Frequently Asked Questions:
What exactly IS Scottish Country Dancing?

Scottish Country Dance is a uniquely Scottish form of social dancing, with sets of dancers doing progressive figures in longwise sets. It shares some features with English Country Dancing, contra dancing and ceilidh dancing. Many of the dances go back to the 18th century, but there are also many modern dances using traditional figures. Due to the efforts of the Royal Scottish Country Dance Society many of the old dances have been preserved through publications and standardized teaching.

There are now RSCDS branches all over the world, so many Scottish country dancers seek out local classes when travelling.

Scottish Country Dance has been the subject of some studies that have proven there are many health benefits to Scottish Country Dancing, you can read all about it here. Although many men do wear kilts to our dances it is totally optional. Just wear something comfortable to dance in and soft soled shoes if you don't have the traditional shoes worn by Scottish dancers, known as ghillies.

What do you wear for Scottish Dancing?

Shoes – for classes or dances many dancers wear the traditional Scottish Ghillies which can be purchased at highland games or shops that carry Scottish goods. A ballet shoe or other soft soled dance shoe is a good substitute. Even tennis shoes will do.

Class attire suggestions – for women a skirt full enough to take a big sideways step is preferable. For men, comfortable trousers or shorts, or a kilt.

Social Dances – many people dress up just a bit more than for a class. Men commonly wear kilts. Women sometimes wear a tartan sash with a dress or skirt. Some ideas on how to tie a sash can be viewed here.

Formal Dances – women wear ball gowns, party dresses, or the traditional white dress with a tartan sash. Men wear full highland evening attire if they have it, or a kilt with shirt and tie or a peasant style shirt. Men who do not own kilts wear dress slacks with a dressy shirt.

New dancers can sometimes borrow attire from other dancers for formal events or purchase gently used items at one of our events.

Where can you get dance shoes?

Highland Games – check booths that sell clothing and ask if they have any shoes.

Order Custom Shoes from Scotland – you can send them a fax of the drawn outline of your foot, and they will send you the right size shoes.

Country Dance - Thistle Shoes Scotland

Right/Left Lasted Ghillies (

Find Dance Descriptions

SCD Database comprehensize resource from

Scottish Country Dancing Dictionary: comprehensive dictionary of dances, terms, and figures

MiniCrib: find cues for more that 4000 dances

More Useful Links

RSCDS Headquarters

Intercity Scot: a newsletter of Scottish country dance events in North America

Strathspey server: read the archives or search the dance database

Grand Chain: a great resource from Edinburgh, with links worldwide

TAC: Teachers Association of Canada: a good source for recordings and dance books

Celtic Arts Center: Celtic culture and language in Southern California

Red Thistle Dancers: Performing group from San Francisco Bay Area with two great teaching videos.

Other Interesting Links

The Tartan Finder: find your tartan

California Tartan: California has it's own tartan. That's it in the background

Tartan Day: celebrated April 6, throughout North America