All about the Scottish bagpipes

6 interesting facts about bagpipes in Scotland

Think of Scotland and several things may spring to mind – whisky, tartan, haggis, lochs, and of course, bagpipes. Scotland has a rich culture, and our customs and icons are well-known across the globe. Bagpipes music is a big Scottish tradition and you’re likely to hear it during a visit to Scotland. So today, we’re sharing a few interesting facts about bagpipes to …

1. A unique instrument

Bagpipes are a musical woodwind instrument with reed pipes and an air bag. The player inflates the bag by blowing into a blowpipe (or sometimes using bellows). They then squeeze the bag under their arm, emitting air into the pipes to play them. The drone pipes make a continuous droning sound, while the higher-pitched chanter pipe produces the melody. This creates a unique sound that is instantly recognisable.

Close up of a piper playing the bagpipes

2. Origins across the globe

Scotland is famous for bagpipes. But did you know, that these woodwind instruments have been around for centuries in parts of Europe, Northern Africa, Western and South Asia and the Persian Gulf? The origins are unclear, but there are links with the ancient Greeks, Romans and Egyptians.

3. The Great Highland bagpipe

The most well-known Scottish version of the instrument is called the Great Highland bagpipe. Other related Scottish pipe instruments include the Border pipes and the Scottish smallpipes.

Scottish pipers in a marching band

4. An instrument of war

The first recorded mentions of bagpipes in Scotland come from around the 1400s. They were first used in battle as a way of signalling to the troops. Today, they are still used in military ceremonies and pageants, but not in a fighting context.

5. Part of Scottish tradition

The bagpipes are very common in modern usage. They are usually played by a piper in full Highland dress, including a kilt, tunic, plaid and hat. You may hear them in the street while out sightseeing in Scotland. You might also hear them at special occasions such as weddings and any formal events.

6. Popular bagpipe tunes

Popular tunes played on the pipes include Scotland the Brave, Flower of Scotland, Amazing Grace, Black Bear and The Skye Boat Song. However, pretty much any tune can get the bagpipes treatment. Check out the Red Hot Chilli Pipers for some modern hits with a Scottish twist.

So, book a stay with us at the Kingsmills Hotel in Inverness and immerse yourself in the culture and traditions of the Scottish Highlands. Find out more about this unique country and our customs with this Scotland FAQs post.