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We know that, even if it seems impossible, the unicorn is the national animal of Scotland. As you may know, there is also a national flower, although this time it is a real one, and we can find it either in the wild fields or in works of art: the thistle.

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We can see purple thistles carpeting the fields in the Highlands, next to the famous lochs, another Scottish symbol. But we can find them not very far from Edinburgh -in fact, there are some in Holyrood Park, at the feet of Arthur’s Seat.

This magnificent flower, prickly-leaved but colourful, beautiful in its simplicity, has also inspired artists and craftsmen. I even managed to buy a sterling silver ring, made from a spoon, with a thistle on it. Now I wear it as a badge of pride, and I’m pretty sure that it will eventually turn into a souvenir that will make me remember with nostalgia my stay in Scotland.

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It is very obvious that a flower that can be found in large quantities is the ideal one to represent a country. But what does the thistle symbolise? The legend says that an invading Norse army stepped into a thorny field when trying to surprise the sleeping clansmen. They were barefoot, and their cries could be heard from a distance, thus raising the alarm and allowing the brave Scottish men to defend their territory.

The Most Ancient and Most Noble Order of the Thistle has this flower as an emblem (along with the motto Nemo me impune lacessit). It seems that James III founded the order in the fifteenth century, but it was Alexander III the one who adopted it as national symbol in the thirteenth century.

Between legend and History, and emboding everything Scottish, the thistle stands, generation after generation, colouring the meadows and brightening up a country that has known many tough days. Nowadays, fortunately, they are only chronicles of the past that amaze the tourists, along with the purple tapestry that perhaps symbolises beauty and strength in hardness.

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