Escaping To The Past To Combat Stress

Alice shares how she relieves herself of stress by delving into the stories of the past.

From a young age my parents encouraged me to explore my local heritage. Growing up in Aberdeenshire ‘Scotland’s Castle Country’, where there are over 300 castles, stately mansions, and ruins, I haven’t been short of options. Only a stone’s throw from my childhood home is the enchanting ruin of Glenbuchat Castle. As a child my family and I would explore its many rooms imagining the lavish feasts that would have been held in the Grand Hall. Whilst as a child I wasn’t aware of the concept of stress, now when I feel stressed, I revisit those memories. I find it offers me a sense of escapism as well as comfort.

Alice in front of house

During secondary school I became more and more interested history, it quickly became my favourite subject. One of the most memorable taught topics was the The Scottish Wars of Independence (1296-1328). Whilst learning about this time in Scottish history I was able to imagine first hand where some of its events occurred, with the main antagonist Edward I making visits to another local Castle, Kildrummy. The castle now ruined, is still an imposing and remarkable feature of the local area.  

Tests and exams can be a challenging part of school life for children and young people, it certainly was for me. But there are ways to ease the stress. For me visiting physical historical sites became a productive coping mechanism. I was able to combine required learning with extracurricular activities. Whilst studying the Making of Scotland in my final year of school I explored with my classmates the many local standing stones and circles, even following the Aberdeenshire Stone Circle Trail acquiring favourites that I would end up visiting during university when I needed to escape.  

Alice outside ruins of a castle

Fast forward to now, 2021. I’m currently a graduate navigating my first ‘proper’ job as an Associate at DWS Associates, a rurally based management consultancy. I love my job, especially the opportunities I have to help rural businesses prosper and thrive. I am able to maintain the enthusiasm for my job and alleviate stress through exploring Scotland’s Heritage.  

Most recently I was lucky enough to take a staycation with some friends to the West Coast of Scotland. The mental health charity Mind suggest one way to ease stress is by organising your time. For me this entailed organising an exciting day of discovering local heritage with my friends. With a new location to explore I was in my element. I identified sites, calculated travel times and gathered basic facts. Our day was finally planned.  

Itinerary Plan of Alice's day out

Our day out was a great success, see for yourself! All of the sites we visited allowed us to not only explore heritage but gave us the opportunity to be outside and take in the amazing landscapes of the West Coast. Additionally, we combined discovery with physical activity, with each site guiding us along a picturesque walk. This combination is what I believe makes visiting heritage sites such a great activity for my mental health. I’m not alone in this belief, a study by HES highlighted 78% of those asked felt happier because of their engagement with the historic environment 

Whether it be reminiscing on old memories or making new ones, exploring historic sites and Scottish heritage brings me so much joy. It can provide the opportunity to escape real life stresses and instead discover and learn new things. Over the years I have identified certain historic sites that provide me the most comfort. My standout site is Tomnaverie Stone Circle, it combines both my love for history and mountains with a stunningly framed view down the valley to my first ever Munro Lochnagar.

What historical site is most comforting for you?   

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Young Scot National Entitlement Card holders can get entry to heritage sites across Scotland for £1 at Historic Scotland, National Trust for Scotland and selected Historic Houses properties.

Take a look at our Mindfulness Monday videos if you're looking for some mindfulness activities.

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Young Scot supports young people to share their own voices, views and opinions and works with partner organisations and professionals who are experts in different topics. The views expressed in this blog are those of the young people, organisations and/or individuals who have taken part in the blog, not necessarily the views of Young Scot.