Scotland is divided into two distinguishable historic regions, the Highlands and the Lowlands. Beginning in the later Middle Ages, a cultural difference appeared when Lowland Scots replaced Scottish Gaelic throughout the Lowlands. The Highlands are located north and west of the Highland Boundary Fault. A’ Ghàidhealtachd which means “the place of the Gaels” includes the area of the Western Isles and the Highlands. It will not come as any surprise that Scotland has embraced, over the years, two distinct types of bagpipes.
The Great Highland Pipe is more familiar than its cousin, the Lowland Pipe. It is the pipe that is used at outdoor ceremonies like the Highland Games. The piper must blow into the pipe to fill the bag with a reserve of air, which then escapes through four separate pipes, three being the “drones” and the fourth the “chanter,” which is where the piper’s fingers play the tune.
The Lowland pipes are noticeably different. Rather than blowing into the pipe to fill the airbag, the piper uses his or her arms to squeeze bellows that produce the air for the bag. While Highland pipers stand or march, Lowland pipers usually take a seat. Their pipers are generally quieter, even mellow, and are suitable for indoor events.
Whether Highland or Lowland, the pipes define and enrich the traditions and heritage of a nation.
The Return (A Piper’s Vaunting)
Pittendrigh Macgillivrary (1856-1938)
Och hey! for the splendour of tartans!
And hey for the dirk and the targe!
The race that was hard as the Spartans
Shall return again to the charge:
Shall come back again to the heather,
Like eagles, with beak and with claws
To take and to scatter for ever
The Sasennach thieves and their laws.
Och, then, for the bonnet and feather!
The pipe and its vaunting clear:
Och, then, for the glens and the heather!
And all that the Gael holds dear.