The History of Scotland (and how I already knew it all from Game of Thrones)

As I visited Scotland, I was amazed at the beauty of the deserted highlands. But as I stumbled upon landmarks and ruins, I became to understand that the desolation of these landscapes was mainly due to a dark history that almost wiped out the highlander culture.

As I kept discovering this history, I also had a strong impression of déjà-vu. But it wasn’t till I read the commemorative plaque in Glencoe that it all fell into place : I had already read this story ! This was Game of Thrones !

If you are not yet up to date on the books or series (book and season 5), I warn you NOW that big spoilers are coming up and, for your own sanity, I advise you to read about something else, like how to experience the perfect budget weekend in Edinburgh, or the time I hiked the West Highland Way. These are all Scotland-related but won’t make you cry for a week.

I already said to much. Last call, GO AWAY NOW.

Okay, I consider that sufficient warning, let’s move on.


One of the deepest scar on Scotland’s history. When hospitality is equal to a sacred oath of trust, you expect to feel safe once you’ve shared salt. In 1662’s Scotland, the Macdonalds suffered the costs of that betrayal when they were massacred by those they had welcomed in their house.

Martin used this story to create the Red Wedding, one of the most traumatic scene in the book (or on TV), where the Starks felt safe with their host for the happy occasion of a wedding, when in fact they had been trapped, leading to an almost complete massacre of our favorite family.


Construction started on Hadrian’s Wall in 122 AD in order to separate the good citizens of britain from the « northern barbarians ». Running from coast to coast, it’s strongly reminiscent of the Wall guarded by the Night’s Watch in Game of thrones. In both contexts, the barbarians turned out to be not that barbarous, just humans after all.


It used to be that the isles west of Scotland (including the well known Skye) were governed by people independently from other countries, although they were technically scottish. They had their own traditions, lived in harmony with the sea and had enormous influence because they had the most ships. Kind of like the Greyjoy you say ? It doesn’t stop there. John MacDonald II, Lord of the Isles, wanted to expend and turned on Scotland, making a deal with its then enemy : England. The treason was revealed and John had to give his estates and titles over to Scotland, destroying his own dynasty for good.Why, Theon, why ?


Remember way back when we all just thought Rob would end up being king and all was going to end in a happily ever after musical number with birds singing and babies laughing ? Rob actually won his reputation as a good leader and strategist in the battle of the Whispering Wood.

Badly outnumbered, but having a better knowledge of the terrain, Rob split his army in two, sending one half on each flank of the confused Lannister army, winning the battle with glory. In Prestonpans, highlanders in the same situation tried the same tactic with the same results. Problem was that both Rob and the Highlanders had just won a battle but were about to lose the war …

Indeed, not very long after the Battle of Prestonpans happened Culloden, a bloody battle that turned out to be a massacre of poor, starving, badly armed, outnumbered highlanders.

That day signed the English victory over the jacobites and the end of an era. Scottish culture was banned. Whole clans had been wiped out on the field. Persecution and famine followed, putting the whole country in a state of acute misery.

So for you Game of thrones’ fans out there, let’s just collectively pray to the Many-Faced God that Culloden is not coming up…

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