Summer of history: events in Scotland - July & August 2022

23 June 2022
Caerlaverock Castle
Fancy watching a medieval jousting tournament? Or taking part in an archaeology dig? We've rounded up the best history events taking place around Scotland this summer.

Health, Wealth and happiness: the history of healthcare in the Highlands, 1 July – 13 August 

From traditional remedies and cutting-edge technologies to the challenges of saving lives in a rugged and rural landscape, Health, Wealth and Happiness is an exhibition exploring the history of healthcare in the Highlands.

Hospitals, healthcare workers, and healing waters are among the topics and highlights include an immersive early-20th century pharmacy, a copy of the landmark 1912 Dewar Report, and a reflection on the Covid-19 pandemic in the Highlands.

North Coast Visitor Centre, High Street, Thurso KW14 8AJ; website.

Book of Deer, 2 July to 2 October

The 10th-century Book of Deer is one of Scotland’s greatest treasures. For the first time in a millennium, this remarkable illuminated manuscript is returning to the north-east of Scotland, on loan from Cambridge University Library. This is a rare opportunity to see what is widely regarded as the earliest manuscript produced in Scotland.  

The Book of Deer contains a series of captivating illustrations, as well as the earliest surviving text in Gaelic. These Gaelic notes, dating from the 12th century, give the volume its title, referring to the monastery of Deer in Aberdeenshire, where the manuscript is thought to have originated.

Visit the website for details of the accompanying events programme.

Aberdeen Art Gallery, Schoolhill, Aberdeen AB10 1FQ; tel: 03000 200 293

Anatomy: a matter of life and death, 2 July to 30 October 

This exhibition looks at the social and medical history surrounding the practice of dissection. It traces the relationship between anatomy, its teaching and cultural context and the bodies that were dissected. Looking at Edinburgh’s role as an international centre for medical study, Anatomy offers an insight into the links between science and crime in the early 19th century.

National Museum of Scotland, Chambers Street, Edinburgh EH1 1JF; website.

Platinum Jubilee Display, 3 July – 25 September

In celebration of The Queen's Platinum Jubilee in 2022, the Palace of Holyroodhouse is hosting a display looking back at previous Jubilees. The display will feature outfits worn by the queen on occasions to celebrate the Silver, Golden and Diamond Jubilees.  In 1977 for The Queen’s Silver Jubilee, the royal couturier Sir Hardy Amies designed a striking ensemble of dress, coat and stole in pink silk crepe and chiffon with a matching hat designed by Simone Mirman with flowerheads hanging from silk stems. 

Palace of Holyroodhouse, Canongate, Edinburgh EH8 8DX; website.

Ness of Brodgar archaeological dig site visits, 6 July – 17 August

Archaeologists have been exploring the Ness of Brodgar in for more than a decade and the dig will resume this summer, following two years of pandemic restrictions. The dig site will be open to the public from 6 July to 17 August.

Ness of Brodgar, Stennes, Stromness KW16 3JZ; e-mailwebsite

Redcoats in residence, 9 July

Alan Breck's Regiment bring Jacobite re-enactment to Gladstone's Land in Edinburgh Old Town. Reenactors will be in costume and character throughout the museum. Runs 10am-2.30pm. 

477b Lawnmarket, Edinburgh EH1 2NT; tel: 0131 225 5856; website.

Battle Hill prehistoric landscape dig, 12 – 22 July

The Battle Hill Prehistoric Landscape Project is the 21st season of a long-term, relaxed and open series of research and training excavations into Prehistoric Aberdeenshire. No prior experience is needed and professional archaeologists are on site to provide guidance. The 2019 season identified a new possible cairn under a 1,000-year-old bank and revealed more features of a 2,500-year-old hillfort – what finds will this year’s participants uncover? 

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For more information, or to book your place contact the Project Director Murray Cook by e-mail. Cost: £500, or £50 a day.

Festival of Archaeology, 16 – 31 July 

A UK-wide festival of all things archaeology with talks, digs, demonstrations, living history and lots more. See the full programme here.

Writing historical fiction, 27 July

The latest in History Scotland’s Zoom lecture series welcomes Dr Fiona Watson, author of Dark Hunter, for an exclusive online talk. Fiona explores the reasons why she decided to write Dark Hunter - a whodunnit set in Berwick, the last English-held stronghold after the battle of Bannockburn - how she went about it and what she learned along the way. 

Starts 6.30pm UK time. Tickets £10. Register here

Jousting at Caerlaverock, 30-31 July

Experience an afternoon of exhilarating horsemanship and impressive skills at the brave and courageous knights battle it out. Hear the thundering of hooves and the clash of lances as our four champions take to the arena for this spectacular show. Why not wander through the living history camps and meet some soldiers fresh from the battle.

Tickets are for the event only – no access to the castle. Price £6-£34 (free for Historic Environment Scotland members). Book at Historic Environment Scotland.

Caerlaverock Castle, Castle Road End, Dumfries DG1 4RU

Macbeth: a usurper’s fate, 4 August

Historian Elizabeth Cory Lopez will delve into the roots of Macbeth, son of Findlay, and what his life, culture, reign and mythical legacy can tell us about the evolution of Scotland as a nation.

Starts 7pm. Tickets £4. Book here

Gladstone’s Land, 477b Lawnmarket, Edinburgh EH1 2NT; tel: 0131 225 5856

Counted: Scotland’s census 2022, until 25 September 

In the year of Scotland’s Census National Galleries of Scotland are exploring who lives in Scotland today, who came before us and who will come after us.

Inspired by the questions asked in the census, Counted: Scotland’s Census 2022 considers the complex notion of identity. How is this shaped by our religion, occupation, health, ethnicity? New acquisitions by photographers working in Scotland today including Kieran Dodds, Arpita Shah and Danny North are presented alongside 19th-century photographs by Thomas Annan and Hill & Adamson - offering comparisons between past and present generations of Scots. Free admission.

Scottish National Portrait Gallery, 1 Queen Street, Edinburgh EH2 1JD; website

Masterpiece loan: Sir Alexander Morison, until 19 March 2023

The masterpiece Sir Alexander Morison, by Richard Dadd, is the latest in a series of paintings to be loaned to Duff House from the collections of National Galleries of Scotland.

Duff House, Banff, AB45 3SX; website