The Scottish Unicorn

Glasgow Mercat Cross

I once mentioned that Scotland’s national animal is the unicorn. As one or two people expressed surprise I planned to write a post about unicorns, and Becky’s current March Squares challenge has given me just the kick I need. It’s Spiky Squares, and what is it that a unicorn has on its forehead if not a great big spike? And, to coin a phrase, I can gore two challenges with one horn by linking to Cathy’s Photography Theme invitation too!

The unicorn was first used on the Scottish Royal Coat of Arms in the 12th century. That might seem odd given that it’s not real, but it was chosen for its role in Celtic mythology as a symbol of purity and innocence as well as masculinity and power. You can see an example of the Scottish Arms at the end of this post, but before that here are some more spiky unicorn squares I’ve spotted on my travels.

The header image is Glasgow’s Mercat (Market) Cross, which looks ancient but dates from 1929/30. Below are two examples from the University of Glasgow – one atop the Memorial Gates, and the other on the Lion and Unicorn Staircase (the unicorn is on the left). The staircase dates from 1690 and is one of two structures which were moved from the old university site on High Street to its current home in Gilmorehill in 1870.

The next two are both winter events which we’ve attended in Edinburgh in the last couple of years – Ice Adventure and the Chinese Lanterns at the zoo.

Still in Edinburgh, the golden unicorn on the left below adorns the doors of the Queen’s Gallery. The one on the right is from HMS Unicorn in Dundee.

There are two versions of this straw unicorn because I think it’s so beautiful. It’s in Crawick Multiverse, a landscape art site in Galloway.

And finally, this is not my picture, but here’s an example of the Arms of Scotland as used from the 12th century until 1603 when James VI of Scotland updated it after inheriting the English throne.

Sodacan [CC BY-SA 3.0 (]
So that’s my quick gallop through Scottish unicorns! Don’t forget to head over to Becky’s blog to see her Spiky Squares, running daily till the end of March, and to Cathy’s blog ~wander.essence~ for lots more travel loveliness.

90 thoughts on “The Scottish Unicorn

  1. Jackie March 31, 2019 / 12:31

    What a splendid ending to a spiky month and I learned something too!


  2. TheRamblingWombat March 29, 2019 / 10:54

    Very interesting looking forward to reacquainting myself with your writings. Back to blogging now after a bit of a break .. need to get mind into writing mode again 🙂


  3. Elaine - I used to be indecisive March 28, 2019 / 12:01

    Thank you for this celebration of the unicorn! It’s so nice to see ‘normal’ unicorns instead of the rainbow coloured ones that are prolific at the moment – toys, fabric prints, food packaging…


  4. Jessica (Diverting Journeys) March 27, 2019 / 14:17

    There is a fantastically surly unicorn in the Royal Coat of Arms in a stained glass window at the museum where I work (the lion he’s with is quite gormless looking, and the unicorn seems genuinely annoyed that he has to spend time with him). I think the straw unicorn is my favourite of the ones you posted.


  5. Ann Coleman March 26, 2019 / 20:01

    What lovely unicorns! And wouldn’t it be nice, just once, to see a real one?


  6. Kathleen Jennette March 26, 2019 / 16:11

    The more I plan the more I want to see. I’m finding I need months to visit to see all I want before I kick the bucket. Will definitely have to look you up for info and travel expertise.


  7. susan@onesmallwalk March 26, 2019 / 15:38

    Anabel – love that gargoyle-y unicorn at the University of Glasgow. 🙂 – Susan


  8. Jonno March 26, 2019 / 14:53

    Unicorns everywhere! I never had a clue about them being Scotlands national animal, fascinating stuff. Must remember that now for when we’re back up there in the summer.


  9. Andrew Petcher March 26, 2019 / 07:06

    If you guys get independence then I guess the Unicorn will have to go from the UK coat of arms we could replace it with a turkey to represent our current batch of politicians!


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