5 fascinating Scottish traditions
Scottish traditions have been passed on for close to a thousand years now, since the earliest days of the clans in the 12th century.
The Scottish are fascinating for may reasons and if you ever get the chance to visit this lush, rich-in-history, and cultural explosion of a country, here are some of the traditions you might be able to witness or, in some cases, even participate in when you travel to Scotland:
1. Gaelic language
Gaelic is a Celtic language and you’ll mainly hear it being spoken along the northwest coast of Scotland and in the Hebrides islands. In 2011 there were almost 60,000 Gaelic speakers in these areas in Scotland.
This language is something truly unique: when you first hear it, you almost think it’s Dutch, then you realise, no… perhaps it’s some Eastern European language? That’s not too far off, actually, as the Celts hailed from Central Europe and Asia in pre-Roman times. They were the ones who brought the language to Ireland and Scotland and it has remained in some areas ever since.
2. Highland Dress
Nothing says “true Scotsman” quite like the Highland Dress which consists of Scottish kilts, known as ‘The National Dress of Scotland’. Dating back to the 16th century, they have deep cultural and historical roots and are a sacred symbol of patriotism and honour.
Scottish kilts are made of tartan and usually worn around the waist at formal occasions (such as weddings, for example), and accompanied by a sporran (a small bag worn over the kilt), a kilt pin (which holds the two pieces of tartan together at the front), and a sgian dubh (a small dagger which sits in the sock).
3. Highland Games
Scotland is known for being a great sporting nation, however, nothing beats the country’s classic, age-old Highland Games.
May to September is when the action-packed games begin. Across the country at over 80 different events, competitors put their muscles to the test wearing their Scottish kilts. The games include heavy contests such as the hammer throw, tug-o-war and the caber toss, to field events including a hill race and a cycling competition.
It is believed that the Highland Games originated in the 14th century as a means of recruiting the best fighting men for the clan chiefs, and were popularized by Queen Victoria to encourage the traditional dress, music, games and dance of the highlands.
The sound of bagpipes being played in harmony and in-tune, causes goosebumps even in the most unemotional person.
The bagpipe is Scotland’s national instrument and is usually played at any big events. Bagpipes consist of a bag (usually made of sheep or elk skin) filled with air, then pressed by the arm to push air through three pipes which rise out of the instrument. There is a fourth pipe, holding nine holes for chord and pitch changes.
5. The Loch Ness Monster
The legend of the Loch Ness Monster is probably one of the most widespread stories in the world and has been bringing people to the dark expanse of Loch Ness in the Scottish Highlands for centuries.
The mystery of Nessie lives on to this day as many travellers claim that they’ve seen, even for a split second, the enormous creature’s snake-like head and long, thin body, with one or more humps protruding from the water.