Heritage Crafts

Bagpipe making (Highland pipes)

The making of bagpipes; a woodwind instrument sounded by air forced with the arm from a bag. See also bagpipe making (Northumbrian pipes, smallpipes and bellows blown pipes).
Currently viable
Craft category
Wood, Leather
Historic area of significance
There are many different traditions of bagpipes in Europe and the Middle East. The Bagpipe Society has a listing of countries where bagpipes are found.
Area practiced currently
Origin in the UK
Unclear, but the first bagpipes in Scotland are recorded in 1400. The first written record in England is 1285.


The origin of bagpipe making in the UK is unclear. What is certain, however, is that bagpipes have existed in various forms in Europe and the Middle East. They were known to be widely spread across Europe from the 13th Century and are first recorded in Scotland in 1400. The earliest written reference in England is 1285.

The name bagpipe has now become synonymous with the Great Highland Bagpipe, which has somewhat overshadowed other bagpipes. Great Highland Pipes are now made all over the world and the manufacturing methods are increasingly mechanised. However, there are still some remaining craft makers with the hand skills to make Great Highland Pipes.

Cultural significance: Since the 19th Century Great Highland Pipes have become synonymous with Scotland, the British Military and pipe bands all over the world. One notable role is that of Piper to the Sovereign, a piper tasked to perform for the British Sovereign.


  • Woodwork
  • Leather work
  • Cover making
  • Metalwork


  • Reed making

Issues affecting the viability

  • There are a lot of different skills necessary for making bagpipes including wood work, leather work and reed making. It is challenging to become skilled in all these processes.

Support organisations

Craftspeople currently known

Other information

This craft uses products derived from animals and exotic hardwoods – please read our ethical sourcing statement.

The Royal Conservatoire of Scotland and The National Piping Centre offer a specialist degree that allows pipers to study piping within the context of Scottish traditional music to the highest level.


National Lottery Heritage Fund
Swire Charitable Trust
The Royal Mint
Pilgrim Trust
Maxwell/Hanrahan Foundation
William Grant Foundation

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