Photo credit : Blue Noun

A Thorny Subject

Hello English language learners and friends of Blue Noun Language Hub in Crieff, Scotland, where we help professionals of creative industries learn English with Scottish culture and art and design themes.

One question we get asked from our international language learners is about the Scottish thistle – and why it’s the national flower and emblem of Scotland.

As we’re all about teaching English to international creatives and experts of visual communication, so let’s take a quick look at the flower as a symbol of Scotland. 

butterfly landiing on a thistle head

Butterfly on a thistle head, image credit : Blue Noun

Learn English with Scottish Culture | Meet the Thistle


At this time of year, all across Scotland, thistles stretch up on long stems: butterflies and bumblebees briefly touching down on their swaying flower heads.


Thistles: those pinky/purple dots bright with sunlight, bobbing so familiarly before solid dark castle walls and blueish grey mountains: iconic indeed.


But there are also legends explaining that it’s the prickly nature of a thistle that elevated it into being the flower emblem of Scotland.
mountain thistles and child

Photo credit : Blue Noun

My heart’s in the Highlands, my heart is not here,
My heart’s in the Highlands, a-chasing the deer;
Chasing the wild-deer, and following the roe,
My heart’s in the Highlands, wherever I go.



My Heart’s In The Highlands, Robert Burns, 1789

Watch Your Step!

Perhaps the most famous of these date back to when large parts of Scotland were under Norwegian rule.

In 1263, King Haakon of Norway set off to conquer the rest of Scotland, but a fierce storm forced some of his longships onto the beach at Largs (Ayrshire).

Legend has it that at some point these beached Norsemen tried to surprise sleeping Scottish Clansmen, but in order to move more stealthily, the Norsemen had removed their footwear.

As they crept barefoot, one stood on a thistle and shrieked out in pain and the Clansmen were alerted.

The story is narrated nicely below. 

Those pinky/purple dots bright with sunlight, bobbing so familiarly before solid dark castle walls and blueish grey mountains. 

Ruth, 2020

Learn English with Scottish culture | blue Thistles 01

Thistles at Tomnah’a’ market garden, near Crieff – one of our Meet the Makers immersion English destinations.

Photo credit : Blue Noun

swift in flight Logie Kirk by Blue Noun English language school
swift in flight Logie Kirk by Blue Noun English language school

At Blue Noun we love chatting about all things art and celebrate having excellent, talented people all around us to do it with. We facilitate real cultural and creative exchanges happening, whether it’s in our language learning space – the Blue Noun Hub – or out and about visiting studios and workshops.

We also love showing off the beauty of Perthshire and the food and craft produce that is making it world-famous. Our whisky tastings are legendary!

Our business is also intended to be of benefit to the artist/maker economy of Perthshire. We bring our international creative guests into studios for a genuine exchange of cultures and art-making. Yes it’s an English lesson, but it is so much more!  (Plus we pay all our artists and guest speakers for their time)

Come and join us for an English language learning holiday and grab a taste of Perthshire! 

Learn English with Scottish culture | hand touching thistles

Thistles from Tomnah’a’ market garden, near Crieff

Photo credit : Blue Noun

Thanks to Historic-UK.com for the information
Live language learning!



Tips for English learners in Scotland further reading red text

We hope you’ve enjoyed Blue Noun language hub helping you learn English with Scottish culture. 

We have lots of books to wow English learners – and we cover a broad range of topics in our blogs – some a lighthearted look at Scotland, others an in-depth look at art and culture.

There’s something for every creative!  You might want to read:

Make the Most of a Trip to Scotland with 7 Unusual Midge Tips


Image credit : Robert Matejcek on GIPHY

English for Creatives | Your English Language Challenge?

Let’s practice Engish for describing art and design – and revise the present continuous.

What is happening in this GIF image?

Imagine you are describing it to someone who can’t see it. Make sure you know the vocabulary for the style and techniques being used.

As usual, if you want us to correct any sentences, just write CP (correct please at the end of your comment).



“What is happening in this GIF image?”