Explore Scotland

With Colourful Heritage

From magnificent Mosques, to marvellous museums, South Asian heritage is scattered across the stunning landscapes of Scotland. Colourful Heritage have collected these landmarks on to one "Explore Scotland" map. Take a look!

Explore Scotland

Scotland boasts some of the most scenic and extraordinary landscapes in Britain. It also has a long association with various South Asian communities. Scotland’s South Asian population of more than 80,000 is a multi-faith society mostly made up of Muslims, Hindus and Sikhs. The second largest religion practised in Scotland is Islam. The South Asian communities have made Scotland home and settled mainly around urban areas, such as Greater Glasgow, Edinburgh and Dundee with smaller communities found as far North as Lossiemouth, Aberdeen and Stornoway.

With the arrival of Maharajah Duleep Singh also known as ‘The Black Prince of Perthshire’ in 1855 and Scotland’s first South Asian Councillor, Dr. Jainti Dass Saggar in Dundee in 1936 to the home of Labour leader Anas Sarwar who was elected in 2021, Scotland has been a home to many New Scots and their lively communities.

Explore and visit some of the fascinating places around Scotland that are steeped in South Asian heritage. We hope you enjoy your trip!

This is an interactive map. Click on an icon for more information!

1) Orkney Isles – Seamen Graves

Explore the beautiful breath-taking shore line of the Isles of Orkney situated off the North East coast of Scotland. Visit the graves of the Muslim and Parsee seamen who were once part of the Merchant Navy that are buried to one side, at the edge of the Lyness Royal Naval Cemetery on the Island of Hoy.

There are at least four graves in total next to one another. One of them was a Muslim seaman, Kurfan Ullah (32 years old) who was a Fireman and Trimmer aboard the Merchant Navy ship S. S. “Mostyn” and died on 30th January 1941 during active service in World War 2. His headstone has the Arabic inscription of ‘Bismillah…’. His record can be found within the Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC) records as he was identified as being in active service during the war.

There are at least another three graves close by which although have been classed as Non-World War graves, they are maintained to a similar standard in keeping with the war graves nearby. Two of these graves are of unidentified Merchant Navy seamen, one of whom is identified as a ‘Parsee’ seaman (marked with a Zoroastrian emblem with no further information about him) and the other a ‘Musalman’ seaman (marked with a Muslim emblem).

The CWGC hold basic record for the ‘Musalman’ seaman. He may have been someone called Sheraldeen Fazaldeen and may have served on HMHS Plassy which was based in Scapa Flow, however since these details were never verified with the deceased’s next of kin the CWGC decided to list him as an Unknown. It is believed that he died from something unconnected with the war.

The third grave close by is of Salem Caleb who served in the Mercantile Marine as a ‘Fireman’ aboard S. S. “Elsdon” and died on 5th February 1919. The CWGC archives state that he was a Muslim and that his wife lived in Aden. This is unconfirmed as he is a non-World War casualty therefore the shipping company may have contacted his next of kin rather than the CWGC.

2a) Lairg – Tin Church

Begin on a brilliant journey, following the footsteps of the brave Punjabi Indian Muslim soldiers of Force K6, beginning in the village of Lairg.

The Muslim soldiers of Force K6 used a tin church building (located on Main Street, Lairg) as a make shift mosque while the soldiers were stationed there during World War 2 from 1942-43. This would have been the most Northerly Mosque in Britain at the time. The soldiers used to march near Lairg Golf course, Lairg Hotel and the Lairg war memorial with their mules to exercise them.

2b) Golspie – Golspie Heritage Society Museum

Golspie Heritage Society

The lasting relics in the form of several swords (ceremonial sabres) that supposedly belonged to these Force K6 soldiers can be seen on display at Golspie Heritage Society Museum. However, both swords have a Sikh symbol of the ‘Khanda’ inscribed on them along with the Punjabi words:

Deg Teg Fateh (Punjabi: ਦੇਗ ਤੇਗ਼ ਫ਼ਤਿਹ, or Victory to Charity and Arms) is a Sikh slogan and anthem in the Punjabi language. Either there were Sikh soldiers in the Highlands or they were gifted to the Muslim Force K6 soldiers!

Whilst stationed at Golspie, Force K6 (32 Coy) sent a detachment in full ceremonial uniform to attend the funeral of Duchess of Sutherland on 27th August 1943.

 

Golspie Drill Hall

The 32 Coy of Force K6 soldiers (SR to check with Hamish) stayed at the Golspie Drill Hall whilst stationed there. The drill hall itself is a beautiful example of a listed building which was designed by Laurie Bisset and built in 1892 based on Kashmiri architecture.

To read more about the ‘Tracing the footsteps of Force K6’ trip with Colourful Heritage, please click here.

2c) Aviemore – Footsteps of Force K6

The Force K6 soldiers were also stationed at Aviemore Hotel which was a makeshift hospital during World War 2, located close to Aviemore railway station. Take a look at a photograph of soldier “Muhammad Alhim”, taken in 1943 outside the station!

The Aviemore Hotel was burnt down during the 1950s and now has the new Aviemore Macdonald hotel built on that site with beautiful surrounding scenery and close to a number of other family friendly hotels at the MacDonald Aviemore resort. It’s definitely worth a visit!

Visit the track over the hills, just west of Aviemore on Kinrara Estate, which acts almost as a memorial to these soldiers. Locally known as ‘The Burma Road’, it was named as a result of the soldiers practising carrying heavy loads by mule backwards and forwards over it, in preparation for deployment to Burma, where they were to keep the front-line troops fighting the Japanese supplied with food and ammunition.

2d) Kingussie – Force K6 Burial Site

Visit the Kingussie Cemetery – the largest Force K6 burial site with 9 graves. There are a total of 13 graves of these soldiers buried across 4 cemeteries in Scotland (i.e., Kingussie, Proncynain, Allenvale & Grange Cemeteries). Follow in the footsteps of the Highland warriors, Punjabi Muslim soldiers of Force K6 from the British Indian Army (from Pakistan) who travelled thousands of miles to France and later escaped from Dunkirk and finally made their way to Scotland during World War 2 around 1943-44. They were stationed around the highlands of Scotland in various remote locations. There are also graves (not shown on the map) in both Aberdeen (Allenvale Cemetery) and Grange Cemetery in Banffshire.

For further information on several locations in Scotland where the soldier’s setup camp and the names of soldiers buried in aforementioned cemeteries see Appendix 2 in A Corner of Pakistan in Scotland booklet

2e) Dornoch – Dornoch and Proncynain Cemetery

Dornoch is a seaside resort town which also sits on the NC500 scenic coastal route in Scotland. Dornoch Hotel was used as a hospital for the Royal Indian Army Srvice Corps (RIASC) soldiers that were stationed in Scotland. It still stands today in its original glory. Why not book a visit and take in the scenery of the surrounding areas where these brave soldiers once roamed?

Two of the graves of these Force K6 Indian Muslim soldiers (Driver Ghulam Nabi and Naik Abdur Rakhman) are also located at the Proncynain Cemetery near Dornoch. Surprisingly between both graves lies the grave of an Indian called Ram Bhopal who died in 1960. Locals remember him as a pedlar who use to sell clothes and fancy goods door to door in the Highlands and Islands.

The largest concentration of graves of Force K6 soldiers is at Kingussie Cemetery where nine of these soldiers are buried. These brave soldiers also set camp at the most Northern tip of Scotland in Thurso and in Ullapool. All these sites are linked to the ultimate Highland Road trip, the North Coast 500 route (NC500) which allows you to explore not only the 500 miles of stunning coastal scenery but also the history of the Force K6 soldiers that roamed and stayed in various locations within Northern Scotland.

3) Stornoway – Home of  Pedlars & Most Northerly Mosque

Visit Stornoway on the Isle of Lewis, the northern-most outer Hebridean island on the Western Isles off Scotland. Stornoway itself is a fishing port that has grown into the main commercial centre and is known as the capital of the Hebrides.

Stornoway has been home to many Punjabi pedlars (door-to-door salesmen) during the early 20th century, who eventually settled and opened bigger businesses. Kair Singh arrived in Stornoway in the early 1930s followed by Mohammed Buta. His younger brother Mohammed Niaz also settled on Stornoway till his death in the late 80s. Their nephew, Nazir Ahmed arrived in 1957 and was one of the first to open clothing, hardware and home furnishing stores. He features in Unit 3 of our digital resource pack and in several other articles. To this day there is still a close-knit Pakistani and Muslim population. Businesses such as Sardar & Sons sell a unique mix of Hebridean stock and clothing, and are still thriving.

It also features the Stornoway Masjid – the first mosque to be opened in the outer Hebridean Isles of Scotland during 2018, and the most northern Mosque in Britain. You can also pay your respects to several of the early members of the Pakistani community that are buried at the New Sandwick Cemetery just outside Stornoway.

4a) Wester Ross – Lady Cobbold’s Former Home

Visit the breath-taking Scottish Highlands and the former home of Scottish born Lady Zainab Evelyn Cobbold who was the first British female convert to have performed Hajj in 1933 aged 65 and connect with the strong Muslim heritage bond. She lived amongst the beautiful Glencarron Estate, located in Wester Ross on the edge of the Scottish Highlands, at Glencarron Lodge which you can book for a stay.

There are another two lodges included in the estate: Stag Lodge and Glenuaig Lodge. Described by the website, the stunning highland location gives “glorious views across Glencarron” where you can spend the evenings watching the glen turn gold in the setting sun”. Sounds remarkable!

4b) Glenuaig Valley – Lady Cobbold’s Grave

You can also stay at her former hunting Glenuaig Lodge, which is hidden away in the breath taking surroundings of the Glenuaig Valley and see Lady Zainab Cobbald’s final resting place at the nearby hilltop gravesite.

This stunning four bedroom Lodge used to be used by Lady Cobbald and other Victorian men for stalking deer on the remote hills. It can be accessed via a country track, and has views of beautiful mountains and fascinating wildlife, such as red deer and eagles.

Watch a clip from BBC Scotland’s “Landward”, featuring Omar Shaikh exploring the story of Lady Zainab Cobbold .

5) Inverness – Masjid & NC500

Inverness is the capital of the Scottish Highlands and has one of the most northerly Mosques in the United Kingdom which originated from a converted building and is now known as Inverness Masjid – (Mosg Inbhir Nis). It acts as a community gathering place and an Islamic Education Centre for the Highland community. Whilst refurbishing the previous “Portland Club” into the Mosque, there was no skip available. Instead, Muslim brothers took 4 to 6 hours out of their Sunday’s on a fortnightly basis for most of the year. Together, they shifted rubble and waste to the industrial waste site. An outstanding example of teamwork and brotherhood.

It is also the start and end point for the North Coast 500 (NC500) route which takes you around some breath taking coastal scenery views of the most northern coast of Scotland going through various small towns steeped in the history of the British Indian Army soldiers of Force K6.

6) Lossiemouth – Hometown of Perveen Sarwar

The seaside town of Lossiemouth was the hometown of Mrs. Parveen Sarwar, First Lady of Punjab (mother of Anas Sarwar – Leader of Scottish Labour) where she grew up and attended school. She stayed here with her family as a child and after she got married to her husband, Mohammed Sarwar – UK’s first Muslim MP, and Present day Governor of Punjab (Lahore), before moving to Glasgow.

Nearby in the small town of Elgin is the Elgin Mosque and Community Centre which is located in a small converted premise. This serves the small but growing community of Muslims.

7) Aberdeenshire – Balmoral Castle

Explore the grounds of Balmoral Estate where Queen Victoria spent a great amount of time learning to speak and write in Urdu from Abdul Karim. Visit and stay in Karim cottage, the former home of Queen Victorias private secretary – Munshi Abdul Karim which was built for him by the Queen on the Balmoral Estate.

Moreover, in 2018, Oscar nominated biopic “Victoria & Abdul” was released, focusing on the relationship between Abdul Karim and Queen Victoria. Add it to your watchlist, and dive deeper into South Asian heritage in Scotland.

8) Aberdeen – Most Northerly Gurdwara

The Aberdeen Gurdwara is the most Northerly Gurdwara in the United Kingdom. It was started by some of the early Sikh student settlers who came to study in the ‘Granite City’ during the 1980’s.

What began as years of getting together for prayers and keertan (hymn singing) at their homes, grew into establishing a Charity and opening the Aberdeen Gurdwara!

It is a place for the Sikh community to engage, worship and help the wider community based on the principles of Sikhism and serves the small yet growing number of Sikhs within the city.

You can also check out a War Memorial Plaque in Aberdeen Crematorium, Kaimhill Road, commemorating ‘Sweeper Mangli’ who died on 4th April 1943 and was part of the Royal Indian Army Service Corps. (Special thanks to Vimal Subramanian for this addition)!

9a) Perthshire – Castle Menzies

Join Colourful Heritage on a fantastic trail, exploring the Heritage footprint left behind by the last Ruler of Lahore and Sovereign of the Punjab, Maharajah Duleep Singh!  He was the youngest son of the Lion of the Punjab – Maharajah Ranjit Singh and Maharani Jind Kaur.

Take a day trip to Castle Menzies where Maharajah Duleep Singh (also known as the Black Prince of Perthshire) the youngest son of the legendary Lion of the Punjab, Maharajah Ranjit Singh, initially stayed when he was brought over from Lahore. Duleep Singh Sikh History Trail. Flick through the image gallery to see a print of Duleep Singh at a party at Castle Menzies on July 28th, 1855. Courtesy of the Toor Collection.

Also, have a look at some of Duleep Singh’s jewellery, on show at the National Museum of Scotland in Edinburgh, icon 17 on the map!

9b) Perthshire – Blair Castle

Visit Blair Castle where the Prince Maharajah Duleep Singh was a guest of the Duke and Duchess of Atholl on a number of occasions.

Blair Castle is located nearby the village of Blair Atholl, Perthshire. The oldest part of the castle is the six-storey Cummings or Comyn’s Tower, which contains some 13th-century fabric, though it was largely built in the 15th century.

The Castle has been open to the public since 1936, with rooms rich in collections of trophies, weapons, furniture, paintings and more! It is definitely worth a visit!

9c) Perthshire – Grandtully Castle

Feel the history of Sikhism in the hamlet of Grandtully in Perthshire where Maharajah Duleep Singh once roamed in nearby fields for game shooting when he resided there in the early 1860s at Grandtully Castle. His previous residence was Castle Menzies, however, he rented this property in the early 1860s, and moved here.

Grandtully (pronounced “Grantly”) consists of 16th and 17th century designs. It is formed of a tower house of three storeys, and a garret (habitable attic). Moreover, in 1893, a large mansion was added to the Castle as an extension, made with a similar style. This was likely to have been built after the Maharajah Duleep Singh had completed his stay.

Although, the castle is not currently open to the public, you can still visit the chapel, St Mary’s Church, which is currently under the care of Historic Environment Scotland.

9d) Perthshire – Kenmore Churchyard

Visit and pay your respects to Maharajah Duleep Singh’s young son’s grave in Kenmore Churchyard next to Kenmore Parish Church in Perthshire.

Whilst staying at Castle Menzies, Duleep Singh’s wife, Bamba Müller, gave birth to a boy, who unfortunately did not survive for more than a few days. He is buried at Kenmore Churchyard and is said to be the first Sikh to have been born in the United Kingdom. Fortunately, Duleep went on to have six more healthy children with his first wife, Bamba, and then two more children with his second wife, Ada Douglas Wetherill.

From the Kenmore Churchyard, there are astonishing views of the Loch Tay on its southern and western sides. The Kenmore Parish Church next to the Churchyard features late 1800s design, with beautiful stained glass designs. It is definitely worth the visit!

10) Isle of Barra – A Pedlar Hotspot

Explore the beautiful Isle of Barra which is the most southerly of the inhabited islands in the Outer Hebrides. It features one of the most unusual airports in the world with flights landing on the beach at Cockle strand in between tides.

South Asian pedlars also travelled to Barra as the likes of Abdul Karim. Watch this short film about Abdul Karim called ‘They call me Johnny’ and follow his story around the island as he sets off on his bicycle with his suitcase filled with goods. The people of the island still remember him to this day!

11) Dundee – Dr Saggar, Mosques and More

Dundee is famous for Jute (also known as the golden fibre), Jam, Journalism and Jainti Dass Saggar. Visit Saggar St in Dundee, home to Dr. Jainti Dass Saggar, Scotland’s first South Asian publicly elected Councillor by the Dundonians in 1936. Dundee was also home to the Jute industry with many South Asians working in these factories in the mid twentieth century.

To find out more about Dundee’s heritage and its various faith buildings click here.

Dundee also has its own purpose-built Dundee Central Mosque which is centrally located and within easy walking distance to the main town centre where there are several Halal eating places. Dundee also boasts the beautiful new award-winning Victoria & Albert Dundee Museum on the transformed riverfront along with the Captain Scott’s historic sailing ship RRS Discovery and Discovery Point – an award-winning visitor experience on Antartic exploration.

12) Dundee – ‘Verdant Works’, a Jute Museum

At Verdant Works Museum – Dundee Jute Museum (a former Jute Mill), you can explore the rich history of Dundee and its long-standing connection with India and the South Asian community which is closely linked with Jute processing to make a variety of items during the 19th and 20th century. It was famously once known as Juteopolis.

Hear the story of Kalam Chowdhury, one of the early pioneers from the Bangladeshi community whose family were closely linked to the Jute industry in both India and Dundee. Explore more about this early pioneer who lived in Dundee by reading a specially commissioned educational digital pack about Kalam Chowdhury from Abertay University featuring interviews with his son and good friend and features images of some of his old documents as well as activities for children.

13) Fife – Egyptian Footballer “Tewfik Abdullah”

Visit the Kingdom of Fife if you are a football fan and visit the town of Cowdenbeath where the first Egyptian Muslim Tewfik Abdullah played for its home club, Cowdenbeath F. C. in 1922.

Before playing for Cowdenbeath, Tewfik also played for Derby County in the First Division, making him the second Egyptian ever to play in the English Football League and the first to ever play in division one. Some regarded him as one of the “smartest footballers” they had encountered.

Moreover, the Kingdom of Fife is famous for golf, and has over forty courses. With nearby sandy beach destinations such as St. Andrews, we would highly recommend taking a visit to the stunning East Coast of Scotland – even if you’re not a golfer!

14) Glasgow – The Riverside Museum

Have a fun filled day visiting the Riverside, Museum of Transport designed by the late Zaha Hadid at a cost of £74m. This zinc-clad building houses over 3000 objects initially housed at the City’s Museum of Transport. Explore some Pakistani truck art, featured on a rickshaw and also take a trip down memory lane by watching fascinating footage of an award-winning short film featuring some of the city’s South Asians who worked on the buses as conductors and drivers as well as see the buses and trams they worked on.

Why not visit the Riverside Museum and many of these sights using the City’s Sightseeing Glasgow buses tour and experience Glasgow’s double decker buses as did the South Asian conductors and drivers did when they worked there during the 70’s and 80’s.

15) Glasgow – Glasgow Central Mosque

Take a tour of Scotland’s first purpose-built mosque, Glasgow Central Mosque located on the South of the River Clyde within the Gorbals area. It is one of the most recognisable buildings in Glasgow with its distinct gold and green glassed dome. Completed in 1983 at a cost of around £3 million, it was the largest community initiative and funds to support this were raised mainly by Glasgow’s Muslim community. Watch unique video footage called “That’s the spirit ‘Mosque’”, filmed during its construction in 1980 featuring UK’s first Muslim Councillor, Bashir Maan giving an interview to the media about the beliefs and way of life of Muslims. Learn more about the mosque by watching a video of Maqbool Rasul, owner of Global Video.

Learn about early life in Scotland and in Glasgow by watching an interview of the late Bashir Maan CBE and learn about how he got into politics and was elected as UK’s first publicly elect Muslim Councillor.

16) Glasgow – The Glasgow Gurdwara

Visit and take a tour of the first purpose built Gurdwara, Guru Granth Sahib Sikh Sabha opened its doors in 2013 in the heart of the South Side of Glasgow in Pollokshields, home to the largest South Asian community in Scotland.

The Gurdwara is frequently visited by many members of the community, ranging from locals, politicians, schools and clubs. Visitors are greeted at the door by one of the Gurdwara’s Ambassadors. Everyone visiting is required to remove their shoes and wear a head scarf (hats and hoodies are not permitted). Tours are available throughout the week, and for more information on the tour rota, check out their website HERE.

The Gurdwara is accredited with 4 stars by Visit Scotland, and is definitely worth a visit!

17) Edinburgh – Prince Duleep Singh’s Jewellery

See some of Prince Duleep Singhs ornate jewellery and possessions of the last ruler of the Sikh Empire at the National Museum of Scotland in Edinburgh.

Described as “ornate and intricately detailed”, the objects were purchased by Major Donald Lindsay Carnegie and bequeathed to the National Museum of Scotland upon his death in 1911.

The Museum has free entry, however, booking is required before arriving via their website. If you have a keen interest in remarkable artefacts, and learning more about Scottish culture and heritage, we would highly recommend paying a visit to the Museum.

18) Edinburgh – Tipu Sultan’s Sword

Visit the National War Museum within the grounds of Edinburgh Castle to see the sword with the tiger’s hilt head that once belonged to the famous ruler of the Kingdom of Mysore, Tipu Sultan also known as the ‘Tiger of Mysore’.

The sword is believed to have been passed down from the Tipu Sultan himself to Captain Aeneas Mackay. The design of the sword is particularly intricate. It includes tiger heads worked in gold and tiger stripes on the hilt. The blade has no “maker’s marks”, however, there are a number of inscriptions. These have been identified as the names of the four Caliphs as well as ‘God is great’ and ‘Muhammad’ in Arabic.

19) Kilwinning – Home of Yahya Parkinson

Explore the North Ayrshire coast and enjoy a day out in the town of Kilwhinning, home to the famous Scottish Muslim poet and writer, Yahya Parkinson. Yahya was often described as the Muslim “Robert Burns” due to his fantastic work in the field of poetry.

Originally born “John Parkinson”, he changed his name to “Yehya-en-Nasr” after converting to Islam around the year of 1900. His published books and pamphlets included Lays of Love and War (Ardrossan, 1904), Muslim Chivalry (Rangoon, 1909), Essays on Muslim Philosophy (Rangoon, 1909), Outward Bound (Rangoon, 1909) and Al-Ghazali (Woking, c.1913).

Recently, the grave of Yahya was found at Kilwinning Cemetery, section M and Lair number 1. He was buried on 01/12/1918, alongside John McNeil Dodds and Annie Cann Dodds.

Please note that some of these attractions may be temporarily closed due to the ongoing pandemic restrictions or may require advance bookings for visits. Please check the relevant site for opening hours and booking time slots before you plan your journey.

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