Districts & Tartans

Districts and their associated tartans are at the center of the SDFA.

As a descendant of one or more of Scotland’s families, you should celebrate your Scottish heritage with as much pride and spirit as any member of a Clan society! For those interested in wearing specific tartan colors related to Scottish heritage, there are many possibilities. For instance, the Black Watch and Royal Stewart are open tartans that can be worn by anyone. There are also tartans for countries beyond Scotland’s borders, military groups, and even for individual states. In addition, many of the districts of Scotland have their own tartans.



a woolen cloth woven in one of several patterns of plaid, especially of a design associated with a particular Scottish clan.

Tartans for the District of Edinburgh (left) and the District of Ayrshire (right).

District tartans and Clan tartans have both been around for centuries. As a matter fact, some early tartans once associated with districts eventually became identified with particular clans. The origins of tartans can be difficult to discover, even after centuries of research. What is known, is that tartan has been worn by Highland Scots at least as far back as the 1500’s. By the early 18th century the wearing of then tartan had spread to all parts of Scotland. Martin Martin, an early researcher, wrote in 1695 about how tartan plaids were used to identify a wearer’s place of origin. What is more interesting is Martin’s descriptions that state that the tartan was to identify the place of origin, and not a particular family. Martin also found that the wearing of the tartan could be found on both the Isles and the mainland. The “mainland” in this context meant an area of Scotland that included more than just the Highlands. Indeed, one of the earliest recorded tartans is the Countess of Lennox, which stems from an area near Glasgow. (District Tartans, by Gordon Teall and Philip Smith, Shepherd-Walwyn Pub. Ltd., 1992.)

If you would like to learn more about tartans and researching your Scottish heritage, please send SDFA an email or contact your local area convener. Resources are also available online to help identify suitable tartans for people who do not have connections to a family Clan.

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Scottish Tartans Museum




Scottish Tartans Authority