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Genealogical Links: Scotland and Germany

What connects these two countries?

Genealogical links between Scotland and other countries have become so varied and useful in the tourism market that VisitScotland promotes it as an area for Niche Marketing.

For this article, I chose to investigate links between Scotland and Germany, and found out lots of interesting historical, sports and cultural connections.

Royal Connections and the Enlightenment Influence - Victoria and Albert

In February 1840, at the age of 18, Queen Victoria married German-born Albert of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, creating a British-German Link. The marriage promoted positive relations between the UK and Germany.
It also helped the ongoing cultural exchange of traditions and craft following the enlightenment: ie Mendelssohn's visit to Staffa for inspiration and Scottish Folks songs being used to inspire the works of Haydn. This included the commission from William Napier for “A Selection of Original Scots Songs in Three Parts” where Haydn contributed over 100 works to the second and third volumes. The culture surge highlighted huge interest in Scotland.

Later, on her first visit to Deeside in the 1850s, Queen Victoria commissioned artist Edward Landseer to paint the “Royal Sports on Hill and Loch” which famously helped promote the “highland myth” part of our culture. Her instructions to the artist were:

“I am stepping out of the boat at Loch Muick, Albert in his Highland Dress, assisting me out, and I am looking at a Stag which he is supposed to have just killed. Bertie is on the deer pony with MacDonald standing behind, with rifles and plaids on shoulders. In the water holding the boat, are several of the men in their kilts, salmon are also lying on the ground.”

Myths and Legends are a unique selling point today for Scottish Culture and the presence is seen in Literature, Music, Storytelling and products sold to promote tourist attractions. Examples including the Loch Ness Monster, the Kelpies, the use of Faeries for fancy dress, place names like the Fairy Pools on Skye and story characters like Tinkerbell in the Peter Pan stories by famous Scottish author J.M.Barrie.


Christmas very much began as a tradition here during the Victorian Era (Austria and Germany began earlier). Prince Albert made his very own contribution to British festivities by introducing the German tradition of having a Christmas Tree, the decorating of it being part of the festivities as it is today. He first had a tree brought over from Germany to Windsor Castle in the 1840s.

Although these traditions took place in Scotland too, it wasn’t until a few years later that Christmas became an actual holiday there, as it was preferred to celebrate New Year instead.

Tourism and Tourist Product Connections

The 2016 VisitScotland Market Statistics on Germany's contribution to the Scottish Tourism Sector show that 323,000 German visitors came to Scotland in 2015. 66% of that figure was for holidays and a further 18% visiting friends and relatives. In 2015, Germany was Scotland’s 2nd largest source market after the USA when measured by the number of visits.

This positive interest has been aided by the increase of direct flights, improved transport links and the amount of common activities of interest which are very popular pastimes in Germany, Austria, and Switzerland such as nature and hiking trips.

There is a very strong market for Scottish Holidays in Germany including an interest in traditional Scottish produce sold over there.
Scottish Holiday specialists 'Unterwegs in Schottland' offer themed tours of film locations, whisky trails, castles and coastlines and day excursions to Fort William or a trip on the Jacobite Express visitors; all bookable from their homes in Germany.

Other points of interest included an Scottish Tourism Themed Magazine  'Schottland Magazin'  designed specifically for German visitors. It is released twice per year with information about Scottish products and businesses of interest to visitors.

Sue Gruellich, council member of the Scottish Tourism Alliance said about the magazine:
“German-speaking members of the Scottish Tourist Guides Association are delighted to see this publication twice a year. We find it represents the varied attractions of Scotland in a style and quality we like to show our visitors.”

The magazine and website contain photographs, destination ideas, insights into Scottish Heritage and Culture, food and drink, and information on ways to explore the Scottish Landscape.

Other visitor information website and blogs can be found such as a blog and website started by German visitor Stephan Goldmann after he enjoyed his trips here so much!

His sites have destination information and links to points of interest for visitors. Stephan offers tourist information on destinations, themed trip suggestions such as film locations, distilleries, castles, searchable by region or activity.


Although easily found in the German supermarkets due to high demand, specialist Whisky and British Tobacco shops are very popular. One place I particularly like is the Whisky Dungeon in Munster which sells a range of top end brands as well as a few lesser known varieties; for example, the original Perthshire Ebradour is sold, as well as the lesser known about, 15-year-old variety called “The Fairy Flag.” The shop has lots of information about which region sources of each whisky and about the samples/tasting sessions that may be arranged.

German Tartan

Traditionally associated with Scotland, the Scottish Tartan Authority’s International Index shows tartans now made for the USA, Canada, and more recently Germany and other European countries.

The first one made for Germany was the Coburg Tartan, which was created by Wilson’s of Bannockburn to honour Queen Victoria’s Prince Consort, Albert of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha. It is a variant on the Graham of Menteith tartan.

The Franconian Tartan (or Landshut Tartan) was designed in 1996 by members of a Malt Whisky Club “the Highland Circle” in Franconia, northern Bavaria as a symbolic recognition of the Twinning of Elgin, Morayshire with Landshut, Bavaria. The tartan contains colours found in both the Scottish and Franconian flag (blue, white and red, with an amber stripe to represent the whisky).

German Products Sold Here in Scotland

German residents in the UK and Scottish nationals who have returned from living/working in Germany tend to hunt around for German products they enjoyed whilst living over there.

One source of traditional produce can be found in Edinburgh in the form of Kalko’s Konditorei & Kaffehaus.

This traditionally German baker and coffee house works in a manner more commonly found in Germany, Austria, and Switzerland than just the shop style bakers we tend to have in the UK. Falko’s is a small German bakery specializing in Konditorei cakes and gateaux, pretzels and sourdough breads. He believes in ethnicity. Sponges are Viennese; no cheating—absolutely no raising agents allowed! Black Forest Gateau with no less than 10% kirsch as per traditional method and 2 kinds of proper couverture chocolate are used.

Sports Connections

Although football is one of the most popular organized sports in Germany, and traditionally a British, the creation of sporting events between Scotland and Germany is where I wish to focus.

Did you know? The first Scottish Team founded was Queens Park, now based at the National Stadium, Hampden.

After the Scotland vs Germany European Championship qualifier, Scotland’s National Stadium hosted another event designed to examine how the sport can be used to create influence on and off the pitch with regards to culture & international relations.

Funded by the Scottish Government, the Centre for Cultural Relations and the Academy of Sport joined forced to hold a workshop entitled “Scotland and Germany: The Future for Sport, Cultural Relations, and International Development.” The event at Hampden was the beginning of several focused on a Scottish/German connection. Football today is a sport as well as a “business” in its own right, with private boxes at matches not only used by supporters but as venues for networking opportunities and corporate entertaining.

Scotland’s National Stadium previously helped with event organization in Germany for the 2006 FIFA World Cup in Hamburg, when they organized to have the world’s oldest football and other memorabilia transported over for exhibits at the event in Hamburg.

The cooperation extends not just to football, but sporting events in general. Scotland and Germany will be co-hosting the 2018 European Championship Games hosting inaugural events in Glasgow but actual sports events split between venues in Glasgow and Berlin.

The general opinion amongst organizers is that if football and other sports can make a wider contribution to local societies, then cities, countries, and diplomats should use it as a tool to create friendship, influence and good diplomatic relations.

Commercial Connections: Scottish Enterprise – Renewable Sector Industries

Although Scottish exports tend to be thought of in terms of Haggis, Whisky, or Shetland Wool, our renewable energy sources are also valued and much needed by other nations. 

An article written by Maggie McGinley, Scottish Enterprises’ Director of Energy & Clean Technologies, brings attention to the fact that although international competitiveness is important for Scotland’s future, our Offshore Wind Sector can play a critical role.

Although Germany is more practiced with having residents live in a “greener” way with stricter recycling practices, cleaner environment, & building practices and more eco-friendly living spaces, Scotland's natural resources and the skills required to manage them are much in demand from our European neighbours. 

Companies such as FoundOcean have established trade links with areas on the north coast of Germany in the hope of being established as wind-power energy suppliers to this part of Europe.

FoundOcean has over 40 years experience in the oil and gas sector but is now expanding to include wind power. They have opened up a business office in Bremen, hoping to get into the German offshore wind market. They have already developed two wind farms off the German Coast and plan to expand further into Europe. The expertise of the Scottish Oil and Gas businesses will be put to good use for both operating and training the local German workers.

Also involved in trade development is the Scottish Rural Network who works with the EU as well as local Government for development improvement opportunities beneficial to Scotland. One project with Scottish/ German links is the Aquaponics Project in Western-Pomerania, Germany.

In this project, the SRN focus is on the transfer of knowledge, sharing of experience, and innovation rather than a simple funding exercise.
This EU funded project is furthering work on the FishGlassHouse project at the University of Rostock which aims to improve production methods for fish and plantlife, and hopefully create a more sustainable food chain.

The Scottish link is the shared knowledge from our Fishing and Farming industries with the German experts on this project. The exchange of knowledge and expertise is beneficial and useful to both countries. Information about this can be found on the Scottish Rural Network website along with other examples of planned knowledge exchange.

Everybody Needs Friends... Twinned Towns

Being a twin normally applied to people, but is now relevant to places too!
Twinning Towns is a concept designed to partner similar sized towns in two countries in the hope of creating a positive cultural exchange.
The Carnegie Trust helps create partnerships between towns with similar characteristics or challenges, in hope that they can help each other with shared knowledge, economic strategies, or antisocial issues.
Twinning was originally done within the UK, but local governments can now arrange for towns to be twinned internationally too.

Twinned Scottish and German Towns include:
Kirkcaldy twinned with Ingolstadt; Edinburgh with Munich; Glasgow with Nuremberg; Falkirk with Odenwald and Elgin with Landshut, previously mentioned.

My Conclusions...

I found so many connections between Scotland and Germany that it was difficult to choose which ones to write about, so in the end just included the ones I found most interesting! 

I also noticed during the research that so many businesses and statistic sources provide only UK information with the efforts by Scots buried within, not really giving a true representation of the financial picture.

The most relevant and accurate information came from VisitScotlands' marketing reports and the individual businesses themselves such as the Rural Scotland network, the Germany based holiday specialists and tourist information sites, and a couple of points from personal experience from my time living over there.

Considering the wealth of culture, skills, expertise and a beautiful landscape with places to visit in Scotland, it seems silly not to share it, or use it to attract tourists and business connections!

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