"Scottish and Irish ancestry in the US is preserved as a distinct ethnicity, whereas Englishness never was - it invisibly blends into being American."

For the past 10 months thousands of people of Scottish descent have been heeding a call to return “home” for a visit. What is the appeal of the Scottish identity?

Tartan, shortbread, haggis and whisky…

Some of the stereotypes might make the average Scot cringe.

However, when 47,000 people from at least 40 countries gathered for the world’s largest clan gathering in Edinburgh in July, many revelled in such “traditional” offerings.

Among them were Americans, Canadians, Kiwis and Aussies, who donned tartan and blew pipes in an outpouring of national pride usually reserved for matches at Murrayfield.

The Gathering, at Holyrood Park, was one of the highlights of Homecoming Scotland, a festival marking the 250th anniversary of poet Robert Burns’s birth.

Beginning on the eve of his birthday - 25 January or Burns night - and backed by £5.5m in state funding, it saw 112 events including May’s Whisky Month, a Caledonian Canal flotilla and a diaspora forum. Hundreds more were organised by communities.

As Scotland marks St Andrew’s Day on Monday, and the Scottish government outlines plans that could lead to a referendum on independence, events are taking place across Scotland bringing down the curtain on a memorable 10 months for those who took part in Homecoming.

Among them was Karyn Dallimore, 45, who travelled from her native Canada, to take part in the Masters World Championships at the Inverness Highland Games.

While tossing a caber and throwing a weight over a bar are often caricatured in the UK, events across the Atlantic can attract 40,000-strong crowds.

But for Mrs Dallimore, vice president of Pacific Northwest Scottish Association of Heavy Events, the pull of Scotland was not merely the chance to take home the six medals she won.

“I feel such a strong connection to Scotland. Growing up in Nova Scotia, the Celtic traditions of food, music and language are all around,” says the software technician. “If you open the phone book, 95% of the names are Scottish and Irish.”