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Scottish Tattoo Designs

By Edited Nov 13, 2013 0 2

Scottish Tattoo Designs

Scotland Inspired Tattoos and Designs

scotland tattoo design

As a proud Scottish Canadian, I've been immersed in Scottish culture for most of my life. I was able to attend highland games and even visit Scotland several times. There are a lot of great icons that I've considered as tattoo designs

Scotland has many wonderful symbols and designs worth remembering. A Scottish tattoo design takes advantage of the history and imagery of that great land. 

In this article I'm going to go over a few of the most popular Scottish tattoo designs out there, and explain a bit of the meaning and history behind them. That way, you'll know a bit more about what you're permanently etching into your skin!

Scottish Tattoo Symbols

There are three major, well-known Scottish symbols that can be universally applied as tattoo designs. There is a bit of overlap with Gaelic and Irish design for some symbols, but I feel that my list is almost entirely Scottish in background.

Thistle Tattoo Designs

Scottish Tattoo Designs and Symbols

thistle tattoo design

The first Scottish tattoo design I'm going to talk about is the thistle. A thistle is one of the most famous symbols of Scotland, and it's one for a reason: thistles grow everywhere over there! 

The thistle is a hardy plant, capable of thriving even in thin soil. It's very hard to stamp out or kill, and its roots seem to cling to the soil and rock. In this way, it's a very apt symbol of the Scots and their hard history on the island. 

The thistle was part of the "Order of the Thistle", a chivalric group of knights in the 15th century. It's been featured prominently on coins, jewelry and crowns, and Robert Burns has referred to it in some of his poems. A thistle tattoo design is a very good choice for a Scottish tattoo design!

The Royal Standard of Scotland

Scottish Tattoos, Designs and Icons

scottish tattoo symbols

Another great idea or theme for a Scottish tattoo design is the Royal Standard of Scotland. It's a familiar symbol that consists of a yellow background, red border and red 'lion rampant' with a blue tongue. 

It dates back to Scottish royalty from as early as the 12th century, and is still used for that purpose to this day. The standard as a whole works well as a Scottish tattoo design, or various parts of the element (particularly the lion) can be used too. 

The lion rampant motif is seen in many Scottish standards and crests, so if you have Scottish ancestry do a bit of research and find one that matches your background. A tattoo design like this is made better if it has some history. 

Bagpipes Tattoo Designs

Scottish Inspired Tattoos

Scottish Tattoo Designs

I was tempted to suggest a tartan, but plaid is difficult to pull off in a Scottish tattoo design. The bagpipes are a much better option. Can you think of many other things that are more distinctive to Scotland? 

The bagpipes are of course the traditional wind instrument of scotland, and they have (in my opinion) a truly fine and noble profile. Well worth adding as a Scottish inspired tattoo!

Choose Carefully

There are some other options for Scottish tattoo symbols and designs. The Scottish knot or the Scottish cross are great and popular designs, although not necessarily entirely distinctive to Scotland. 

You may want to avoid staining your face with woad like they did in the old days, but there are a lot of other fantastic options

Good luck!



Jul 4, 2011 3:56pm
I am looking at getting a new tat and your article gave me some good ideas! I really like the bagpipe tattoo, but it would not look good on myself.
Jul 4, 2011 4:20pm
Thanks Ernie! Yes, bagpipes are cool but difficult to pull off! The thistle is pretty great, that's what I'm leaning towards...
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