The tradition of Scottish Folk Dance & Ceilidh

The Scottish Ceilidh

A Scottish traditional dance is usually referred to as a Scottish Ceilidh, though the term ‘reeling dance‘ is sometimes used for an evening of the more complicated Scottish dances, or Scottish Country or folk dance. For a general Scottish evening where the dancers of the sort that are not too difficult and nonexperts can do, then you would have a Scottish ceilidh band. From more complex set of dances, you would still want a Scottish ceilidh band but you would need a caller who was expert in that range dances.

 Scottish Dances that are relatively easy for beginners to do include: 


Gay Gordons

Dashing White Sergeant

Strip the Willow

St Bernard's Waltz

Scottish Barn Dance 


Many of the tunes that are played by Scottish ceilidh bands, English barn dance bands and Irish ceilidh bands are the same, as are the actual dancers. Each nationality claims that they originally with theirs, and certainly the tunes are played in subtly different styles whether they are English Scottish or Irish. Dances that come under that category and would be played by the Ceilidh Idealach Scottish Ceilidh Band, to genuine Scottish tunes are: 


The Real Wee Willie 

Pat-a-Cake Polka

Oxo Reel

Jack's the lad


These are all dances we have regularly played and called in the counties our Scottish Ceilidh Band plays in - i.e. Worcestershire, Gloucestershire, Herefordshire, Warwickshire, West Midlands, Oxfordshire, Wiltshire, Shropshire. 


These are dances that we are quite often asked for, but are really quite unsuitable for inexperienced dancers.

Eightsome Reel

Military Two Step

Eva Three Step

Reel of 51st

Duke of Perth   

These are all dances we have 


There are in fact a huge variety of dances that are learnt by specialist Scottish dance clubs that are never danced in general ceilidhs. Many are fiddle tunes, some originally pipe tunes adapted for fiddle, then later adapted for accorrdion when this complex instrument arrived on the scene and became affordable. In their present form, these mostly derived from the Victorian period where Scottish dancing and Scottish nostalgia with the in thing. Whether it was bagpipers playing on the Trossachs as the steamship, the SS Walter Scott leaves for a cruise on Loch Katrin, or listening to Scott Skinner playing fiddle tunes he is just composed and pretended were traditional Scottish tunes, at the London Palladium, (on his famous Scottish fiddle), the Victorians were deeply into nostalgia. To give you an idea of how many Scottish dances there are, just look at this set of dance names for the letter 'F'. 

Fa' This

Faculty Of Actuaries

Fàilte Gu Alba

Fain To Follow

Fair Donald

Fair Isle Stacs

Fair Jennie's Jig

Fair Jenny's Jig

Fair Maids Of Lyon

Fair O' Feir

Fair Ronny's Reel

Fair Rosamund

Fairbridge Reel

Fairfield Bridge

Fairgrieve's Fancy

Fairly Shot O' Her

Fairy Dance

Fairy Flag

Fairy Ring

Fairyknowe Lodge

Falcon Square


Falconer Hall

Falkirk Bairn

Falkirk Lass

Falkirk Millennium Wheel

Falkland Beauty

Falling Leaves

Falls Of Bracklinn

Falls Of Clyde

Falls Of Feugh

Falls Of Foyers

Falls Of Rogie

Famous Grouse


Far Cuillins

Far North Queensland

Faraway Isle

Fare Thee Well

Farewell To Crumlin

Farewell To Fife

Farewell To Forty-Nine

Farewell To Helensburgh

Farewell To Miller's Forest

Farewell To Peebles

Farewell To Scotland

Farewell To The Highlands

Farewell To The Island

Farewell To The North

Farewell To The OTC

Farewell To The South

Farewell To Wiston

Farm House Jig

Farnham Maltings

Father Connelly's Jig

Father To Son

Favourite Partners

Feilleadh Beag


Fellowship Reel

Fergus McIver

Ferguson's Fancy

Fergusson Strathspey

Ferla Mor

Fermat's Bicycle

Ferry Boats On The Mersey

Ferry Louper



Festival Dream

Festival Fling

Festival Interceltique

Festival Man

Festival Reel



 How many of these are really dance today? Very very few, particularly at events like Burns nights which are normally just riotous fun, except in the specialist dance clubs. I remember being hired for an event of the Edinburgh universities Scottish dance Society (the event was being held in England). They were supplying their own caller, and we were playing the music. We assumed that they wanted to use their own caller because they were doing all these very complicated Scottish dances, but we were amused that in the event they did the same straightforward Scottish dances that we do for weddings and birthday parties. Indeed, they did the same dances may be two or three times different parts of the night. So you never know what’s going to happen and Scottish ceilidh.


But there is difference between a Scottish ceilidh being held in the cities of Scotland and the ones being held in the wilds the west coast of the islands. In the Highlands it tends to be an all-inclusive social event for the local community. 

 Just as an aside, it’s interesting to see the variety of things that people ask for when they want a Scottish dance. There are misspellings like Scottish dancing, descriptions like highland dance or Gaelic dancing, but all of these we treat as if what they are looking for is a Scottish ceilidh band.


There is a similar variation of requests for things that need an Irish ceilidh band. For example people asked for Irish dancing and ireland dance, which is a bit confusing. Then there is the bare variety of spellings of ceilidh (hardly surprising considering the unusual spelling and the difficulty in pronunciation for the average English person.) We get variations such as Kaylee dance; ceighley dance; caleigh dance; kayleigh dance; kayleigh dancing;  caleigh dancing; ceili dancing; kaley dancing; kaylee dancing; but as with the Scottish ceilidh band equivalent, when we see any Of these things we offer an Irish ceilidh band

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