.

Then James VI had the idea of a military conquest, which resulted, from 1609, in forced expulsions, the abduction of the sons of clan leaders who were taken to the cities of the Lowlands to learn English and learn "civilized" mores.

This policy had an unexpected result because little by little the clan leaders became accustomed to frequenting the cities other than to plunder them.

More and more of their sons attended universities.

And history has held back the violent and turbulent MacGregor clan, which was dislocated and partly uprooted; his descendants, under the anglicized name of Gregory, were later to pursue careers as professors and scholars at the University of Aberdeen.


But the eighteenth century was to show, with bloodshed, that clans were not annihilated in the Highlands.


The Scottish economy, at the end of the eighteenth century.  


Towns become cities. Edinburgh, at the end of the century, saw its population double, which does not make it a large city on a European scale: no more than 10,000 inhabitants.

Scotland remains predominantly agricultural, although industry is beginning to emerge in the

The owners, noble or rich bourgeois, are passionate about new techniques and new cultures from England, France, the Netherlands.

We see the threshing machine appear, the tarare.

The scythe replaces the sickle.

For ploughing, the traditional araire harnessed to a yoke of oxen gives way to the plough with an iron plough pulled by two horses. The practice of rotation, liming, drainage is spreading throughout the country, except perhaps in the most remote areas of the Highlands and islands. Breeding is developing.

And we will end with the clearances,a direct consequence of the defeat of Culloden in 1746.


Here we address a momentous event in the life of the Highlands. The idea was not bad in itself because the Highlands had to be modernized. But it is the brutality with which the changes are carried out that will transform these useful reforms into a real human catastrophe that will last until 1850.

The principle of the clearances was to move the scattered peasants to regroup them either on a more fertile land (rare case) or on the coast to devote themselves to fishing or harvesting kelp - used for the manufacture of soda, soap and various other chemical productions.

In fact, the peasants thus expelled will have no other resource than to emigrate to the industrial centers to become workers or to expatriate.

The Highland landscape is described after clearance as follows:

« Everything is silence and desolation, charred ruins of houses, some poultry are looking for their food. »

In several places, the troop had to intervene; we live on the paths of processions of expelled peasants, with the elderly and children pulled in carts, lying on the side of the roads before reaching the host city or the port of embarkation. »

Much has been written about the transformation of the economy of this region caused by the defeat of the Jacobite clans at Culloden. And we will not mention the bullying on kilts, tartans and bagpipes, well known.

Initially, there is the poverty of the Highlands.

The owners, noble or rich bourgeois, are passionate about new techniques and new cultures from England, France, the Netherlands.

Initially, there is the poverty of the Highlands.

And we must add different facts, such as confiscations and deportations that have ruined the region;

Executions of notorious leaders;

Loss of the patriarchal character of the surviving clan leaders;

Impoverishment of chiefs, indebtedness; Forced to sell ...

Migration of some chefs....

Most of the land was purchased by Lords of the Lowlands who became English-style owners concerned with profitability and productivity.

This land was converted into vast pastures for new breeds of high-yielding wool sheep or even, increasingly, forested and turned into hunting reserves for big game, as improved transport facilitated access from remote areas to aristocrats and the nouveau riche of the Lowlands and England.


Cultural life, education  


Anglicanism, Calvinism... will interfere in the Lowlands.

The Highlands remain impervious to new ideas.


Politics and religion will revolutionise the whole of Scotland.

The birth, spread and establishment of Protestantism (Presbyterian Church of Scotland) as the state religion will have consequences from 1560.

The arrival of Protestantism will open new doors!


The education of children seems to have been a priority in Scotland and mainly in the Lowlands. As everywhere in Europe where the Catholic Church had been established since the Middle Ages, there had been a slight literacy of children. But it was especially the children of nobles who benefited.


They continued their education at Scottish universities and even overseas.

In 1325 the Bishop of Moray David founded in Paris a scholarship for the maintenance of poor Scottish students, which would later be at the origin of the College of Scots whose building still exists rue du Cardinal-Lemoine.

Scotland saw the creation of three universities in the fifteenth century


St. Andrews 1412, 

Glasgow 1451, 

Aberdeen 1495.



These were small universities, by no means comparable to Paris, Leuven, Oxford or Cambridge, which were then the great intellectual centres of Europe; but they played their part in establishing an elite that allowed Scotland to be present in Renaissance Europe.

The interminable wars with England forced the Scots to send their university students to France (Italy, the Netherlands and Germany).

In Paris, it is estimated that more than a hundred Scottish students were born around 1500.

Many have brilliant careers as professors, in Paris itself or in other universities. They train the managers of young Scottish universities; we find them in their country, bishops, high officials, writers.


Thus Scottish intellectuals were numerous in the universities of the continent.

And if in the Renaissance, few Humanists on the continent were interested in Scotland, Scotland was interested in the changing world. And students will have a fundamental role in spreading new ideas. Scottish students from universities (Frankfurt, Heidelberg, Augsburg, Wittenberg, Leuven or Paris), affected by the new doctrine, became propagandists on their return to Scotland.


The sixteenth century is therefore marked by the Renaissance and Scotland does not escape this change.

The phenomenon was intellectual thanks to the rediscovery of ancient culture and Greek and Latin authors.

At that time, Scotland will offer the world some great Humanists.


Hector Boece (Boyce, Latinized as Boetius),was born around 1465 in Dundee and died in 1536 in Aberdeen.

A friend of Erasmus, he was a professor of medicine and philosophy in Paris before teaching in Aberdeen and writing in Latin his History of Scotland where he voluntarily imitated Livy.


John Major, born 1467 in Gleghornie and died in 1550 in St Andrews.


This scientist, historian and philosopher, was also a professor in Paris, returned to Scotland in 1518 to head the University of Glasgow, he wrote a History of Great Britain that transcends borders to consider Scotland and England from the same historical vision.

Boyce and Major remained faithful to Catholicism until their deaths and were never tempted by the intransigence of Protestantism.


And above all, let us not forget, George Buchanan,born in 1506 near Killearn and died on September 28, 1582 in Edinburgh was a Scottish humanist, historian, poet and playwright.

He was a Protestant, famous for his Latin tragedies, a professor in Paris and Bordeaux, then tutor to the young James VI, whose role would be essential to the Prince. In addition to the classical texts, he advocated reading the texts of early Christianity.

His critical sense undermines the foundations of the beliefs of an old medieval Catholicism.

Hector Boece 

Georges Buchanan 

John Major  

Latin remains the language of all scholarly literature, throughout Scotland as elsewhere.


The "Scottish language" (Scots language),a vehicular language, became a new cultural asset at the end of the fourteenth century, in poetry, prose, chronicles, laws, treaties of piety.

It was not English but it was an Anglo-Saxon language, which an Englishman could understand without difficulty.


At the end of the sixteenth century, Lawland Scotland was largely literate, thanks to the Religious Reformation.

Making children read religious texts is an additional asset.

Parish schools have multiplied; all bourgeois can read and write, many even go to university.


A library is no longer rare in a castle or even in a private house.

Despite this cultural awakening, one of the most spectacular aspects of the Kirk's (Presbyterian Church) hold on Scottish society in the seventeenth century was the repression of witchcraft, a phenomenon of European proportions at that time.

The "peaks" are in the 1640s and 1650s.

This terror of the Scots towards witches in relation to superstitious beliefs, exists not only in the Highlands, but even in the cities.

The thousands of victims were, for the most part, women, the instrument of the devil!

Survivals of the old Celtic paganism, the Kelpies (spirits of the waters), the underground geniuses, the magical powers, the spirits of the dead are still present in Scotland in the eighteenth century.

The Scottish legend of the Kelpies 



All these legends and stories are told by the bards, the poets of the Gaëlle culture. They also compose poems or songs in the Gaelic language, most often accompanied by a clàrsach (Gaelle harp).

Scotland will experience another great cultural awakening from 1740. 


It will be the "Scottish Enlightenment" - Scottish Enlightenment which will be an unprecedented intellectual, literary, philosophical, sociological, economic and artistic outbreak.

David Hume  

Adam Ferguson  

Adam Smith 

The works of David Hume,(1711-1776) Hume's philosophy  

byAdam Smith (1723-1790) The Division of Labor & The Wealth of Nations  

byAdam Ferguson, Wikipedia page  

to name but a few, are still read and these authors are considered the "Fathers" of the U.S. Constitution.


And of course we cannot forget to mention the poet Robert Burns (1759-1796), the favorite son of Scotland, the Bard, the peasant poet. which alone deserves a long document!


In Highlands?  


Scotland was Catholic like the entire Western world fed on the milk of the Roman Wolf.

But the Renaissance will still partially upset the established order.

In this country of irreducible Highlanders, the Protestant Reformation found it more difficult to impose itself.

And we see that literacy is slower to penetrate the working social classes.

It remains exceptional and is the work of nobles and important members of the clans who send their sons to do their studies in Catholic countries.

Treated as the language of savages, the Gaelic language,which has disappeared since the fifteenth century in the South, remains the vehicular language of the North.


What about the Bible in Gaelic?  


James V, although a devout Catholic, the father of Mary Stuart, in 1539, to the great scandal of the cardinal and Gawin Dunbar, authorized the reading of the Bible in vulgar language (this was then one of the major demands of Lutherans and Calvinists, to which the Catholic Church strongly opposed).


The Book of Common Order was translated into Scottish Gaelic by Seon Carsuel (John Carswell), Bishop of the Islands, and printed in 1567. It is considered the first book printed in Scottish Gaelic.

It was only after the final defeat of the Jacobites at Culloden in 1746 that the Scottish branch of the Society for the Promotion of Christian Knowledge began serious work on a Bible published in Scottish Gaelic and initiated a translation project in 1755.


The result was the New Testament of James Stuart (1701–1789), pastor of Killin, and the poet Dugald Buchanan (1716–1768), published in 1767.

Stuart worked from the Greek texts, Buchanan improved Gaelic.


The clans of rannoch territory had played a full role in the Jacobite uprisings. And most of the men were exterminated, combatants or non-combatants.


When the reprisals stopped, some returned. However, without crops or livestock, there seemed to be no choice but theft, and hunger drove them to commit savage acts.

And again, bloody repression ensued.

Dugald Buchanan, that old Highlander, was a teacher and evangelist. And although he himself did not espouse the Jacobite cause, he was traumatized by this cold-blooded massacre of his friends.

His revolt was also intellectual.

After the failure of the Jacobite rebellion of 1745, the Gaelic language had been outlawed and all Highland schools were required to teach in English.

He decided to act so that Gaelic would survive.

The best way was to translate the Bible into the vehicular language.

Buchanan and James Stuart's translation was important in that it was accompanied by a new interest from the SSPCK (Scottish Society for Promotion of Christian Knowledge) and other educational authorities into Gaelic as the language of education for Highland children. This has played a major role in promoting literacy in the language. Their translation, begun in 1755, was completed and published in 1767.

But his action did not stop. He showed great courage in persuading Rannoch's survivors to abandon their anarchy and revolt.

It hosted liberated Scottish soldiers and craftsmen.

He and his wife taught them new trades.


A wide range of agricultural and other improvements have been undertaken in the areas, including drainage, road construction and bridge construction. Slowly, peace and prosperity were brought to Rannoch. Flax and potatoes were introduced, mills built and spinning and weaving were taught; a mason, a carpenter and a wheelwright passed on their skills; a shoemaker and a tailor started a business.


The tiny hamlet at the eastern end of Loch Rannoch, now known as Kinloch Rannoch.


This was followed in 1801 by a complete translation of the Bible with an Old Testament largely by Stuart's son John Stuart of Luss.


And it was not until the 1830s that a Roman Catholic translation of the New Testament from the Latin Vulgate by Ewen MacEachen was published in Aberdeen in 1875.

In Scotland, we can conclude that the whole of intellectual life is inseparable from the Protestant Reformation.  


And finally, we will tell you about the spirit of independence that animates the Scots and that will follow them beyond the seas when the Founding Fathers write the American Constitution inspired by the texts of David Hume, Adam Smith and Adam Ferguson.

But this independence finds its foundations in a much older text.

The Declaration of Arbroath is a Scottish Declaration of Independence, written in Latin with the aim of confirming Scotland's status as an independent and sovereign nation and justifying the use of armed forces if it were unjustly attacked. This declaration takes the form of a letter, dated April 6, 1320, which was sent to Pope John XXII.


What makes Arbroath's document a remarkable text is its affirmation of the right to independence and its rejection of all servitude, with democratic overtones that sound strangely modern:

"As long as there are a hundred men alive in this country, we will never yield to the yoke of English domination, for it is not for glory, wealth or honor that we fight, but for freedom, which no man worthy of the name renounces except with his life [...]. 


 If our king ever consented to surrender his kingdom to the King of England, we would drive him out as our enemy and elect another king to defend ourselves." 

And today, the universality of the Declaration of 1320 makes it a text worthy of inclusion in an anthology of the rights of peoples to self-determination.  

A little music...  

Some recipes... excerpts from the book "Outlander's Recipes"  


Some books... 

Jenny's hare (or rabbit) pie 


Unless you have brought us game, she said, you will have to be satisfied with the usual potée. Jamie pouted. The idea of dinering on an oat soup soaked in which a few pieces of smoked shank dipped, the last vestiges of a beef carcass they had bought two months earlier, did not really make him salivate.   

- Abracadabra! he threw, triumphantly.   

He turned his bag over the table and dropped three rabbits. Plus a few plum berry, he added.   

He turned over his cap stained with a thick bright red juice and emptied the contents alongside the remains lying in a jumble of curled limbs and ears.   

Jenny's gaze lit up.   

- A hare pie, that's what I'm going to do! she exclaimed, delighted.   

I no longer have lingonberries but, with prunes, it will be even better. Thank God I have some butter left!   

She saw a small suspicious movement in the gray fur mass.   

She slowly moved forward one hand, then smashed with a dry slap a flea that had ventured onto the table.   

Go prepare them in the yard, Jamie, she ordered, otherwise soon the kitchen will be infested with vermin.  


(The Journey, Chapter 5)

For 6 to 8 people  




1 hare or 1 rabbit (2 to 3 pounds or

900 to 1300 grams), cut into 6 to 8 pieces

2 teaspoons salt

1/2 teaspoon ground pepper

2 thick slices of bacon, cut into pieces

1 medium onion, diced

1 medium carrot, diced

1 cup Brown Poultry Bottom

1 cup rosé wine

2 bay leaves

1 branch of fresh rosemary

1/4 cup butter

1/4 cup all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon dry mustard

1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

1 Broken dough

3/4 cup blackberries or blueberries

1 large egg



Sauté the bacon.

Add the pieces of game and brown.

Add the onions, carrots, bottom, wine, bay leaves and rosemary.

Bring to a boil, cover and lower over low heat, then simmer until the rabbit is tender, 45 to 60 minutes, stirring gently once or twice.

Using a spoon with holes, remove the pieces of meat from the pan and let them cool. Discard bay leaves and rosemary.

When the rabbit has cooled enough to be handled, detach all the meat from the bones, making sure that the pieces of meat are of a fairly good size.

In a bowl, using a fork, combine the butter, flour, dry mustard and nutmeg to form a paste.

Stir this handled butter into the cooking liquid and vegetables, in the pan, increase over medium heat and cook until the preparation is shiny and has slightly thickened, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat. Place the rack on the last rung of the lower part of the oven and pre-heat it to 200°C (400°F).

Lower half of the broken dough so that it reaches a thickness of 1/8 inch to form the crust below.

Place the dough in a 9-inch deep pie pan. Fill the crust to the edge of the mold with rabbit meat, field fruits, reserved cooking liquid and vegetables.

Lower the other half of the broken dough to a thickness of 3/8 inch and use it to cover the pie. Remove the excess dough and pinch the perimeter to seal well.

Using a sharp knife, make two or three incisions on top of the pie to let the steam escape. Beat the egg with 1 teaspoon of water to make a gilding and brush the top of the pie. Bake for 15 minutes, then lower the oven temperature to 175°C (350°F) and cook until golden brown, for another 25 to 30 minutes.

Remove from the oven and let stand for 15 minutes before cutting the pie and serving it with the remaining rosé. Store leftovers in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.




• Starting the pie cooking at a higher temperature in the lower part of the oven will give a crispier bottom crust.

• Plums, or plum berries, are rather difficult to find elsewhere than in Britain, but blackberries or blueberries go well with rabbits and can very well replace prunes. If you can't find field fruits, you can pour small spoonfuls of jam over meat and vegetables.

Scottish soup cock-a-leekie  


Tonight we will all have dinner here, near the field. Tom and Willie, go get some wood to make a big fire. Ms. Willie, would you allow your large pot to be used? Someone will help you transport it here. You, Kincaid, will warn others: tonight, potato feast!  

Thus, with Jenny's help, ten buckets of milk, three chickens, and four dozen large leeks, I presided over the preparation of a gigantic Scottish soup, embellished with potatoes cooked under the ash for the laird and its sharecroppers.  


(The Talisman, Chapter 32)

Typically Scottish, but most likely originating in medieval France, Cock -a-leekie soup is served throughout the winter in Scotland and is often found in dinners on St. Andrew's Day (November 30), New Year's Eve, as the Scots call it, hogmanay (December 31), as well as Burns Night, a celebration of the Scottish poet Robert Burns (25 January).


The following ingredients and guidelines, including prunes, come directly from a mid-seventeenth-century cookbook and are proof that simple, well-prepared dishes with few ingredients can surpass the more complex recipes of the new kitchen.


For 6 or more servings   




1 whole chicken (3 to 4 pounds or 1.3 to 1.8 kilos)

4 large cut leeks

6 sprigs of fresh parsley

6 whole peppercorns

2 cloves

6 whole prunes

2 teaspoons salt

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper



In a pot, cover the chicken with water and bring to a boil over high heat.

Wash and rinse the leeks thoroughly, chop them.

Make a bouquet garni. Wrap the parsley, peppercorns and cloves in a square of cheesecloth and tie it with a rope, or put the ingredients in a large tea ball.

When the water begins to boil, reduce to medium-low heat to simmer.

Skim the surface of the bottom with a spoon with holes to remove impurities and fat. Add half of the leeks and the bouquet garni, and continue cooking, uncovered, simmering gently, 2 hours. Do not mix.

Remove the chicken from the pot to let it cool on a plate. Remove the bouquet garni. Skim the surface of the soup before adding the remaining leeks, prunes, salt and pepper. Simmer until leeks and prunes are tender, 30 to 45 minutes. Shred the meat from the legs and thighs, add them to the pan and cook 5 minutes before serving. Reserve the breast for another use) Season to taste and serve with Beauly's Brown Rolls.

Store leftovers in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.

Porridge with Kale and Bacon  


To stop thinking about the ice drops dripping into my neck, I again took an inventory of the pantry and imagined what I could prepare for dinner in the evening. Something fast, I thought, shivering, and warm. A stew would take too long, the same for a soup. If we had squirrel or rabbit, I could fry it, breaded in egg and corn flour.  


Or if not, sauté it in a little garlic and serve it accompanied by scrambled eggs with green onions.  


(The Drums of Autumn, chapter 23)

This traditional dish is what the Scots call a brose, that is to say a porridge barely blanched, quickly made and nourishing. For hundreds of years, it was prepared by covering a cereal, such as oatmeal or barley, with boiling water and letting the preparation sit briefly before consumption. To make a kail brose, rather than water, the cooking liquid in which the salty and fatty beef and greens had been boiled was used. This version adds Claire's bacon and a beef or poultry background to the mix, making it a thick, nutritious soup ready in less than 30 minutes. Serve it with Scottish Oat Cakes with pumpkin seeds and herbs to make a modern dinner reminiscent of ancient Highland traditions.


For 4 to 6 people 



4 thick slices of bacon, cut into 1/4 inch strips

1/2 to 3/4 cup coarsely ground oatmeal

8 cups White Beef or Poultry Bottom

1 large bunch of kale, stems removed, chiseled

Salt and freshly ground pepper.




In a large saucepan, cook the bacon over medium heat until crispy. When it has turned brown, remove all cooking fat, except for 1 teaspoon, leaving the bacon in the pan. Add the oats and stir for 1 minute to grill. Add the bottom, increase over high heat and bring to a boil. Reduce to low heat and simmer for 5 minutes. Add the kale and simmer until tender, another 10 minutes.

Season with salt and pepper, then serve.



Civardi Christian, L'Écosse de 1528 à nos jours, Paris-Gap, 1997.


Crapoulet Jean Claude, Histoire de l'Écosse, Paris, "Que sais-je?"; 1972.



Duchein Michel, Histoire de l'Ecosse, Paris, Fayard, 1998.