Music is a hugely important part of Scottish culture, from the drones of the iconic bagpipes to the lilting Gaelic songs that have been sung for generations.
Contemporary artists express their music in a more modern way, but many are still strongly influenced by Scotland’s landscape, culture, and people.
A journey through Scotland isn’t complete without the music of Scotland. Here are a few suggestions of what you should be playing on your self-drive tour of Scotland …
Music has the ability to complement and even enhance a beautiful view. Imagine driving through a glen – the stags are bounding up the hillside as you twist and turn along the road, taking in every new emerging scene. Just ahead a Munro gives you a glimpse of its unyielding size and power, the day’s light begins to fade, and your view takes on an ethereal proportion.
At that moment, a beautiful traditional Scottish song could add to your experience and heighten your emotion.
The influence of Scottish Gaelic is still popular and present in Scottish music. Although the language is not widely spoken throughout Scotland, many people still feel a deep connection with Gaelic music and it should have a firm presence on any Scottish playlist.
The ‘chiefs’ of Gaelic rock music are the long-standing band Runrig, whose fusion of rock and folk has been popular for decades all around the world. One of the band’s most famous songs is Loch Lomond, which features at most major cultural and sporting events in Scotland, but there are many other Runrig songs that tell the story of Scotland’s history and people through the lens of the Gaelic language.
Runrig have inspired generations of Scottish musicians such as Mànran and Skipinnish to keep the Gaelic language alive in their songs, while Gaelic vocalist Julie Fowlis, from North Uist in the Outer Hebrides, continues to enchant audiences throughout the world with her Gaelic vocals, which were featured in the Pixar film Brave.
All songs tell a story, but not all songs have words. Instrumental pieces can sometimes say what words cannot, and give you the space to reflect and interpret the song as you wish.
A musician who has honed this skill over many years is Duncan Chisholm, local to the Inverness area in the Scottish Highlands. Duncan is an acclaimed fiddle player whose ability to communicate through the strings is easily felt on the beautiful Unknown Air.
A primarily instrumental band (other than guest vocals and samples) that embraces both traditional and modern electronic music, is the Skye based band Niteworks, who have an exhilarating and fast-paced sound.
Of course, there’s more to Scottish music than just the traditional influences – we’ve been producing world-famous contemporary artists for years!
One band whose sound is synonymous with Scotland is The Proclaimers. Their Edinburgh accents have become one of their strongest assets, and once you hear their Scottish tones on the legendary song I’m Gonna Be (500 miles), you’ll be singing along in no time. It’s certainly a song no Scottish playlist should be without!
A song that means so much to many Scots across the world is the Scottish folk classic Caledonia by Dougie MacLean. Written by Dougie when he was homesick travelling the world, it’s become a firm favourite in the hearts of many in Scotland and throughout the world.
Music is subjective to each individual. In the same way as asking different people what their favourite whisky or Munro is, you’ll get a whole host of different answers. This blog was never about creating a perfect list of songs, this was about helping you to create a playlist which is perfect for you.
Your playlist will be with you long after you’ve returned home, but you might hear a tune which will bring you back to your favourite moment from your travels in Scotland
“Let me tell you that I love you and I think about you all the time,
Caledonia you’re calling me and now I’m going home,
But if I should become a stranger you know that it would make me more than sad,
Caledonia’s been everything I’ve ever had.”