Custom Search

Heart o' Scotland Home

Scotland Articles and Books

Celtic Christianity
Celtic Mythology
Christmas in Scotland
Clans and Tartans
Famous Scots
Golf in Scotland
Halloween in Scotland
Historical Romance
History of Scotland
Hogmanay
Myths and Legends
Scotch Whisky
Scottish Cooking
Scottish Crafts
Scottish Customs
Scottish Gaelic
Scottish Genealogy
Scottish Love Poems
Scottish Pets
Travel to Scotland

Biographies of Famous Scots

Robert the Bruce
Robert Burns
Sean Connery
Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
Famous Scots Authors
Eric Liddell
MacDonalds & Campbells
Rob Roy MacGregor
Charles Rennie Mackintosh
Sir Walter Scott
Adam Smith
Robert Louis Stevenson
Mary, Queen of Scots
William Wallace

Scottish Gifts

2014 Scotland Calendars
Scottish Movies and Videos

Scottish Pet Gifts

Bearded Collie Gifts
Border Collie Gifts
Border Terrier Gifts
Cairn Terrier Gifts
Collie Gifts
Golden Retriever Gifts
Scottish Terrier Gifts
Shetland Sheepdog Gifts
West Highland White Terrier Gifts

Visit our sister site at:
The Medievalist

Scottish Clans and Tartans

"The way they dress is astonishing: ...brightly colored and embroidered shirts, with trousers ... and cloaks fastened at the shoulder with a brooch ... These cloaks are striped or checkered in design, with separate checks close together and in various colors."
Diodorus on the Celts, 1st century BC

There is great debate on the origin of the word "tartan." It could have come from the Irish tarsna, which meant crosswise or the Scottish Gaelic tarsuinn, meaning across. Or it could simply mean cloth, from the old French tartaine. What we know is, long before there were individual Scottish clans and tartans, the Celts loved bright colors and patterned cloth. Later the Scots incorporated this love for color into a unique plaid cloth. Only in recent history have particular patterns been associated with particular districts, army regiments, and, of course, Scottish clans.

Men in KiltsPrior to around 1700, there is no historical reason to associate particular patterns with particular people or places, but it is clear that plaid cloth was made and worn throughout the Highlands and had been for hundreds of years. By 1746, clan tartans were so closely associated with Highlanders and clan loyalty that their wearing was banned after the defeat at Culloden until 1782. Interestingly, this was the time when many of the famous Highland Regiments were being formed, and they were allowed to select and wear a regimental tartan (for example, Black Watch). I suppose the idea was to wean loyalty away from the clan and towards the British empire. Some of these regimental tartans later became family tartans.

When the wearing of the tartan was again permitted, there developed a keen interest in reestablishing or reinventing family tartans, beginning with the Highlanders and later spreading to all of Scotland. King George IV and Queen Victoria both fell in love with the Highlander image as popularized by Sir Walter Scott, and greatly encouraged the adoption of this cultural symbol. Today, there are around 2800 tartans listed in the Scottish Heritage World Register - including ones for football clubs, individual towns, etc.

Sometimes, when we discover that Scottish tartans are not ancient (the Henderson tartan was registered in 1906, for example), it "takes the shine off" our interest. In this case, it really shouldn't. The wearing of the tartan and linking the patterns (called setts) to particular families has done so much to unite Scottish culture world-wide and to reestablish our connections with our ancestors and with our fellow "Scots of the diaspora." It is good to care about the past and to connect with our cultural roots and traditions. And there is no doubt at all that the Highlanders invented these wonderful plaids. Find your tartan and wear it with pride!

By the way, April 6 is National Tartan Day in the United States - a perfect opportunity to show off your Scottish heritage.

Scottish Clan and Family Names: Their Arms, Origins and Tartans
Scottish Clan and Family Names: Their Arms, Origins and Tartans

By Roddy Martine
Very comprehensive look at the clan names, their borders and castles, history, coats of arms, tartans.

The Complete Book of Tartan
The Complete Book of Tartan

By Iain Zaczek
Over 400 tartans with excellent color.

So You're Going to Wear the Kilt
So You're Going to Wear the Kilt!

By Charles J. Thompson
Authoritive instruction on how to properly wear the kilt and its accessories.

Castles of the Clans: The Strongholds and Seats of 750 Scottish Families and Clans
Castles of the Clans: The Strongholds and Seats of 750 Scottish Families and Clans

By Martin Coventry
Castles, family seats, lands and more of hundreds of Scottish clans and families. Wonderfully informative.

Clans and Tartans Map of Scotland
Clans and Tartans Map of Scotland

By Collins UK
Tons of info beyond just a map of the Scottish clans.




Everything you need or want to know about Scotland and the Scottish people through history - legends and myths, customs and traditions, tartans and clans, biographies of famous Scots and Scots authors, books about Scotland, Scottish holidays, including Samhain and the celtic history of Halloween, Christmas in Scotland and Hogmanay (New Year's celebration), celtic music, traditional folk and Scottish bagpipe music, bagpipe and celtic sheet music, Celtic Christmas music, documentaries and movies about Scotland, Scottish history articles, Celtic Christianity, Celtic religion and mythology, books, Scottish cooking, scenic Scotland calendars, Scottish and Celtic crafts, Scottish pets and Scottish dog breeds, and more on Scottish culture, ancient and historical