Napoleon said that ‘history is a lie agreed upon’ and while he was surely fond of a few porky pies himself, the diminutive French emperor was right that some of the most fascinating episodes in human history have been heavily revised, redacted and sadly, sometimes deleted completely.
However, in most nations and territories there are a few special places which allow us to read between the lines, challenge historical narratives and uncover entirely new perspectives on the tales of the past we presumed we knew all about.
If you’re fond of discovering global hidden histories, here are just a couple of secret spots off the tourist trail in very different locations.
Throughout the 18th Century, several unified groups of escaped slaves known as the Maroons fought a largely successful guerrilla campaign against British forces in the lush, labyrinthine interior of Jamaica known as Cockpit country, led by legendary leaders such as Cudjoe and Nanny.
The Maroons were eventually granted an autonomy which they still maintain to this day, one advantage of which is an exemption from (or perhaps more accurately a refusal to submit to) government taxation. Nestled in the hills of St Elizabeth, Accompong is one such Maroon town which you can visit today, and over the generations it has become a living time capsule, preserving many ancient African traditions and conventions which have now likely disappeared from their ancestral wellspring across the Atlantic.
Tip: attending the annual Accompong Maroon Festival in January is the best way to learn more about this fiercely independent nation within a nation.
Dunfermline is located in Fife, Scotland, around half an hour north of Edinburgh across the river Forth and driving there across the new(ish) Queensferry Crossing is a joy as you’ll also pass the adjacent Forth Road Bridge and dramatic red Forth Bridge, an iconic railway crossing that’s stood strong for 130 years.
Dunfermline itself was once the ancient capital of Scotland, as evidenced by the palace ruins located next to the Abbey and the many kings and queens buries here, the most famous of whom is Robert The Bruce. As an interesting aside, don’t miss the thorn tree in the graveyard outside the Abbey which is said to be the burial site of William Wallace’s mother, who was raised nearby in the lands of Moncur (now the village of Townhill). This town is also the birthplace of Scots-American industrialist Andrew Carnegie, who donated the stunning Pittencrieff Park to the locals and attempted to dispense of his entire fortune before the end of his life, declaring that ‘he who dies rich dies disgraced’.
Tip: rent a car online from Enjoy and tour Fife, Edinburgh and the entire east coast up to Dundee and Aberdeen.
These two secret spots off the tourist trail are merely the tip of the iceberg when it comes to hidden histories ̶ dig a little deeper when researching your next travel destination and you’ll definitely discover many more for yourself!