Spotlight on Welsh tartan history

The Celts in Wales

By J.daly2 – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0,

The Celts were a people who populated Europe in the Pre-Roman era and are ancestral to several distinct nations today. When looking at historical documentation of the Celts, you might notice some motifs that you associate with cultures and religions in the modern world. You would be correct in your association- the Celts migrated far and wide and ended up in several countries. One of the countries with the strongest Celtic presence was Wales. 


“The Land of Song”

Wales is a country in what is now the U.K. with their own distinct national identity and language. The language, in particular, might be one of the most recognizable in the world. Even if you can’t pronounce it, you might have seen the 2nd-longest location name in the world;  Llanfair­pwllgwyngyll­gogery­chwyrn­drobwll­llan­tysilio­gogo­goch, a village in Wales. 

By Jdlawlis – Own work. Derived from File:LlanfairLARGE.jpg, CC0,

Watch Welsh weatherman Liam Dutton effortlessly pronounce it in this clip, if you’re curious how it sounds.

Another instantly recognizable emblem of Wales is the red dragon, found on the flag. This is an emblem that has symbolized the Welsh people at least as far back as 829 A.D., with enduring popularity to this day.

Wales Dragon Flag
Wales Dragon Flag


Welsh Tartan

Like Scotland and Ireland, Wales has its own extensive collection of tartans symbolizing ancestry and origins. I notice that Welsh tartans make a lot of use of delicate, single-strands of color for stripes in their sett. Contrast this to the broad strokes of color seen more often in Scottish tartans.

I wasn’t able to find an official reason for this, but Welsh tartans are a relatively contemporary addition to the tartan world. Perhaps this difference in appearance can be attributed to more advanced weaving techniques being used in the initial creation of Welsh tartans. Like Locharron points out, Welsh setts (that is, the repeating part of the tartan) tend to be more rectangular than the square setts we might see elsewhere, which emphasizes an “elongated” tartan look.

Howells / Powell Welsh Tartan
Howells / Powell Welsh Tartan

My favorite Welsh tartan is probably Howell. I think the vibrant colors on the neutral background are really striking. The tartan incorporates both the red and bright green distinct in Welsh symbolism and found on the flag. 

Do the Welsh wear kilts?

Welsh Black Dress Ysgrepan

Historically, there actually isn’t a lot of evidence to support this idea. The first Welsh tartans were registered in the year 2000 (although this doesn’t mean they didn’t exist before then). Despite their recent adoption, however, there are plenty of examples of the Welsh cilt (there’s no “K” in the Welsh alphabet!) being worn. These are pleated and accessorized in much the same way as Scottish and Irish kilts. Fly Plaids, sporrans, flashes, and hose are all worn with cilts, too. Where other kilts might feature a clan crest brooch on the fly plaid, though, you are most likely to see a Welsh dragon! 

The Welsh people have effectively adopted the use of tartan to create a culturally distinct version of tartan & kilts. Show off your heritage with your own Welsh cilt, shop beautiful Welsh tartan, and get all the accessories you need at Celtic Croft. And don’t leave out the dragon brooch!


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