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Let’s explore Scotland.


  • Scotland is a country that is part of the United Kingdom, located in Northern Europe. The United Kingdom includes England, Wales, Northern Ireland, and Scotland. On the map, all of the counties of the United Kingdom are in a shade of green. You can see that Scotland is north of England and Wales, and east of Northern Ireland.
  • Scotland was an independent country until 1707 when the Kingdom of England and the Kingdom of Scotland united under one king, King James VI of Scotland, and became the Kingdom of Great Britain. 
  • About 5.4 million people live in Scotland. Edinburgh is the capital, and Glasgow is the largest city.
  • The Scottish flag has been in use for over 500 years.
  • The official animal of Scotland is the Unicorn! Scotland associates the mythological animal with dominance and bravery.
  • The Loch Ness Monster, or Nessie, is a Scottish folklore creature that is said to live in the Loch Ness of the Scottish Highlands (the word ‘loch’ means ‘lake’). The Loch Ness Monster is often described as large, long-necked, and with one or more humps protruding from the water. The mysterious creature was written about in the year 565, but the folklore probably goes back even further.

Deborah was born in Ypsilanti. Her husband is from Scotland, so they visit every few years. Here are some of Deborah’s favorite places. 



Tour the famous Castle and learn all about the kings and queens that once walked inside its walls. Can you spot the initials of Mary, Queen of Scots above the door frame?

Now listen to some music! A military tattoo is a music performance or display of arms performed by the military. The Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo performs with bagpipes and drums every weekday evening and twice on Saturdays throughout August at the castle. There is also a fireworks and light projection display!


Scotland has three officially recognized languages: Scottish English, Scots, and Gaelic. Even though Scottish English is the most used language, it sounds different than the English you hear every day. When people from different regions speak the same language but pronounce the words differently, that’s called an accent. You probably have a midwestern American accent, and people Scotland also have a unique accent, even compared to the people in other parts of Great Britain such as England or Wales.

But Scottish people also have their own unique words and phrases that make up the Scottish dialect. As Pat Smith, a local artist who recently spent several months studying in Scotland said, “The language is wonderfully lyrical. Sometimes when I was riding the bus to school I would listen to two people having a conversation and I felt as if they were singing to me, even though I could barely understand a word.”

A lot of Scottish phrases are fun. See if you can guess what the phrases below mean, then check out the longer list of words, too!

Ypsi Writes

Imagine a student your age is considering moving near to you with their family. Make an advertisement to convince this person to move next door to you.

Describe features of your space, what they can do here, and what great people live here (i.e YOU). Click the button below for detailed instructions. Share your writing or drawing with us by tagging us at #ypsiwrites.

Ypsi Writes logo text "ypsi writes"

Don't be a wee clipe.

Don’t be a little tell-tale!

Haud yer wheesht!

Hold your tongue or be quiet!

Yer a chancer!

You’re pushing your luck!

Lang may yer lum reek.

Long may your chimney smoke, which means may you live long and keep well.

I'm getting the messages.

This is one of the Scottish sayings that you might think doesn’t need translating, but you’d be wrong! In this case, the messages are groceries or other things that you’d get from the store. So, literally speaking this Scottish phrase means Im doing the (grocery) shopping.


Kilts come to mind when people think about Scotland because they are a unique piece of clothing that is symbolic of Scottish heritage. Here is an example of a kilt with a sporran, which is a wallet or purse. Kilts are made using a patterned fabric called tartan. Different tartans represent different Scottish clans. If someone is of Scottish heritage, their family, or clan, most likely has a tartan. 

Look at this map of Scotland. You may recognize some of these common last names. If you see a name you recognize, use the Scottish Register of Tartans to look up the clan’s tartan.

Here are four different tartans.


What colors would you use to design your own tartan? Take some paper, a ruler, colored pencils or crayons, and make your own! Show us your artwork on social media #ydlsummerchallenge.


Hillwalking is a favorite Scottish pastime. Freedom to roam means that all of Scotland is open for exploration if you are respectful of the land as you walk. Here are 7 walks that you could go on if you visit Scotland.

Stiles are an arrangement of steps that allow people but not animals to climb over a fence or wall. You can see how many different types there are.

A cairn is a group of stones used to mark a trail. You can normally find a cairn near waterways, mountaintops, moorlands and in uplands. This is a tradition that has existed within Scotland for many centuries. Carrying a stone from the bottom of the valley to be placed on top of an existing cairn has become part of Scottish folklore and custom. Over time, cairns have grown into large mounds and are an intriguing and curious sight. An ancient Scottish blessing, “Cuiridh mi clach air do charn” means “I will put a stone on your cairn”.

How about talking a walk around your own neighborhood and or nearby park? Can you use rocks and start your own cairn?



Scottish Highland Games have been a part of Scotland’s culture for hundreds of years and are just as popular today as they’ve ever been.  Scotland’s Highland games are usually one-day events taking place in outdoor spaces across the country in the spring and summer. The Games are built around traditional Highland sports such as caber toss, tug o’ war, and the hammer throw. Highland Games events also include dancing, music, and lots of food, craft stalls, and parades. Watch this video showing how the athletic events of the games are played. 

You can bring a modern twist of the ancient Highland Games to your backyard! Set up rules and do your games in a wide open area so no one gets hurt or damages anything. Gather items you have at home and you are on your way. If you want to get more elaborate, check out these ideas, otherwise, enjoy the easy suggestions below!


Get a bean bag, tightly tied sand bag, or even a somewhat weighty rock. Create a starting mark for each contender to stand at when it is their turn. After the first person’s turn, mark their spot by sticking a popsicle stick into the dirt with the farest away part of the bag/rock from the starting line. Who threw the farthest? 


Find one boot with long laces. Take the very tips of the two laces and tie them near the end, making  the laces into one long loop. Swing the shoes around next to your body, not overhead, to gain momentum, and at the right moment, release “the wellie” to send it as far from the starting point as possible.


Traditionally, the game uses a pitchfork poked through a 20 pound sack of hay and the object is to toss the sack over a high limb. Try using a snow shovel instead and fill a bag with something that has a little weight to it, but not too much, such as an old pillow or strong garbage bag filled with wood chips, mulch. It may be better to try to see how far the bag can be tossed instead of over a limb. Use the snow shovel like a catapult.


This is not a Highland Game, but it is a fun backyard game to play with friends. White Horses is a game played by many children in Scotland and throughout the United Kingdom. It is similar to how all kids play tag and  hide-and-seek. To play the game, one person has to be the “White Horse.” All the other players have to line up at a starting point about 50 feet away from the White Horse. These players want to move down the playing field to a finishing point, such as reaching a fence or end of a driveway. The White Horse stands with their back turned to all the players. When the White Horse’s back is turned, the other players can progress down the field toward the finishing point. However, they have to be ready because the moment the White Horse turns around, the other plays have to freeze and not move a muscle. If the White Horse sees a player moving, the White Horse shouts out their name and they have to go back to the starting point. The whole time the White Horse is looking, the players have to stay as still as statues. The White Horse can even walk all around the players and try to torment them into laughing or moving (without touching them, of course). To continue the game the White Horse turns their back to the players again. The first person to reach the finishing point shouts “White Horses” and becomes the new “White Horse.”