Tartan is a type of detailed chequered design that is traditionally sewn with wool. It uses a range of colours, in horizontal and vertical intersecting lines, to create beautiful and intrinsic patterns.
Tartan patterns can hold much cultural significance for their wearers, representing specific locations, clans, counties and family names. Ireland, Scotland, England and Wales each have their own national tartan designs, which people incorporate into kilts or other cultural memorabilia.
The close historical relationship Irish and Scottish cultures have shared over hundreds of years has resulted in each county in Ireland having it's own unique tartan. Tartans are worn across Scotland and Ireland and they both incorporate them into their kilts.
Irish National Tartan
The Irish National Tartan features a predominantly emerald green background, with threads of white, gold and black intertwined to create a beautiful criss-cross pattern. The tartan design resembles the national flag and is worn with great cultural significance.
Irish County Tartans
In addition to the overarching national tartan, there are four Irish Provincial tartans and 32 Irish County tartans. Each allocated design is very unique, with colours and patterns that were chosen to reflect the geography and cultural life within the region. For example, County Antrim uses a bold burnt orange and mustard yellow against navy and green, whilst the County Galway tartan uses a beautiful brick red base with gold, navy and forest green highlights.
Scottish National Tartan
The Scottish National Tartan predominantly uses rich green and deep blue colours, with intersecting lines of red, white and black throughout. It was designed by Michael King, a tartan designer based in Philip King Kiltmakers, Aberdeen.
The National Scottish Tartan was launched in 1993 on St Andrew's Day. It is also a modification that honours the ancient Black Watch and Campbell tartans. The Black Watch was a military division created by King George I, under the advice of George Wade, Commander-in-Chief in North Britain. The Black Watch were designated to patrol the Scottish Highlands - disarming Highlanders, bringing criminals to justice, and hindering rebels they came across.
The National Scottish Tartan is not to be confused with the National Millennium tartan, a commemorative tartan designed in 1999, that celebrates the millennium. The Millennium tartan is predominantly green and red with intersecting lines of yellow, blue, black and white.
The earliest known tartan design in Scotland dates back to the third or fourth century AD. Throughout history, in political upheavals and in civil wars, it has remained as a symbol of Scottish culture and patriotism.
It has been estimated that there are about 3,500 to 7,000 different tartans in Scotland, with approximately 150 new designs being added every year. The tartan continues to hold great cultural significance for Scottish people today and is a symbol used to celebrate Scottish heritage.
What is National Tartan day?
National Tartan day is a North American holiday that occurs annually on the 6th of April. It retrospectively celebrates Scottish independence or the Declaration of Arbroath that was signed in 1320.
The reason why it is a North American holiday, is because the American Declaration of Independence was modelled on the Declaration of Arbroath. Out of the 13 Governors that signed the Declaration of Independence, 9 of them were also Scottish.
Those celebrating the holiday wear a piece of tartan as a mark of respect and they plan celebrations such as parades and family events.
English National Tartan
The English National Tartan uses strong blue, yellow and red colours with white and purple lines draped throughout. A closer look at the tartan and you will be able to depict its significance.
The English National Tartan embeds the red cross of St. George through its design. St. George is the patron saint of England and credited with being the personification of Christian chivalry. The royal purple lines also symbolise the 1000 years of monarchic tradition within England.
Welsh National Tartan
The National Welsh Tartan is predominately green with striking red lines running throughout. Smaller white lines also intersect across the pattern, creating a stunning piece of tartan design.
The National Welsh Tartan is also referred to as St David’s Tartan or the Brithwe Dewi Sant. It pays homage to St.David, the 7th Century patron saint of Wales who is said to have performed miracles
St David’s most famous miracle took place when he was preaching to a large crowd in Llanddewi Brefi. When listeners complained that they could not hear him, the ground on which he stood rose up to form a hill and a white dove settled on his shoulder.
St. David is proudly celebrated all across Wales and the National Welsh tartan demonstrates this. This tartan is also differentiated from other celtic tartans with a cross of St. David stitched onto the side. There have now been 36 tartans created to keep up with the increasing demand for Welsh family tartans.
Princess Diana Tartan
In order to honour the late Princess of Wales, a memorial piece of tartan was officially released. Lochcarron of Scotland, received official approval to design the Diana, Princess of Wales Memorial Tartan in September 1997.
The Diana tartan design uses soft blues and neutral pinks to represent the humble personality of the late princess. It was created as a sympathetic response and mark of respect for Princess Diana’s passing.
In keeping with her selflessness and giving nature, Lochcarron of Scotland is able to use this tartan to make a charitable donation to the Diana Award. If you would like to purchase some pieces of Diana tartan, you can do so by visiting here.
National tartans are a respected piece of cultural celebration across Ireland and the U.K. Each design holds cultural significance and honours the country's history in some way.
Other countries such as Germany and Denmark, also have their own tartans that hold specific cultural meaning to them.
Tartans can be worn by anyone across the world, regardless of where they are from. The history of tartan design is not clearly defined and many countries that have a national tartan have shared cultures with one another at some point in history.