Uniquely Scottish

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Be inspired by the events taking place throughout the Year of Homecoming Scotland
Scotland welcomes the world in 2014

Come and experience all that is great about Scotland as part of the Year of Homecoming 2014

Contemporary Scotland blends a rich array of cultures from around the world. However, there are several icons considered to be uniquely and recognisably Scottish. From tartan and bagpipes, kilts and Highland games to our national flag, our national drink and the Gaelic language, discover the history and legends behind Scotland’s national icons and how they came to be associated with our country.

  • The ruins of Arbroath Abbey, Angus
    The ruins of Arbroath Abbey, Angus
  • A butterfly sitting on a thistle
    A butterfly sitting on a thistle
  • A piper plays the bagpipes at a Highland games
    Playing the bagpipes at a Highland games
  • A Highland dancer taking part in the sword dancing event whilst a piper plays at the Ballater Highland Games
    Sword dancing at the Ballater Highland Games
  • A group of men in full Highland dress
    A display of Highland dress
Musician Finlay MacDonald at the Old Fruitmarket, Glasgow

Bagpipes

The Highland bagpipe is considered Scotland’s national instrument and is one of the most iconic symbols of Scottish culture.

A Highland dancer taking part in the sword dancing event whilst a piper plays at the Ballater Highland Games

Highland games

Taking place around Scotland every summer, the Highland games bring together dancing, competition and Scottish fun.

A close up of a piper wearing a brooch on his full Highland dress

Tartan

Uncover the fascinating history of one of Scotland’s most iconic products and discover how to find your own tartan.

Two Highland dancers, wearing kilts, at the Gathering, Holyrood Park, Edinburgh

The kilt

Discover the history of the iconic Scottish kilt and find out where you can pick up this modern fashion piece.

St Rules Church in the grounds of St Andrews Cathedral, Fife

St Andrew

Discover why St Andrew has been the patron saint of Scotland for over 1,000 years.

The Scottish flag, the Saltire, flying above Athelstaneford Church, Haddington

The Saltire

Scotland’s national flag, the Saltire, is steeped in history and legend and is thought to be the oldest national flag in Europe.

A Gaelic road sign

Gaelic

Gaelic is the Celtic language still spoken in some parts of Scotland to this day. Once the main language across the country, Gaelic is now only spoken by around one percent of the population but there are still many places where you can experience it.

The Honours of Scotland at Edinburgh Castle - image courtesy of Historic Scotland

The Honours of Scotland

The Honours of Scotland comprise a jewel encrusted crown, an elaborate sword and a sceptre, which all date from the 15th and 16th centuries, and have been fought over for centuries, but are now safely ensconced in Edinburgh Castle.

Gaelic text painted on the side of a craft shop in Isle Ornsay, Skye

Language

Scotland today is mostly an English-speaking country, but it was not always so. Some parts of Scotland still speak Gaelic and the dialect in Orkney and Shetland is heavily influenced by Old Norse.

The Vatersay Boys, a ceilidh band, performing on the Isle of Berneray

Ceilidhs

Ceilidhs, a traditional Scottish dance, have played an important role in Scotland’s social and cultural life for many years, particularly at special occasions such as weddings.

The Stone of Destiny

The Stone of Destiny has been revered for centuries as a holy relic and fought over by the Scottish and English for 700 years.

The thistle of Scotland

The thistle is one of the most recognised symbols of Scotland - find out why it is associated with Scotland.

Clans

Few aspects of Scotland’s fascinating history were as colourful, or as bloody, as the clan system.