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Ceilidh dancing

Often called a ‘ceilidh dance’ this is an informal party where any number of people can gather to dance and hear the ceilidh band play. The dancing is different from traditional Scottish country dancing, which is usually competitive. Dancing at a ceilidh is purely for the enjoyment of dancing.

‘Ceilidh’ is a Gaelic word. Its meaning is literally ‘a visit’, it can also mean a dance, a concert or just a party.

Ceilidh Dances

These are some of the most popular ceilidh dances:

The Dashing White Sergeant
The Eightsome Reel
The Gay Gordons
The Military Twostep
The St. Bernard's Waltz
Strip the Willow


Ceilidh dancing is very energetic and great fun. Some of the dances are quite fast and people often call out or whoop during the dances.

Don’t worry about learning the dances before you go to a ceilidh as there will usually be a ‘caller’ there who will explain the dances before each one begins.

Ceilidh Band

A Ceilidh band usually has about five members. The accordion, fiddle and drums are usually played, but bands may have other instruments such as the flute or guitar.

Most ceilidh bands are used to playing up to 4-hours in a night with breaks included for both dancers and musicians. A ceilidh band may often play at a Scottish Wedding reception or at ceilidh dances arranged for an occasion like St Andrew's Day, Burn’s Night or Hogmanay (New Year’s Eve).

Last updated 27 Nov 2012