Highlands & Lowlands

The Highlands

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 Chanter
The Chanter


The Drones
The Drones

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.

Published by Rebecca Budd

Blogger, Visual Storyteller, Podcaster, Traveler and Life-long Learner

34 thoughts on “Highlands & Lowlands

      1. This song is a little sad but since your post and my comment on the Homecoming I have been singing this ‘O ye’ll tak’ the high road, and Ah’ll tak’ the low (road)
        And Ah’ll be in Scotlan’ afore ye’ What I didn’t realise until yesterday was that one interpretation of the low road is the underground route that the fairies use to take the soul back to Scotland. That makes my heart tingle.


    1. They do! When we visited Glencoe, there was a solitary bagpiper playing into the brisk wind. While everyone was taking their photo with the piper as he played I closed my eyes and imagined myself back in time. There is a strong connection between the people and their music, language and geography.


  1. Thanks for advancing my education, Rebecca. My degree is in music, but they missed mentioning the Highland and Lowland Pipes. 🙂
    Have a musical day!


      1. Thank you for your kind comments. There is a strong connection between the land and the piper. I think you will enjoy the music and the photography!


  2. My wife and I spent part of our honeymoon in Scotland. We loved it. Glasgow, Inverness, Isle of Sky, that gorgeously lush landscape…and I never knew about the different kinds of bagpipes. Thanks for the music lesson.


  3. Oh,… I really enjoyed this video clip very much. The music speaks a lot about the beauty of the land and its nature . Thank you again for sharing the clip. Now, it is 07.00 at my place and you have started my day with gorgeous gift. 🙂


  4. I loved this! I come from a long line of Scots and Englishmen and I am always interested in learning more about my heritage. I don’t know if this is why, but when I hear bagpipes play, it overwhelms me, so much so that I’ve made it the one and only requirement for my funeral — there must be bagpipes! 🙂
    Thank you for another lovely post!


    1. Thank you so much for your comments! You would be interested to know that the Scots are world travelers and are now found all over the world. There is a particularly high rate in Canada (where I live) which is the second largest population of descendants from Scottish Ancestry, after the United States. The Scottish diaspora includes south America, Australia and New Zealand.

      My son played “Amazing Grace” on the bagpipes at my father’s funeral. Indeed, it was a healing blessing.


      1. That is interesting!
        It must have been special and deeply moving to hear your son play Amazing Grace at your Dad’s funeral. I think it is such a powerful song when played on the pipes. Not to be morbid, but it is the song I have chosen, too. I don’t plan on going any time soon, but it is just so important to me to have it included that this is the one wish I’ve made clear!
        Thank you for including it–and thank you for your message and post!


      2. Thank you for adding so much to the dialogue. Music is a healing force! 🙂

        “Music expresses that which cannot be put into words and that which cannot remain silent”
        ― Victor Hugo


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