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The Thistle by Tartangirl

This is a guest post by Tartangirl.

When you think about Scotland, it is bagpipes, whisky, tartan and kilts, lochs and the Loch Ness monster, the Saltire and surely the thistle that come immediately to mind. But have you ever asked yourself how it comes that the humble thistle is a Scottish emblem ?

There are several legends about how this flowering plant became Scotland‘s symbol but most refer to the battle of Largs in 1263. At this time, the western seaboards and Argyll were under the sovereignty of the Norwegian king Haakon IV. When Alexander III, king of Scotland, offered to purchase the territory and Haakon refused to sell, Alexander launched military operations against the Norse. Haakon replied to the attacks in sending an armed fleet of longships to the west coast, but a heavy storm forced some ships to land on a beach near Largs in Ayrshire. The Norsemen decided to take advantage of the situation and to launch a surprise night attack on a Scottish army‘s encampment.

The legend says that in order to make a silent approach, the soldiers took off their footwear. But one or more barefoot Norsemen stepped upon a thistle and the cries of pain woke the sleeping Scottish who were able to prepare themselves and to fight off the invaders who fled in pain.

There is no evidence that this is the reason why the thistle became the Scottish emblem, but we know that it has been so since the 15th century as it appeared on silver coins in 1470 during the reign of King James III.

Today, the thistle can be seen on everyday objects like towels, napkins, glassware, on tartans, kilt accessories and jewellery to show that the roots of the product are Scottish.

And you have certainly noticed that it is also used in Scotweb’s logo.

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