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Scotland's First Tidal Turbine Goes Online

A gigantic 1,500-ton tidal turbine was lowered into the waters off the Orkney coast last summer, the first piece of an ambitious renewable energy program in the area. The nearly 600-foot-tall turbine rests 70 feet above the seabed and will generate enough electricity to power 1,000 homes. If the two-year trial proves successful, Atlantis Resources Corporation plans to install as many as 400 more tidal turbines in the turbulent waters of the Pentland Firth between Caithness in northern Scotland and the Orkney Islands. The area, called "the Saudi Arabia of tidal power," has some of the fastest currents in the world, moving water between the Atlantic Ocean and the North Sea twice a day with current speeds of up to 16 knots (about 18.5 mph) and water flows of up to 3 million tons a second.

Royal Scots Dragoon Guards To Disappear

The Royal Scots Dragoon Guards, one of Scotland's oldest regiments, will be merged into the infantry, according to an army document leaked late last summer. The move not only marks the end of the British army's cavalry after 350 years but also the likely end of two famous regimental names – the Dragoon Guards and the King's Royal Hussars -- as these regiments will be turned into squadrons. The restructuring will combine the army's eight main corps into four "capability directorates," and cut large swathes of senior officer posts. About 12,000 staff will be lost over the next decade. In 1971, the Royal Scots Dragoons were formed by the amalgamation of the 3rd Carabiniers (Prince of Wales's Dragoon Guards) and the Royal Scots Greys, a unit that dates to 1678 and was described by Napoleon at the Battle of Waterloo as "those terrible grey horses."

World's Rarest Tartan Discovered

In 1746 the MacDougalls abandoned Dunollie Castle near Oban and built nearby Dunollie House. It is currently the clan chief's private residence, but plans call for the oldest and most atmospheric rooms in the building to be renovated and opened as a museum and cultural centre. Earlier this year, Peter MacDonald, chief researcher for the Scottish Tartans Authority, was asked to look at some historic items at house, but before he got to the task at hand, the old curtains hanging on the landing windows caught his attention. Upon closer inspection, they turned out to be a rare treasure. "They are the oldest version of MacDougall tartan in existence," MacDonald, an expert in pre-1800 tartans, said. "I believe the cloth is a copy of an even older plaid, which would have been a status symbol, a one-off belonging to the chief or the chief's son." In addition to being the oldest MacDougall tartan in existence, the curtains, which date to 1790-1800, are also the longest woven piece in the world to survive from that period -- a full 35 yards. The fabric contains much brighter shades than the current MacDougall tartan, and it is now safely off the windows and preserved under museum conditions. "We recognized that they were really good curtains," said an astonished Catherine Gillies, project manager for Dunollie, "but we didn't realize the significance of them." A reproduction of the cloth, named the "Heritage MacDougall Tartan," will go on sale shortly through the clan's Web site,

The full text of this section is available in the Winter 2011 issue of Scottish Life.

Click here to preview our feature article on The King's Route by Terry Williams.

Click here to preview our feature article on Stirling Castle's Royal Apartments by Jim Gilchrist.

Click here to preview our column on Scotland's Music by Edward Scott Pearlman.

Click here to preview our reviews of Scottish Books.