The bagpipe was, in early Europe, the most popular musical instrument, as we can see from several Dutch paintings from various centuries. However, by the 16th century, it survived only in the far eastern and western edges of the continent.

The bagpipes were popular throughout Scotland, at the time one of very few links between the Highlands and the Lowlands. Most towns and villages had in them a piper, who would play at weddings, funerals, dances etc. On his death-bed, Rob Roy MacGregor is said to have listened to a lament called I Will Return No More.

The MacCrimmons, of Skye, were among the most famous of the piping families, with people coming from all across Scotland to learn from them.

In the 18th century, bagpipe music began to be published, kindling a new interest from among the middle and upper classes.

After the 1745 Jacobite up-rising, the bagpipes were banned by the English, in an attempt to remove Gaelic influences in Scotland, as were kilts and the carrying of weapons by Scots.

Bagpipes made a come-back in the form of military music, with the forming of Scottish regiments, and the pipes and drums are now commonly associated with the army. During the Indian Mutiny, bagpipes were played to herald relief of Lucknow to the besieged British citizens. In the First World War, each new battalion raised in Scotland had its own pipe-band.

The Scottish Pipe Band Association, formed in 1930, currently promotes and regulates standards.