Scottish culture and traditions

Scotland has been handing down its traditions for close to a thousand years now, since the earliest days of the clans in the 12th century. However, Scottish traditions are not something sterile under glass and steel in a cold museum. They are vibrant, living things, constantly growing and evolving, and every generation adds the thumbprint of its own particular Scottish culture to the whole.

Bagpipes, haggis and kilts

Everybody knows the cliché of the piper on the shortbread tin. But have you experienced the breath-taking reality of a hundred pipers skirling in uplifting unison? This isn't an image from Scotland's cultural past: it happens every August at the Edinburgh Military Tattoo and on Glasgow Green.

Or take food, for example. We all know the stereotypical notions of traditional Scottish fare - haggis, porridge and whisky. Not anymore. Scotland's new elite of super-chefs like Gordon Ramsay, Nick Nairn and Andrew Fairlie are taking the country's incredible natural produce – our beef, venison and seafood – and elevating them to Michelin starred levels.

Or that the kilt is making a comeback on the catwalk as designers like Jean Paul Gaultier, Vivienne Westwood and Glasgow's own Jonathan Saunders take traditional Scottish dress to places the clan chiefs never dreamed of.

Burns an a' that

The traditional Burns Supper, Hogmanay and St Andrews Day celebrations are still very much a part of Scottish culture but the Scots are now joined on these special days by Scot-o-philes across the globe. "Auld Lang Syne", a traditional Scottish song first written down by Burns, is the second most popular song in the world after "Happy Birthday".

Scotland’s Heroes & Heroines

Scotland's culture has been shaped by a long tradition of strong-willed and influential characters. View our gallery to find out more about these important Scottish figures.

Play our Bagpipe music quiz

Read more about Scotland's Arts & Culture