TV is the real quarantine MVP. And we’ve been treated to some binge-worthy shows the past 11 months. Unfortunately, we’ll have to wait a wee bit longer for “Outlander” season six. But there is a seriously bright silver lining: Sam Heughan and Graham McTavish – aka Jamie Fraser and Dougal MacKenzie – have a new series of their own where they go on an epic adventure around Scotland. Cue: beautiful landscapes, hilarious hijinks, and lots of historical and cultural facts. Here’s a sneak peek...
Same. But watching “Men in Kilts” will make you feel like you’re right there with them. And we’re here to break down some things you miiiight wanna know before you start. Complete with fun interactive photos so you can compare real-life Sam and Graham with their “Outlander” characters.
And weave in lots of Scottish Highland history. It’s hotly debated when specific tartans came to represent specific clans or political affiliations, but the “féileadh-mór” was certainly the look of choice for Scottish men from the 16th through early 18th century. They’re basically kilts plus sashes. Yes, sashes like the kind homecoming princesses wear, but wool and adjustable so they work for all seasons and occasions. So fetch.
Sam’s “Outlander” character, Jamie, is part of Clan Fraser. They made their way to Scotland from France in the 12th century, and their tartan is mostly bright red and green, with little blue squares. Graham’s “Outlander” character, Dougal, is part of Clan MacKenzie. The name comes from the Gaelic word for “fair bright one,” and their tartan is a mish mash of green, blue, and black with some red and white. Both clans were a pretty big deal. We’re not picking a favorite.
When you hear “witch trial,” you might think “Salem.” But trying – and killing – people for practicing witchcraft was a multicultural phenomenon. How charming. Scottish Parliament passed an act that made witchcraft a capital crime in 1563. Some blame King James VI (later King James I of Great Britain and Ireland) for the degree of bloodshed. He published an endorsement of witch hunting called "Daemonologie" in 1597 that likely encouraged accusations.
Between the mid-16th and early 18th centuries, an estimated 4,000 Scots were tried for witchcraft. Many were tortured into confessing, then burned at the stake. Surprise, surprise: most were women. If you’re an “Outlander” fan, you probably remember when Claire and Geillis were accused in season one. Their cell didn’t look very comfy. When the blokes dig into the history of Scottish superstition in “Men in Kilts,” Sam doesn’t miss a single chance to scare Graham. You have to respect the hustle.
And no, that’s not a typo. Scots, unlike Irish and American people, spell whisky without an “e.” The word comes from the Scottish Gaelic term “uisge beatha,” which translates to “water of life.” Probably because it was originally made by monks for medicinal purposes. By law, Scotch whisky must be made in Scotland and aged in oak barrels for a minimum of three years – though most distillers leave it for much longer. It also has to be at least 40% alcohol. Serious stuff.
39 bottles are shipped overseas every second. Meaning more than one billion make their way out of Scotland every year, and making whisky the country’s biggest export. Sam from “Men in Kilts” even has his own blend called The Sassenach. (Psst...that’s a slur for “English person” and what Sam’s character affectionately calls his wife in “Outlander.”) It was awarded the Double Gold at the 2020 San Francisco World Spirit Competition. Brb, ordering some.
The Battle of Culloden was the last pitched battle on British soil. As in, it marked the end of a tradition where both sides agreed on a time and place to fight. It also marked the end of the clan way of life. And, at the risk of sounding dramatic, the end of an era for Scotland. It took less than an hour for the royal British troops led by King George II’s son to defeat the Jacobites, who wanted members of the exiled Stuart monarchy back in charge.
The Jacobite movement, which was supported mostly by Highlanders, Lowlanders, the Welsh, and the Irish, was nearly six decades old. This was their final uprising attempt. It went down near Inverness. “Outlander” season three episode one follows Sam’s character Jamie onto the battlefield, where he finally gets some closure on a personal battle with a long-time enemy. In the last episode of “Men in Kilts,” Sam and Graham revisit the place where it happened.
Contrary to some belief. But it is the national dish of Scotland. Think of it like a savory pudding or crumbly sausage made of chopped liver, heart, and lungs mixed with fat, oatmeal, onion, spices, and stock. Most traditionally, it’s made from sheep and boiled and served in a sheep’s stomach. It looks kinda like a balloon with meat stew spilling out. Hungry yet?
Haggis can be used as stuffing or fried up with eggs, but it’s most commonly served with mashed turnips and potatoes. It has a warm, nutty, peppery taste. Unfortunately, the USDA enacted an import ban on sheep’s lungs in 1971, so we can’t eat real haggis in America. It gets a bad rap, but it’s basically just an OG of the whole head-to-tail cooking trend. Famous Scottish poet Robert Burns loved it so much he referred to it as the “great chieftain o’ the puddin’ race.” Soooo probably worth a try.
“Men in Kilts” can help you feel better if you’re suffering from extreme wanderlust...or just need something fun and informative to get you through Droughtlander (aka the time between “Outlander” seasons). Stream it now on STARZ.
Skimm'd by Elizabeth Smith and Jessica Kelly
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