14 November 2009

Slate on Bagpipes at (Military) Funerals

Slate has an interesting article up on the use of bagpipes (specifically of the Highland variety) at military funerals, occasioned by the recent tragedy at Fort Hood.

According to the article, it isn't that pipes are particularly common at military funerals--they're common at funerals in general, sometimes just for aesthetic reasons, and sometimes because of a family connection to Scotland or Ireland.

It's also interesting to note that there isn't really anything particularly Scottish about bagpipes. As this list shows, bagpipes were a pretty common folk instrument throughout Europe and the Middle East, especially in the medieval period. In modern times, they've come to be associated with Scotland, and most of the older varieties have died out or been replaced by the Great Highland Pipes (best for sheer volume, and what most people in the US mean when they say "bagpipes") and the Irish uilleann pipes (best for range and precision).

Anyway, go and read the article--it's worth a look. And the Jacobites make a cameo! As if you haven't already heard enough of him here, here, here, and again, in a few days, when we get around to posting about Lindisfarne Castle.

11 November 2009

British Airways Fare Sale

For those of you considering a visit to the UK: British Airways is currently running a fare sale for November 17, 2009 - March 28, 2010 (excluding December 21-23 2009) and March 29 - May 23, 2010. Fares to London from most of the major East Coast airports (DC, Philly, NY, Boston) cost around $600 round-trip. Car rental add-ons on the UK side are almost so cheap that they're free.

Edinburgh is about a 7-hour drive from London, but that drive takes you by Oxford, Stratford, Warwick, the Lake District, and part of Hadrian's Wall (or, on the Eastern route, York, Durham, Northumbrland, and a different part of Hadrian's Wall), so if done leisurely, over a day or two, the drive could be a real treat. Alternately, if you just want to get to Scotland ASAP, Megabus runs cheap (but long) buses to and from Edinburgh, the National Rail can find you train fares, and Easyjet runs cheap flights between London (Gatwick and Stanstead, I think) and Edinburgh.

If you're thinking about a trip to the UK, let us know!