Today is 'Burns Night', so I'm here to answer any questions I can about Scottish traditions and culture, tartan, tweed, kilts, knitwear, our rather unique businesses, or pretty much anything else!

I set up Scotweb in 1995 - Scotland's first secure ecommerce site and maybe even the first company to retail custom made clothing online. Today we offer by far the world's largest choice of tartans and tweed products, where you can design your own tartan on and get it woven at the heritage weaving mill that we rescued from closure a few years ago, for manufacture into over 100 garments or products.

Our DC Dalgliesh weaving mill is the world's only specialist hand-crafted tartan producer. We stepped in in 2011 when it was about to close, both to save its unique skills, and because we saw huge value in its reputation for excellence and amazing 'Hall of Fame' client list. We've been turning it around to preserve its heritage while making the business fit to service 21st century demands competitively at any scale.

We're at an incredibly exciting stage of our own development, after years of behind the scenes work to prepare. We hope soon to seek investors for our future plans, but I can talk about these much tonight or any commercially sensitive business data that would help our many competitors. Beyond that I'll give it my best shot, whatever you want to fire at me.

I'm a little shaky on history and can't go deep into the technicalities of weaving that I'm still learning to understand myself. But I've been in this business for decades and we're evangelists for Scottish traditions and craft skills. So I'll do my best!

Comments: 985 • Responses: 121  • Date: 

Portarossa578 karma

How hard is it to catch a haggis? Are there special techniques, or are they mostly farmed these days?

NickScotweb611 karma

Thanks for starting the ball rolling! As it happens my granddad used to be a haggis hunter by profession so I picked up a little about it. But like anything else, the sad truth is they're mostly farmed nowadays. But always get free range if you can. They're much tastier!

Portarossa192 karma

I had fresh-caught haggis once and it was absolutely lifechanging. Scottish cuisine gets a lot of shit, but that was one of the best meals I've ever eaten.

Good for you for keeping the old ways alive, and good luck with the AMA!

NickScotweb314 karma

Thanks. I didn't fully answer. Every hunter has their own techniques of course. But I've always thought that surprise is simplest, because as you'll be aware they have longer legs on one side. So just get one on a steep enough hillside and jump out from behind some gorse to make it turn around. By the time they roll to the bottom you've got it at least stunned. Dead easy.

Quialal328 karma

Can you explain the difference between a tartan and a plaid?

NickScotweb577 karma

Ha! I can, as it happens, as I've recently written a blog piece which forced me to get my head around it. Basically they're all criss-cross patterns, and they're all "plaids". But a tartan is a plaid with a name.

That's important. It's the fact that some community identifies themselves by it, historically or recently, that makes it a tartan. Nowadays this can be formally registered. But it doesn't have to be. Just design your own for your group and get them to wear it, and it's your tartan!

EDIT: here's the article mentioned:

The other confusion is that 'plaid' has three meanings - for the pattern, the fabric, and the garment. That article tries its best to tease it all out.

Quialal102 karma

I was under the impression also that to be a true tartan it has to be a twill weave and that even if the colors and stripes are right if it's plain weave it's not a tartan. Is that not the case?

NickScotweb285 karma

Lol. For me, absolutely no. I'm laughing because when I was on the steering group that set up the official Register of Tartans, there was a huge (sometimes heated) debate between parties who became known as the 'wovenists' and 'non-wovenists'. Some traditionalists felt that a tartan should have to be woven to be registered. I'm much more liberal and think it's all about the pattern and community. My example was that it could be on the tail-fin of a plane and still be valid. And funnily enough, a few years later we designed one for the Canadian airline Westjet. But I've never heard anyone say it had to be twill in particular anyway.

cookerg9 karma

I thought a plaid originally meant a garment that wraps around someone (like a kilt), whereas a tartan is the pattern of crisscrossing colours created on the loom. Since Scottish plaids (garments) historically were in tartan colours, the words have become somewhat interchangeable in America, where 'plaid' now refers to the tartan colours.

NickScotweb9 karma

Yes, you're right... mostly. It's got various overlapping meanings, which is why it gets confused. Rather than rewrite the whole thing, here's the article I did recently in trying to sort it out (in my own head as much as anything):

NickScotweb69 karma

BTW, here's the blog piece if you want more depth!

Moar_Cuddles_Please180 karma

Artisanal tartan weaving mill?! r/sewing would like to know if you’re single.

NickScotweb89 karma

lol. :-)

Myeerah47 karma

That wasn't an answer! Lol

NickScotweb67 karma

You're right. ;-)

TinyDKR175 karma

What's your favorite whiskey, and why is it Lagavulin?

NickScotweb367 karma

You read my mind! (Except, er... I can spell whisky correctly!)

Honestly, Lagavulin is an acquired taste for many. But I adore its peaty glory. I've a bottle in my cupboard that's been there for a couple of years and still has a dreg. Because I don't want to spoil the specialness of the experience.

TinyDKR56 karma

I'm a big fan of peat as well, so I do enjoy Laphroaig, though it's not quite as smooth as Lagavulin.

NickScotweb150 karma

One of my happiest memories was a night in the company of a guy who set up the Malt Whisky Society, who we were doing business with. To celebrate the occasion he cracked open a 'good' bottle. I think it was a 30 year old Laphroaig. This is a whisky that demands to be sipped with reverence. Which we did. Then we sipped. Then glugged. Then knocked back between half a dozen of us until it was gone. Glorious!

tartan_monkey13 karma

Sounds like Will Gardner in action.

NickScotweb15 karma

And by a happy coincidence tonight, I've just been gifted a small bottle of 15yo Glenfarclas.

Nightcap: sorted.

tartan_monkey10 karma

I’ll be over in March. Leave me a dram on your doorstep. Slainte.

NickScotweb10 karma

Ach, I thought you were buying.

lfantine166 karma

Would you say you have a checkered past?

NickScotweb96 karma

:-) Doesn't everyone?

NickScotweb115 karma

Okay guys - it's been a blast! But I've been at it for four hours and I can hear a wee dram calling my name...

But feel free to ask anything else and I'll check by now and again to answer if I can.

Or get in touch via the site if it's urgent as I'm sometimes not on Reddit for a while.

Thanks to you all!

danvillain5 karma

What’s your favorite scotch? Never mind, found this question right below

NickScotweb9 karma

Usually the one I'm drinking at the time. ;-)

taco41114 karma

Thanks for doing this. Can you explain why some clans have so many tartans? For example, part of my family are Thompson’s, and there seem to be about eight of them - different colours, some ‘modern,’ some ‘modern dress.’ Is there a specific time to wear or display one over another? And how modern are the modern ones?

NickScotweb222 karma

Why? Just because someone decided to create a new one at some point for some reason. Maybe to go hunting. Or to dance in. Or just because they didn't like the old pattern. Or for a new branch of the family. Or...

There's no rule saying you have to wear a particular variant at all. It's just taste. Though hunting ones make sense for hunting, cos they're green, innit.

As for 'modern', they were modern in Victorian days. Before then it was plant dyes. Modern chemical dyes allowed stronger colours, which is why modern shades are that way.

inanis8 karma

Does your mill make traditional patterns with natural dye too?

NickScotweb25 karma

We're asked this regularly. But sadly it's too difficult to organise technically unless it's for a larger volume. Our historic looms are set up for specific yarns and we don't change the settings as it's too tricky to rebalance them.

inanis8 karma

Ah so only if it's a massive order or would you never do it? I assume you don't have the room for a smaller loom nor the interest. Its like like you will build another building for a product that might not be profitable.

NickScotweb13 karma

We'd honestly love to. We just can't on the short-run looms as we can't upset their tuning. We're currently in the market for one or two newer looms, so this situation may change, depending on what we end up getting. But right now it's just not possible. Sorry.

Mr_Rams112 karma

Hi Nick,

I'll be travelling to Scotland (hopefully) with-in the next year. Apart from the popular tourist destinations is there anything a local like yourself would recommend I go see?

Also I know you said you were a little shaky on history but do you know roughly how old the mill is? It's awesome that you guys stepped up and kept it running.

NickScotweb188 karma

Our mill was founded in 1946. But I'm afraid it's not open to the public (though that's the plan!).

Honestly there's so much to see you won't be disappointed. I absolutely love Edinburgh and the Festival is just extraordinary, but book early if you want to come then. But I'd definitely get out of the cities. The west coast (especially above Ullapool) or Skye is like a spiritual home. But the Trossachs and Lomond are great for touring. And I've a lot of affection for the wee fishing villages of the East Neuk of Fife which you can combine as a day trip to St Andrews by car from Edinburgh.

Lots more! Enjoy.

Mr_Rams28 karma

Thank you! comment saved, Small fishing villages sound right up my alley. I'll be looking up all those places during my planning

Also (if you have time) is Ramsay a common name over there? As a Surname I mean.

Edit: Spelling

NickScotweb46 karma

Small fishing villages

If you time it right, catch Pittenweem Arts Festival around August, which lets you nose into all sorts of spaces you wouldn't normally.

NickScotweb34 karma

Lots of great historical examples. And the cute wee side street that leads up to Edinburgh Castle is Ramsay Gardens - you'll have to see it!

rowrza10 karma

So where should a person go to buy tartan bed-sized blankets? I only ever see throws.

NickScotweb12 karma

What size are you looking for? The fabric is normally woven at a max of about 1.5m wide, but can be any length.

rowrza8 karma

Queen size is the most common here and it's 152.5 cm x 203.5 cm. (So, sounds possible but I don't ever see them.)

NickScotweb25 karma

I'm not here to sell. But contact our customer service team at and ask! We can often recommend things that aren't obvious on the site.

Aresem68 karma

My family is real goofy and fixated on our Scottish lineage, with the little hand surrounded by a belt and our "Ne Parcas Nec Spernas" and such, even though we were all born in the US. So I guess my question is, do Scottish people really give a shite about clans or is that just something we do to maintain some sense of cultural identity here in the States?

NickScotweb106 karma

Honestly I'd say most people here aren't that bothered. But that's 'most'. Some are very much. And it becomes more and more important as you go up the social scale. Perhaps it's always been thus, as it was clan Chiefs that the system revolved around.

But I wouldn't knock it for a moment. Even though we might not pay much attention to the formality of badges and stuff, we're a very social and family oriented lot. So you'll find genuinely a special welcome amongst those who share your name.

AnimatronicSlothEyes58 karma

Was "Trainspotting" an accurate depiction of the time?

NickScotweb128 karma

It's fiction of course. But in many ways yes, very much so. People see the pretty face of Edinburgh. But when I have visitors I'd often take them round the outskirts too as that's part of the real city too. One of my favourite films of all time I have to say. But not easy watching.

kayjewlers46 karma

Although much of the UK's immigration happens in England, what effect do you feel immigration has on Scottish culture and the preservation of historical sites?

NickScotweb238 karma

We're much less anxious than the English, and basically it's little concern. Culture has always changed. Change is part of that culture. So long as we retain our basic values of openness and welcoming, it's not much of a problem. I don't think that's just me. It's the general vibe.

_somnambulist_22 karma

As an Englishman, I too have this attitude to immigration, along with very many others. I know our reputation in regards to it is less than stellar, especially as far as the Scots are concerned (particularly since the whole Brexit shambles), but there are floods of us who have open hearts and arms to any and all.

NickScotweb23 karma

Yes, absolutely. I apologise if it sounded like I was suggesting otherwise. I'm just sad that the current Brexit 'debate' has brought out a rather ugly undercurrent amongst some who perhaps fear strangers instead of being open to what others can bring. And as a broad generalisation, I'd have to say that's concentrated not just in England but in certain areas of England. I hope this period passes and we can get back to the traditions of generosity and welcome for which both nations used to be known.

bobbycarlsberg6 karma

What do you mean by much less anxious than the english, do you mean the rate of immigration is much lower and so people are less concerned about it or that scottish people are inherently less concerned about immigration?

NickScotweb17 karma

I'd say the latter. We haven't had the same loss of empire to deal with pyscho-emotionally.

kayjewlers4 karma

I have to ask then, what are you working to preserve? If cultures change all the time, what benefit is there in remembering what they were previously? A nebulous sense of welcoming and openness is present in many cultures, is this really the only aspect of Scottish culture that needs protection? If that is the case, then Scottish culture is nothing unique.

NickScotweb21 karma

That's a deep question that I'm not going to do justice to here. As an ex professional academic anthropologist, it's also one that interests me. If I can find the time I'll come back another time to reply further.

rowrza35 karma

I keep running into tartans that appear to be trademarked, if that's the right word- is that common?

For instance, it turned into a hassle to get something with the UC Riverside tartan, and the Jewish tartan was a pain, too.

EDIT: And the California tartan is always insanely expensive when you can even find it. We had some idiots quarreling over which tartan wasn't allowed at a wedding so they were going to go with California as a compromise, since everyone lives here these days, but it turned out to be a complete PITA to manage it, so everyone wore their regular tartans and the MILs sniped about it all day.

NickScotweb69 karma

This is one of my bugbears. I think the Scots tradition is inclusive, and tartans should be about welcoming everyone into the fold.

But the law says any new design is automatically copyright. So unless the owner actively approves its use by anyone (which most still do) we can't weave it. I understand why corporates want to do this to protect their brand identity. But when families do so, I think it's a little misguided I'm afraid.

rowrza13 karma

Thanks. It's pretty annoying! And I suppose there's nothing stopping me weaving it myself except for the part where I'd have zero clue where to start.

I'm really glad you took over the mill! Thank you very much.

NickScotweb23 karma

I think we're glad too now. But it's been quite a 'journey'. (I think that's a suitable euphemism for an experience that for a few years seemed to be several potentially terminal crises all piled on top of each other.) Seriously, I wouldn't exchange my life for anything, as it's a fabulous thing to be doing. And now that it's all fit for purpose and all heading in the right direction I'm very confident in the future. But there were moments of doubt along the way... I'll write the book one day.

Paspalar35 karma

Hi, I am a weaver too! Hattersly standards all the way. Just curious if you use the same or similar?

NickScotweb42 karma

If you have a mechanic, please send them our way. Seriously!

Paspalar41 karma

Well that's me too! If you use Hatterslys and need any advice or help I'd be more than happy to lend a text-based hand :)

NickScotweb29 karma

Please PM me so I remember.

puntloos34 karma

Why commando? Isnt that cold? Where did it come from?

NickScotweb93 karma

Actually it's not cold. I've been out in a kilt in -10C and felt fine. But nor is it compulsory. It's a strictly optional choice, and not advised when dancing.

ecstaticallyblase6 karma

i think the weight is important, too. a 16 oz weight will take you through rain, snow and sleet.

NickScotweb8 karma

Yep. On the occasion mentioned it was indeed a 'tank'.

JestersKing33 karma

Is Scots Leid a prominent language in Scotland, or do most Scots just speak English?

NickScotweb88 karma

For a tiny country we've an amazing variety of languages. Not just dialects or accents. There's variations of Norse in Shetland, Gaelic in the West, Doric in Aberdeenshire, and all sorts of variants of Scots and English.

You'd have to be a professional linguist to disentangle them all. But where we can understand each other (not always) they're mostly versions of Scots and English, with a heavier or lighter accent/terminology depending who you're talking to at the time.

JestersKing27 karma

Where do you think someone from Canada or the US coming over might have the hardest time communicating with the locals?

Is Gaelic still prevalent in large parts? I had thought it was dying out. Do you think it’s still a common enough language? Only asking because I’m Canada we have a big Scottish Gaelic music community and I have some passing familiarity with the language myself.

NickScotweb89 karma

Gaelic is still pretty strong off the west coast. But if anyone says they can't speak English they're pulling your leg nowadays.

Honestly, once you've tuned into the accent you won't have much trouble. That's provided you're not intending to get into the real wilds. After I left university I'd a job that led me to have to deal with Aberdeenshire farmers. Even after six years living in Aberdeen, and with the guy trying his hardest to speak his clearest English to me, I was still humiliated by having to keep saying... erm... sorry... could you repeat that a bit more slowly...!

shr3k426 karma

I've (American) been dating a scotsman for a while now, and although I was accustomed to hearing the accent a lot, I had the hardest time with the Glaswegian accent when I went over. I literally could not maintain a conversation with his friend because of the accent.

NickScotweb42 karma

Someone asked me earlier which would be the most difficult for a visitor. And honestly I'd actually say it's street Glaswegian.

But they're VERY friendly!

kikiitheartist27 karma

What your favourite clan tartan, and what’s your favourite clan motto?

I’m a McIntosh so ours is “Touch not the cat without the glove”

NickScotweb11 karma

Funnily that's the motto I always quote first.

As for tartan, there are far too many to pick a favourite, and it would depend on context.

rowrza24 karma

Can you actually tell all the tartans apart? I mean, I thought I knew the Stewart ones, since they're so common, but it turns out there are two other family ones, which I can't remember, that look practically identical in design.

NickScotweb47 karma

I have to admit I struggle myself, as pattern recognition isn't my forte at the best of times. I recognise lots nowadays. But I'll always check with my team who do this much better than me to get one right. Some of the variations are very similar. But what amazes me is how easy it still is to design a new tartan that looks like none that's gone before. You'd think we'd be running out, but nowhere close.

lucid101424 karma

I was in Scotland in May, and I'm still in awe of the beauty of the highlands. Do you still find yourself in awe of your surroundings, or do you get used to it and it becomes just background?

NickScotweb39 karma

Speaking for myself, always. Every time I go into the centre of Edinburgh, or the countryside around, I count my blessings and look in awe. Honestly.

Mr_Shad0w23 karma

Hedgehogs - I hear that Scotsmen dislike them, replete with colorful language. Any truth to that?

btw thanks for rescuing the weaving mill! The world needs more realmade products and less mass produced crap.

NickScotweb17 karma

Any truth to that? It's new to me!

OldJimmyVaultBoy22 karma

Hello I recently took a trip to Scotland over the summer! Very beautiful country I wish I could've stayed longer. My question is, are the bagpipes a popular instrument to learn when kids are growing up?

NickScotweb42 karma

There's no shortage of kids taking it up. Of course it's not as popular as the guitar or piano. But there's plenty to keep the tradition alive, and quite a few schools have their own pipe bands.

bford102618 karma

Any tips for getting acclimated to the weather having moved from the gulf coast region of Texas?! It’s bloody freezing! Layers do nothing! Berghaus jackets are a sham! The Scottish partner says I’m being over dramatic—thankfully only a temp move. Love the country, love the food, love the people but your weather is whack

NickScotweb24 karma

Personally I'd die in Texas. At least here you can wrap up when it's sub optimal. When it's hot you can only stop.

NapkinApocalypse16 karma

Be truthful. Is Willy your favourite character on the Simpsons?

NickScotweb23 karma

I do find him funny. We're pretty good at laughing at ourselves.

redreplicant15 karma

Thanks for doing this! What's unique about your milling process? How do you upkeep your looms, and is the cost of servicing high? I imagine there aren't a lot of craftsmen that specialize in older tech of that kind, so do you have an in-house repair team?

NickScotweb34 karma

We do various kinds of weaving, from high speed modern looms to be competitive, to the historic shuttle looms for short lengths that are really unique, which is what you're asking about.

They're called flying shuttles because they're banged at high speed from side to side carrying the cross threads (weft). That gives the fabric a 'natural' selvedge (side) that a modern loom can't do, and which is traditional on a real kilt so there's no hem. It's just the highest quality possible.

As for upkeep... if anyone knows a Hattersley loom mechanic, send them our way!! Please, seriously. The weavers do their best to keep the machines going themselves, as they've been working on them for decades so know them pretty well. Our local blacksmith helps to make spare parts from time to time. There are still a few suppliers of bits around. And we've one or two old looms to cannibalise. Somehow we muddle through.

redreplicant13 karma

This is extremely interesting, thank you. Why can't modern looms produce a selvedge? I've been buying fabric for a long time and there's usually a natural looking edge that I consider the "selvedge" side for cutting/matching purposes - is that a different phenomenon than the selvedge you're creating?

NickScotweb16 karma

The natural selvedge comes from the thread going across and back and never being cut. Modern looms shoot it across, then either cut it loose or tuck the end in. If the tuck-in is done well it's not obvious. But it's never quite as neat.

keenly_disinterested13 karma

What is your website?

NickScotweb29 karma

Our new site is

We're in the midst of a big relaunch from our old site that we've been unable to update much for years, due to the complexity of what we do. So the new launch is dead exciting as it lets us get back to innovating again after years of back end redevelopment with little to show for it until now. So far the new CLAN site mostly replicates the services on the old one as that's our first base. But much more to come.

The reason it's taken so long is that I reckon we've one of the most complex retail offers on the web, that we have to make as simple as possible to actually use. Most online retailers buy and resell bar-coded boxes. We let customers design their own tartans, to get woven into fabrics, to get tailored into bespoke products, to combine into customisable outfits... all perhaps for a wedding with a deadline. That's why we need very advanced systems!

Sorry, that's a bit of a ramble. Come visit. :-)

JohnnySG9 karma

Hi Nick,

Dutchman who landed in Edinburgh and found this post by accident. Any off the beaten path suggestions where Scottish culture can be best experienced?

NickScotweb12 karma

I never think past Sandy Bell's pub, where there's always a great spontaneous folk session...

Ace_Masters9 karma

I've heard the kilts and tartans were made up by an 18th century english industrialist, is that true?

NickScotweb14 karma

No, it's far more complex. Both go back far older than that, but they were both 'formalised' in their modern incarnation around then. But I don't know where any English industrialist comes into it. I wrote an article on our blog quite recently if you can find it...

ThatGuiTrent8 karma

What clan do you descend from? I descend from the people of clan Lindsay.

NickScotweb42 karma

I'm not actually affiliated to any clan that I know of. My surname Fiddes doesn't appear in any list of Septs (affiliated families) I've seen. But it's still a proper Scottish name. There's a Fiddes Castle near Aberdeen. And years ago I very nearly rented a place called Fiddes Cottage at Hill of Fiddes, which would have been pretty cool for me at the time.

pickled-egg3 karma

There's a "Temple of Fiddes" signposted on the A90, south of Stonehaven.

I always notice the sign, maybe one day I'll take the turnoff and see what its all about :) suspect like most of these interesting sounding names it'll be a field though.

edit: oh apparently it's the castle you mentioned.

NickScotweb3 karma

That sounds right. The castle is actually a little disappointing. It's more of a keep I'd have said. But it sounds grand. I've always wondered where that Temple name comes from when I've driven past, but never enough to research the question.

NickScotweb19 karma

BTW you're probably already familiar with the Lindsay tartan, but it's one of the real classics. Very rich and sophisticated.

greengoat8 karma

Thanks for doing this AMA - it's great to hear about one of my favourite topics! A few weaving questions here: Is there a maximum number of colours you can design in a tartan? When you say 'Hand crafted tartan', do you mean that some production cloth is on hand-looms? What type of looms does your mill use (no worries if you don't want to say because of business in-confidence)? Thanks!

NickScotweb12 karma

There exist tartans with 10-12 colours. But that's hugely difficult to do well, because there's a mathematical progression where you're ending up with thousands of cross-colours, which is just a mess. I'd advise six maximum, but the best are 3-5.

Hand-crafted means that we still do hand stake-warping, hand tying onto the loom, and much more. There's a DC Dalgliesh video kicking you can search for that shows some of this. I know of no other main mill that does these things.

Our single width looms for short lengths are old Hattersley pedal looms, with electric motors bolted on. We also use high-speed modern looms for volume production!

white_ran_20007 karma

As it’s Burns’ night, can you “recite” (write down here) the Poem to a Haggis? I had a quasi-Burns’ dinner once before, and it was quite glorious, the haggis piped in, a true Scotsman reciting in full accent, squeals as the haggis was cut and the tiniest wee dram after, as it was actually at the work cafeteria.

NickScotweb33 karma

Though this is MY party piece at Burns Suppers...

Much to his dad and mum's dismay Horace ate himself one day He didn't stop to say his grace He just sat down and ate his face "We can't have this!" his dad declared "If that lad's ate he should be shared" But even as he spoke they saw Horace eating more and more: First his legs and then his thighs, His arms, his nose, his hair, his eyes "Stop him someone!" Mother cried "Those eyeballs would be better fried!" But all too late for they were gone, And he had started on his dong... "Oh foolish child!" the father mourned "You could have deep-fried those with prawns, Some parsely and some tartar sauce..." But H was on his second course; His liver and his lights and lung, His ears, his neck, his chin, his tongue "To think I raised himn from the cot And now he's gone to scoff the lot!" His mother cried what shall we do? What's left won't even make a stew..." And as she wept her son was seen To eat his head his heart his spleen And there he lay, a boy no more Just a stomach on the floor... None the less since it was his They ate it - and that's what haggis is

NickScotweb18 karma

What, this one?

Address to a Haggis Fair fa' your honest, sonsie face, Great chieftain o the puddin'-race! Aboon them a' ye tak your place, Painch, tripe, or thairm: Weel are ye worthy o' a grace As lang's my arm.

The groaning trencher there ye fill, Your hurdies like a distant hill, Your pin wad help to mend a mill In time o need, While thro your pores the dews distil Like amber bead.

His knife see rustic Labour dight, An cut you up wi ready slight, Trenching your gushing entrails bright, Like onie ditch; And then, O what a glorious sight, Warm-reekin, rich!

Then, horn for horn, they stretch an strive: Deil tak the hindmost, on they drive, Till a' their weel-swall'd kytes belyve Are bent like drums; The auld Guidman, maist like to rive, 'Bethankit' hums.

Is there that owre his French ragout, Or olio that wad staw a sow, Or fricassee wad mak her spew Wi perfect scunner, Looks down wi sneering, scornfu view On sic a dinner?

Poor devil! see him owre his trash, As feckless as a wither'd rash, His spindle shank a guid whip-lash, His nieve a nit; Thro bloody flood or field to dash, O how unfit!

But mark the Rustic, haggis-fed, The trembling earth resounds his tread, Clap in his walie nieve a blade, He'll make it whissle; An legs an arms, an heads will sned, Like taps o thrissle.

Ye Pow'rs, wha mak mankind your care, And dish them out their bill o fare, Auld Scotland wants nae skinking ware That jaups in luggies: But, if ye wish her gratefu prayer, Gie her a Haggis

basicallynothin7 karma

Hi thanks for doing this AMA.

Is clan affiliation solely patrilineal?

For example, If my mother was a clan x and my father was just a general English name, is my understanding that I’m now in no way affiliated with clan x, correct?

NickScotweb9 karma

I believe that's the tradition, more or less. But it's the sort of tradition that's changing in lots of contexts. Certainly for tartan, we've always said that if you don't find a connection through your father's line, your mum's is just as valid.

BungLightyear7 karma

Founder of Scotlands oldest heritage site... How many thousands of years old are you?

NickScotweb13 karma

Badly phrased perhaps. But I've been using the web since the day it was publicly released! (Mosaic 1?) And I reckon I set up one of the world's first few thousands servers, in the days when you knew and looked up every new web site that came online. So in internet terms, I think my claim holds.

hockeyrugby5 karma

Are you hiring?

NickScotweb12 karma

Only for a starter position for data entry right now.

missshrimptoast5 karma

My husband and I are planning to visit Scotland for his 40th birthday, as his grandfather was born and raised in Edinburgh. He's of clan Ferguson, and plans to have his family crest and motto tattooed on his back. His clan motto is engraved on the inside of his wedding ring.

  1. Are people in Scotland typically proud of their clan? Is in considered an outdated tradition, or something to be proud of?

  2. When we eventually visit, is it possible to swing by your store and purchase a kilt or other item in his clan tartan?

NickScotweb6 karma

  1. I answered somewhere below... basically we don't take the rituals so seriously but we do take family seriously. And amongst the upper classes it's still very important.

  2. Sadly we don't have a 'real' store. We've decided it's a loser's game to try to stand out against the ocean of imported rubbish 'tartan tat' that floods the streets of Edinburgh. So we operate only online where people who care can find us.

Narratticus5 karma

Do you worry about traditions fading?

NickScotweb17 karma

No. I'd worry about them NOT evolving.

Additional_Finger5 karma

Which do you prefer irn-bru or special brew?

NickScotweb14 karma

Honestly, neither.

Cue howls of outrage that I'm not a true Scot!

booger_sculptor5 karma

What's the single most interesting aspect of Scottish culture in your opinion?

NickScotweb18 karma

Wow... I love how we're so great at totally taking the piss out of our country and each other which actually masks a deep affection. That's sound.

ec01145 karma

Have you read the Outlander series, or watched the show? If so, what do you think about the series/show?

I love the series and would love to visit Scotland some day.

NickScotweb8 karma

Actually I've just finished Season 1. I started thinking I'd better watch it to understand the phenomenon, and soon got hooked. As long as you accept it's just a teensy bit romanticised, perhaps, and the history may not be absolutely 100% accurate... I'm a fan.

HMCetc5 karma

Ah, is that the mill in Selkirk? I'm from Gala! Are you a borderer too?

NickScotweb6 karma

My guilty secret is that I'm from Edinburgh. But yes, Selkirk.

wisconsennach4 karma

I'll be in Inverness and Edinburgh in June, where is one place I should visit that tourists may not know about?

NickScotweb6 karma

I don't know Inverness so well. As for Edinburgh, don't just do the High Street. There are so many other cool bits like Leith, Dean Village, etc. etc.

I always recommend the faq at /r/edinburgh then ask around for more...

Voodoo12854 karma

I’m not Scottish - my mom’s side of the family is Irish mostly with English and Welsh here and there, dad’s side is French going back to the settling of Normandy. Is it bad form for me to wear a kilt? Are there any tartans I should avoid as a non Scott?

NickScotweb3 karma

You'd be amazed how many of our customers have no Scots blood. So absolutely no problem. One of the most fun parts is doing a bit of family research then looking around at the altenative fabrics to choose one you respond to on different levels.

bunniswife4 karma

Wow! Your tartan selection is amazing! Can I ask why the Mac version of my family tartan is only listed as opposed to the Mc version of my last name? It seems like any time I try to find a tartan, there's only the Mac version. Is there a difference?

NickScotweb10 karma

No, there's no difference really, so we standardise on Mac as the most common. Some people get offended, but it would be stupidly cluttering to list both. Precise spellings are a very recent affectation. I think Shakespier spelled his own name lots of ways!

OfficerZooey4 karma

Hey Nick! Taking my honeymoon in October to Scotland! I think we're flying into Edinburgh, and want to drive around the country so we can take in the sights on our own pace. We're outdoorsy people-what's a must do we should have on our list?

NickScotweb13 karma

How long have you got? Seriously - West Coast is a must (Skye, upwards). But Glencoe... Trossachs... East Neuk of Fife... Borders... all glorious.

sassooooo4 karma

Just visited your site, the tartan builder is really cool! Any tips for a person wanting to design their own tartan? Meanings behind the colors/patterns? I've actually been thinking about creating one, since I don't have any associations with Scottish clans.

NickScotweb10 karma

You really don't need any Scottish background. About half our customers have none and just enjoy the tradition or the quality. As for meanings behind colours, I'd turn that around... what do they mean to you? If someone is setting out to design one for their family or business, local colours, ones that have some resonance (or corporate colours etc) are a great place to start. So are numbers! You can have fun thinking of numbers that have some personal or family meaning for you and weaving those into the threadcount too.

We've a lot of advice in our Help section. And when I've got a moment I'm going to write some more blog articles on the subject. But if you look on our site blog you'll find a recent piece about the creation of a Volcano tartan that gives a nice idea of one of our favourite designer's thought process...

JasperVanCleef4 karma

Do you sell non-Scottish tartans such as the Cornish or Breton ones? If so, what do people think of those up north? Greetings from your Auld Alliance ally!

NickScotweb9 karma

Yes, we've pretty much every tartan ever recorded. And as I keep emphasising, we're totally inclusive as a nation so it's all good. Tartan is our gift to the world. It's a system we kind of administer nowadays, but anyone can and does use it. So there's tartans for almost every US state, nations, hotel chains, etc etc etc. No problem!

tCut954 karma

With the Clans which have (had?) multiple branches, what would be the best way to differentiate? In my case, I often find Clan Cameron "tartans" but to my knowledge, they are usually "lowland" branch ones. Assuming this is, of course, an actual thing as traditional Cameron region is around Ben Nevis which is definitely not lowlands.

PS: Males in my family have kept the heritage alive in our own small way, as far back as I am aware (great-grandfather), all males have had the middle name "Cameron."

PS2: Any good and reputable sources you can point to that I could use to find information on my Clan and even, perhaps, family? Also, if I were to backpack Scotland for about a month, when/where would you recommend? I already have a rough route planned out (including Fort William for hopefully obvious reasons), but in the interest of not rambling further I'd be willing to PM you if you are interested in knowing more.

NickScotweb6 karma

I'm falling behind on my answers so can't do so fully. I'm not actually an expert in clans, though I'm learning. Best find the clan society and ask them...

as for backpacking, I recommend r/scotland where I think there's an FAQ and people will help with further questions.

Sapalot3 karma

Hey nick! Short question: How much do you hate Braveheart?

NickScotweb6 karma

Not at all. Some people took issue with Mel's accent. But as a movie I really enjoyed it. Call me shallow.

mrgolden13 karma

When did distilled liquor hit Scotland ? What was drank before that, mead ? How did they get the bees honey without getting their underkilt area stung !

NickScotweb4 karma

Lol! I wish I could answer. But not something I know enough about. Have to research... :-)

wengwengchud3 karma

What are the top ten selling Tartans on your website, and if the MacLeod or McLeod tartans arent in the top ten, what sells better, Lewis or Harris?

NickScotweb3 karma

You know, I can't (not won't) answer the first question, as we're very much about the "long tail" - the best sellers are only a small proportion of tartans - by far the most are the rarer ones.

As for MacLeod, I'm not 100% either but I'd be pretty certain it's "Loud MacLeod".

Crow_Morollan3 karma

What are you thoughts on Modern Kilts (non-tartan patterning/non-sporran)? I've recently snagged a few from Damn Near Kilt Em, and fallen in love with the practicality. They have more pockets than my construction pants, AND my boys can breathe. I get whiny enthusiasts saying "no tartan no sporran it's a skirt".

Also, direct line to Clan Macalister. Wife and I were looking at potentially emigrating to the UK, but the differences in quality of life/salaries were too much to swallow.

NickScotweb6 karma

We don't currently offer the more offbeat shapes and patterns, beyond variants like denim, camouflage, leather, and so on. But actually I really like them. I find traditionalists frustrating. FFS - exactly WHICH date in history was the 'real' thing?

One of the things I love about Scottish traditions is that they're open to change. Traditional dress around the world is often set in stone. But we love to dress up a kilt with hobnail boots and a sweater with holes, then do out dancing at a ceilidh where no one gets the steps right. It's a vibrant evolving thing, not po-faced.

levch3 karma

Hey, thanks for the AMA

Have you ever participated in Scottish Highland Games?

If so, what's you best score at tossing a caber?

NickScotweb7 karma

I think I once tried to toss a caber. I, erm, got it almost upright.


CypripediumCalceolus3 karma

When you ask about Irish tartans, they get testy about it. Do the Irish have a tradition of wool weaving similar to the Scots or not?

NickScotweb7 karma

My understanding is that the Irish did also wear a version of the kilt, but mostly in plain fabrics. And we still sell them in those traditional colours. But nowadays there are lots of tartans available for Irish names and counties. Are they authentic? You decide. I think it's perfectly valid as part of our shared tradition, as two nations that largely get on, where it's no different to US state tartans or any family who wants their own even if they've no Scottish blood. It's the tradition.

8MileAllstars3 karma

“If it ain’t Scottish it’s crap”. True or False?

NickScotweb9 karma

False. Of course. I've never heard that here.

nedstarkwasafool3 karma

have you seen the thing going around that the entire tartan industry was essentially jump started ahistorically by a couple of welsh conmen, pretending to be polish? comment?

NickScotweb5 karma

Ah, the Sobieskis! It was definitely part of the process. But tartan was becoming popularised anyway. It wasn't seminal imho.

Arachnesloom3 karma

Happy Burns day! How do you feel about Irish people or Americans of Irish descent wearing kilts? I read online that the McManus clan was based in modern day Ireland. Is this common?

NickScotweb7 karma

The kilt is Scotland's gift to the world, and loads of our customers have no Scots blood, so that's all good. As for Ireland... I was there last weekend, and apart from a wee stretch of water there's far more that unites than divides us. It's been two way traffic for centuries.

NakedJaked2 karma

What’s your favorite piece of Scottish history that’s often overlooked?

NickScotweb2 karma

As I said in my intro, history isn't my strong point. But I'll ponder this one...

acenarteco2 karma

What’s your favorite Scottish sweet treat?

NickScotweb10 karma

You've found my guilty secret. Far too many! But if I had to name one, I'd probably go for Millionaire's Shortbread. (Must be a crunchy digestive base, gooey but chewy centre, and good real chocolate.)

Bardfinn2 karma

"What's worn underneath the kilt?", she asked, as if delivering the set-up for a lovely joke

NickScotweb5 karma

Nothing... All in perfect working order?

Ajenkins6262 karma

So my wife and I are traveling to Edinburgh in April for 6 nights and absolutely cannot wait. Thinking about a side trip to Inverness. Is it worth taking a couple of days to spend there and what should we visit?

NickScotweb4 karma

My own view is that Inverness can be a little disappointing. But if you make it a circular trip up the middle and down the west you'll love it.

Fighterbear122 karma

What would you say the community response would be if a Muslim family moved to Scotland somewhere? We're all European born in Germany and UK and pretty normal except no drink and all that.

NickScotweb8 karma

We have lots of Muslim families. There's been the odd minor incident with idiots. But the vast majority of us are totally welcoming.

MountVernonWest2 karma

I know I'm in clan Lamont, and we've got a great tartan and I've always wanted to get one. Do they come in sizes? How hard would it be to get one in America? Are there appropriate/inappropriate times to wear them?

NickScotweb5 karma

We've hundreds of items available in Lamont tartan, and we send out worldwide. As for when to wear it, that's entirely up to you socially. There's no rules.

KosherNazi2 karma

What do you think about the plans to reforest the highlands?

A treeless scotland is iconic, and much of modern scottish tourism depends on it. But, reversing the deforestation seems like it would be better for the environment. How do you feel?

NickScotweb6 karma

I've been in favour of restoration ever since attending a lecture given by Reforesting Scotland decades ago, where I remember one slide comparing Scotland's iconic landscapes of bare hillsides and a few trees in the valleys with a similar landscape in Scandinavia where there were trees all over the hillsides and communities in the valleys.

Sadly much of our countryside is anything but natural. It's a product of massively unbalanced land ownership, particularly since the Highland Clearances, but still perpetuated by one of the most concentrated and undemocratic and socially detatched ownership structures in the world. A tiny number of often overseas owners control vast swathes of our country, largely for their own profit or entertainment.

Does this give you a clue where I stand?

NickScotweb3 karma

I've been in favour of restoration ever since attending a lecture given by Reforesting Scotland decades ago, where I remember one slide comparing Scotland's iconic landscapes of bare hillsides and a few trees in the valleys with a similar landscape in Scandinavia where there were trees all over the hillsides and communities in the valleys.

Sadly much of our countryside is anything but natural. It's a product of massively unbalanced land ownership, particularly since the Highland Clearances, but still perpetuated by one of the most concentrated and undemocratic and socially detatched ownership structures in the world. A tiny number of often overseas owners control vast swathes of our country, largely for their own profit or entertainment.

Does this give you a clue where I stand?

NickScotweb3 karma

By the way, while most of my compatriots were nursing hangovers, at around 10am on 1st January 2000AD I was helping plant trees at a valley-catchment scale restoration project called Carrifran Wildwood in the Scottish Borders. It's an issue quite close to my heart.

iminacubicle2 karma

What about Scottish culture do you not like?

NickScotweb12 karma

The whinging moany criticism mostly, and a tendency towards Tall Poppy syndrome where people who make an effort and are good at things get cut down to size. I like the egalitarianism. But it can go too far.

odrincrystell1 karma

If it's not Scottish, is it crap?

NickScotweb1 karma

Absolutely not.

tradal1 karma

How do you feel about the major influx of middle easterners and Central Africans in rural Scotland and England? Do the new natives make life easier or more difficult for you? Do you think your culture will survive another generation? Do you ever fear the loss of all your knowledge?

NickScotweb4 karma

Most Scots have no problem with immigration at all. It makes our culture richer as well as being great economically. For me the core of our culture is about being socially generous and welcoming. So if we were hostile to incomers we'd no longer be Scots.

It was one of the sadnesses of the independence referendum that Scottish 'nationalism' was so widely mis-reported, especially in England. Ours isn't a nationalism based on hating 'others'. It's a quiet pride in who we are. And anyone is welcome as long as they respect that and want to be part of it. That's how we continue the tradition.

mtlotttor1 karma

What are your thoughts on Scotland joining up with Canada? The Scots built the solid foundations of Scotland. The Scots are still a strong family oriented culture. While Canada is slipping away from the close family culture. We could use more babies. We have lots of land available. We like your Scotch Whiskey.

NickScotweb1 karma

I heard this suggested a few months ago, and actually thought it was a great idea! I think we've a lot in common. And when I've been there I've felt really at home.

Abbo601 karma

What tartan pattern goes for which event? I’ve looked up the two families that I come from, Fraser and Ferguson, but then I saw there other patterns in each family. Also, do you get your bagpipes done if family tartan or just any pattern?

NickScotweb5 karma

It's really a matter of taste. Some families have multiple 'setts' for different occasions, like Dance or Hunting designs. But even then it's optional. So don't sweat it. Choose the one that appeals to you most.

As for bagpipes, some do, some don't. I think it's a nice thing to use your own family tartan for something like that, if only because it's a talking point. But if you happen to prefer another, either because you've a different connection to it, or even just because you like the pattern, that's fine too. Anyone who says you should ONLY wear your own family's tartan really doesn't get Scottish tradition, where you're honouring someone else by wearning theirs.

KagakuNinja1 karma

If I walk into a Scottish bar wearing a tartan, is there a chance I'll get my arse kicked?

In theory I'm about 1/16 Scottish, and Blackwatch is my favorite, although I'm partial to Royal Stewart...

NickScotweb2 karma

Only if you're obnoxious.

Those are the two most popular tartans. But you've about 50,000 other choices so take a look around before deciding.

Mantisbog1 karma

  1. Would you say that it's true that if it's not Scottish, it's crap?

  2. How exactly is plaid made? How is it kept so that all the lines are consistently spaced?

NickScotweb2 karma

  1. Already answered. (No.)

  2. I don't have time to explain weaving fully, even if I fully understood it! But basically it's based on threadcounts in a criss-cross pattern. So as long as the loom is set up right, it will come out straight. Usually. That's the theory. Sometimes with our old looms you get a bit of wobble in it! But my view is that's part of the loveliness of an artisanal fabric. :-)

Sean-TFU1 karma

I’m a Forsyth and live in America. I would love to get something Scottish with my tartan and/ or family crest, what would you recommend for someone with nothing in their collection? Thank you.

NickScotweb1 karma

Something you'll actually want to wear... a scarf for example?

Sean-TFU1 karma

Yes, thank you. I like that idea! Any tip for the family crest as well?

NickScotweb1 karma

If you check back in a couple of months we'll have a lot more to offer along these lines...

NorthStarZero1 karma

Modern, Modern #2, Modern #3, Ancient, Muted, Hunting, Modern 1714, Ancient 1714....

What's the difference and history behind all these different tartans for the same clan?

NickScotweb3 karma

I think I just answered a similar Q a few moments ago...

WideOut861 karma

What can you tell me about Duart Castle?

NickScotweb2 karma

Not much I'm afraid. That's the Maclean one on Mull isn't it? I was there decades ago, but too long ago to remember much.

JosefGremlin0 karma

The horrifically racist US senator, Lindsey Graham. He's Graham of Monteith right? Right?

NickScotweb2 karma

Erm... he might have adopted the name... I hope.

TheHypeIsReal81-2 karma


NickScotweb1 karma