15 Of The Best Scottish Songs Of All Time

Written by Dan Farrant

Scotland has given us captivating tunes that stood the test of time, from traditional ballads to modern hits. Even those who are not from this country will be familiar with some of those, especially ones that are played at New Year’s Eve celebrations or birthday parties.

In our post, we aim to explore 15 of the best Scottish songs that made their mark on cultural landscapes far beyond the borders of Scotland. Dive in – a musical journey through genuine Scottish heritage awaits you!

1. “I’m Gonna Be (500 Miles)” By The Proclaimers

First off our list is the iconic Scottish track “I’m Gonna Be (500 Miles).” This is arguably one of the most recognized tunes from the Scottish folk-rock duo consisting of twin brothers Craig and Charlie Reid. Imbued with a poignant sense of Scottish pride and heritage, the song was penned by the talented brothers, known to the world as The Proclaimers.

The brothers drew deeply from their traditional culture and employed distinctive accents that lent an authentic charm to their sound. These skilled musicians transformed this simple tune into a global hit back in 1988.

The song skyrocketed to fame upon release. It captured the audience’s hearts worldwide and ranked at position #11 on the UK Singles Chart. In the US, it peaked at #3 on the Billboard Hot 100 and #8 on the Adult Contemporary chart.

2. “Ob La Di Ob La Da” By Marmalade

The pop-rock band Marmalade set a remarkable moment in Scottish music history with their rendition of “Ob La Di Ob La Da.” This Beatles cover uniquely resonated with audiences and swiftly climbed to the top spot on the Record Retailer chart.

The 1968 Christmas season marked this achievement, catapulting the group into a distinguished position within the British music scene.

The original song hailed from England’s rock sensation, the Beatles, featured on their elaborate 1968 double album. However, Marmalade truly captured hearts across Britain with their version of “Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da.”

3. “Give A Little Love” By Bay City Rollers

The chart-topping hit “Give a Little Love” is by the famous Scottish pop-rock band Bay City Rollers. The song made waves upon its release in 1975. This catchy tune was expertly crafted by songwriters Johnny Goodison and Phil Wainman.

Overflowing with the quintessential charm of ’70s music and an unmistakable feel-good vibe, it quickly found a special place among fans globally, reaffirming the Bay City Rollers’ status as an international success.

Thematically, the song encourages people to give and receive love. And when tough times come, we must hold on to love.

4. “Auld Lang Syne” By Robert Burns

Arguably the most easily recognizable Scottish song is “Auld Lang Syne.” The song was written by Scottish poet Robert Burns in 1788 and has become synonymous with Scottish culture and heritage.

As you all know, “Auld Lang Syne” is sung on New Year’s Eve to let go of the old year and welcome the new one at midnight. The title itself is written in Scots, which adds a unique touch to this traditional folk song. It can be translated to English as “old long since,” days gone by,” or “old times.”

Notably, the song is also sung at funerals and graduation as a farewell to other occasions. It has stood the test of time as a parting song that brings people together.

5. “Belfast Child” By Simple Minds

The Scottish rock band Simple Minds released “Belfast Child” from their album Street Fighting Years. The song was a commercial success.

Using the music of the Irish folk song “She Moved Through the Fair,” “Belfast Child” carries a significant historical weight. Songwriter Jim Kerr wrote the lyrics in response to the 1987 Enniskillen bombing that killed 12 people and wounded at least 63. This heartfelt song captures his grief and anger.

“Belfast Child” was nominated for Song of the Year at the 1990 Brit Awards. Moreover, it reached #1 on the UK Singles Chart in 1989, further establishing its popularity and impact.

6. “Ebeneezer Goode” By The Shamen

One of the most unforgettable Scottish songs ever is “Ebeneezer Goode” by The Shamen. Released in 1992, this dance-pop hit quickly soared to #1 on the UK Singles Chart and became an international sensation. It also became the 13th best-selling single of 1992 in the UK.

This infectious track even made global waves, reaching #1 in Australia. However, its cryptic yet unmistakable drug references set “Ebeneezer Goode” apart. The titular character represents the drug ecstasy.

Though “He’s refined, sublime, he makes you feel fine,” the band cautions against excess use. They also intended the song to reflect the distorted mirror held up to this culture.

7. “Love Is All Around” By Wet Wet Wet

The Scottish soft rock band Wet Wet Wet scored an international hit when they released their version of “Love Is All Around.” The English rock band the Troggs first recorded the song in 1967.

Wet Wet Wet’s version was used as a soundtrack for the film Four Weddings and a Funeral. It spent an impressive 15 weeks at the top of the charts, solidifying its status as one of Wet Wet Wet’s biggest hits. This exceptional achievement highlights their musical talent and ability to create a pop music masterpiece.

The song is a vehicle for the narrator’s pledge of love for his significant other. He assures her that his love has no beginning and no end, and she can rely on his love and affection.

8. “Stop Living The Lie” By David Sneddon

Up next on our list is “Stop Living the Lie” by Scottish singer-songwriter David Sneddon. This captivating and emotionally resonant song catapulted him to success.

The song was released in 2003 as part of Sneddon’s debut album, Seven Years – Ten Weeks. The song topped the UK Singles Chart and was Britain’s 12th highest-selling single of the year, selling more than 250,000 copies.

With relatable lyrics, “Stop Living the Lie” struck a chord with audiences worldwide. The song explores themes of self-discovery, authenticity, and the desire for genuine existence.

9. “Summer” By Calvin Harris

One of Calvin Harris‘ most celebrated songs is “Summer.” Released in 2014, this catchy electronic dance track quickly became a global hit. The song showcased this talented Scottish DJ and producer’s exceptional songwriting and music production skills.

“Summer” reached #1 on the UK Singles Chart, solidifying its success in the charts. The song’s infectious beats and energetic vibe make it a favorite among electronic and dance music fans.

“Summer,” which explores the theme of love during the summer season, is often included on lists of the best Scottish songs. It also exemplifies Harris’ contribution to the Scottish music scene and the broader international music industry.

10. “Someone You Loved” By Lewis Capaldi

Scottish singer-songwriter Lewis Capaldi‘s breakthrough single is “Someone You Loved.” This emotional track, released in 2018, has become one of his most successful singles and has made waves in the UK and beyond.

With over 562 million streams, it holds the title of the most-streamed song in the UK. It also topped the UK Singles Chart for seven consecutive weeks and was the best-selling single of 2019 in the country.

What sets “Someone You Loved” apart is its powerful combination of meaningful lyrics and impactful music. Capaldi pours his heart into every word as he sings about heartbreak and lost love. Audiences have connected with this raw vulnerability, making the song a soundtrack for their experiences.

11. “Wellerman” By Nathan Evans

Scottish postman-turned-singer Nathan Evans has taken the internet by storm with his rendition of the sea shanty “Wellerman.” It went viral on social media, especially TikTok, and catapulted him to stardom.

“Wellerman” captures the essence of traditional Scottish folk music. The lyrics depict the sailors’ experiences on a whaling ship while they wait for the “Wellerman.” This is a supply vessel bringing them provisions.

The success of Evans’ interpretation has sparked renewed interest in maritime history and folk music revival. Many fans have been curious about sea shanties’ origins and significance to sailors.

12. “Afraid To Feel” By LF System

Since its release in 2019, Scottish production duo LF System‘s “Afraid to Feel” has been making waves as an energetic EDM track. Though it came out in 2019, it gained widespread recognition when it hit full release in 2022.

Not only that. The song also catapulted LF System to success after knocking Kate Bush off the top spot after her impressive 15-week reign. “Afraid to Feel” topped the UK Singles Chart and was certified platinum by the British Phonographic Industry.

Lyrics-wise, the song explores themes of passion and vulnerability. The narrator sings about how people fear fully embracing their emotions and experiencing connection with others.

13. “In A Big Country” By Big Country

Our next song, “In a Big Country” by the Scottish rock band Big Country, was released in 1983. The song was a success for the band as it peaked at #17 on the UK Singles Chart.

Outside of the country, the song also did well in the charts. It reached #3 on the US Top Rock Charts and #17 on the Billboard Hot 100. In Canada, it peaked at #3 on the RPM Top Singles Chart.

“In a Big Country” became one of the band’s signature songs. This song embodies the energy and spirit of Scottish rock music, with its Celtic guitar producing a bagpipe sound. Thematically, the song is about hope and being strong in times of hardship.

14. “Scotland The Brave” By Robert Wilson

One of the quintessential songs for Scots is “Scotland the Brave,” performed by Robert Wilson. This powerful patriotic anthem is often considered one of the unofficial national anthems of Scotland.

The song was penned by Scottish journalist Clifford Leornard Clark “Cliff” Hanley. Since its creation, the song has become deeply ingrained in the country’s cultural heritage.

“Scotland the Brave” is all about a deep sense of pride, honor, and love for Scotland and its rich history. The inspiring lyrics resonate with Scots and those with Scottish heritage worldwide. In addition, the song combines traditional Scottish music with heartfelt words that evoke a sense of national pride and unity.

15. “Flower Of Scotland” By The Corries

This list will not be complete without including “Flower of Scotland.” Folk singer Roy Williamson of the folk group the Corries penned the song in the mid-1960s.

This captivating Scottish song carries a deep cultural significance. It has become one of the unofficial national anthems of Scotland and is often performed at special events and sporting occasions.

“Flower of Scotland” is a celebration of Scotland’s history and the resilience of its people. It expresses a deep love for everything Scottish, from its landscapes to its inhabitants. It’s a reminder of the identity and unity of Scots, evoking a strong sense of pride and patriotism.

Summing Up Our List Of Scottish Songs

Scotland is indeed a beautiful country and has produced some of the most beautiful songs. These are a reminder of the rich heritage and cultural significance of Scotland.

The beauty of these Scottish songs lies in their ability to bring people together, transcending borders and connecting individuals from all walks of life.

We hope that by presenting you with this compilation, we have provided you with an unforgettable musical journey through Scotland’s beautiful landscapes and captivating history.

Photo of author

Dan Farrant, the founder of Hello Music Theory, has been teaching music for over 15 years, helping hundreds of thousands of students unlock the joy of music. He graduated from The Royal Academy of Music in 2012 and then launched Hello Music Theory in 2014. He plays the guitar, piano, bass guitar and double bass and loves teaching music theory.