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A  coat of arms high up on a wall

A unicorn featured in a coat of arms, on a wall at the Palace of Holyroodhouse ©

The unicorn is the national animal of Scotland

Legend has it that only a king could overpower and command a unicorn. If you look closely at royal coats of arms, you will see that the unicorn wears chains around its body and a crown around its neck, which means it has been brought under the command of the monarch.

The unicorn became an extremely popular symbol of Scottish royalty, and is still used today. Since 1603, the royal coat of arms has featured the unicorn of Scotland on one side and the lion of England on the other. If you visit the Palace of Holyroodhouse in Edinburgh, you will see it on gate posts, carved into walls, on plaster ceilings and more.

On the site of a long-lost gate lodge, built for James IV of Scots in the early sixteenth century, there is a rare survival – a large, carved and painted, stone unicorn. You can create your own version of this unicorn by completing the join-the-dots activity sheet below.


Join-the-dots unicorn