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Top 45 Runrig Songs of All Time

Updated on November 14, 2017
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Poppy Reid is a proofreader for Japan Info and a video game enthusiast. She lives in Tokyo and has two hamsters named Zelda and Hemingway.

Runrig is a Scottish folk and rock band with huge nostalgic value for me and many others. During our trips as a child to the Isle of Skye, driving at night to avoid traffic, I would wake up halfway, the windows open a crack to let in fresh air, my mother and her best friend and cousin, who we called Clarky, chattering in Gaelic with Runrig playing low on the tape cassette player.

Original Runrig Band Members

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Wonderful Memories

Runrig had already been around for twenty years by the time I was born, but they still performed all around Scotland. My mother and Clarky are die-hard fans. They've been to many of their live shows and even knitted original jumpers featuring the band's albums. They sometimes took my brother and I to the concerts, too, and I have many great memories of seeing the band members perform, huddling up in the corner to sleep, and a drunk Scottish man giving us money because he thought we were cute.

Now, when I listen to Runrig songs, I remember hiking on the Isle of Skye, riding a ferry over to North Uist, throwing pebbles into the sea from the beach, and drinking hot coffee from flasks after a long walk. The band is very special to me, and although I'm sure the members would have liked to become international superstars, the fact that relatively few people know about them make them all the more personal and special.

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Runrig in 2016

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News of Retirement

I was greatly saddened to hear that Runrig will be performing their farewell concert in Stirling in August, 2018. Forty five years is a phenomenally long time to be together,though, and they've cheerfully reported that they're going to end on a high. To commemorate almost half a century of fantastic music and beautiful memories, here is a list of their top 45 songs performed since 1973.

45. "City of Lights"

Album: Searchlight
Release date: 1989
Sung by: Donnie Munro

The 45th song on this list is "City of Lights," a song about the exciting life of the city. I love the harmony between Donnie and Rory's voices in the chorus.

44. "One Thing"

Album: The Stamping Ground
Release date: 2001
Sung by: Bruce Guthro

This song is about a couple who are arguing and trying to figure out their problems. The slow and soothing pace, plus the gorgeous instrumental, makes it one of my favourite romance songs.

43. "An Cuibble Mor (The Big Wheel)"

Album: The Big Wheel
Release date: 1991
Sung by: Donnie Munro/Rory MacDonald

The first song sung in Scots Gaelic on this list is "An Cuibble Mor (The Big Wheel)" from the album of the same name. The quite forboding tune describes traveling and wheels in motion, perhaps inspired by driving through Scotland, and how, like a wheel, life is always moving and pulling us forward.

42. "Only the Brave"

Album: Searchlight
Release date: 1989
Sung by: Donnie Munro

Another song from the Searchlight album is "Only the Brave," a heartwarming song about falling in love in a town. I'm not sure which town they're singing about, but it's possible it's Portree, the largest town on the Isle of Skye, where Donnie Munro is from.

41. "Healer in Your Heart"

Album: The Big Wheel
Release date: 1991
Sung by: Donnie Munro

"Healer in Your Heart" is an uplifting song about inner strength. It's a memorable tune that reminds us we can pick ourselves up no matter what, as our own healer is "only a moment away."

40. "Move a Mountain"

Album: Amazing Things
Release date: 1993
Sung by: Donnie Munro

I'll admit, at first I thought this was also a song about picking yourself up and trying hard, but another look at the lyrics tells me I was wrong. This song, I think, is about how humans have taken over the land for themselves, owning and ruling over everything, digging up uranium and other raw materials to make themselves wealthy.

Upon learning the meaning behind the song, it actually made me like it even more, although the tone is different to what I thought.

39. "Oran"

Album: The Stamping Ground
Release date: 2001
Sung by: Rory MacDonald

"Oran" is sung in Gaelic by Rory MacDonald. Although I'm not completely sure, the song may be a prayer or song of praise to the beautiful nature around them. I have a lot of good memories associated with this song, which has a happy feel to it.

38. "Forever Eyes of Blue"

Album: Amazing Things
Release date: 1993
Sung by: Rory MacDonald

I just love "Forever Eyes of Blue." It's a beautiful song about generations, watching his children grow up and get married, and the loving life of having a happy family.

37. "Life Is Hard"

Album: In Search of Angels
Release date: 1999
Sung by: Bruce Guthro

This is a really sad song sung for people who are having a difficult time, whether something terrible has recently happened or they're suffering from depression.

I always listen to this song when I'm having a bad time, have a good cry, and feel a little better. Only listen to this if you're already feeling sad, because it can be a bit depressing.

36. "This Time of Year"

Album: n/a (single)
Release date: 1999
Sung by: Donnie Munro

I adore the intro to this song. "This Time of Year" is likely about a friend who passed away, and how he thinks of that friend during a certain time of year, possibly winter, and when he returns home. It's a really sweet song.

35. "Empty Glens"

Album: Proterra
Release date: 2003
Sung by: Bruce Guthro/Rory MacDonald

I love the energy of this song. I think it's about remembering where you come from even when the pleasures and wealth of the world. In particular, "glens" probably refers to Scotland and how they wish to preserve the clean purity of their country.

34. "The Greatest Flame"

Album: Amazing Things
Release date: 1993
Sung by: Donnie Munro

The favourite Runrig song of many, "The Greatest Flame" is a charming love song about believing in and loving each other no matter what anyone else thinks. There is a Bruce Guthro version as well, but the original version below is much more beautiful, in my opinion.

33. "Abhainn an T-sluaigh (The Crowded River)"

Album: The Big Wheel
Release date: 1991
Sung by: Rory MacDonald

This is another song with some great memories. It reminds me of hiking and cuddling up under blankets in guesthouses on the Isle of Skye. The meaning of the song actually has nothing to do with this. It's about London, how people worship wealth while others are homeless, and the metaphorical "cold" of the city.

As a kid, I always associated this song with hiking in the cold and was a little disappointed to learn that wasn't the case. I still love this song, though.

32. "Hearthammer"

Album: The Big Wheel
Release date: 1991
Sung by: Rory MacDonald/Donnie Munro

To me, the introduction sounds a little like a train whistle, suggesting the swift passing of time. My analysis of this song is growing older and getting new experiences, from being a child and looking at the stars to seeing on the news that a man had walked on the moon.

Despite getting older, their hearts still "hammer" at the exciting things they see and experience. It's a nice sentiment, if I'm correct that that's what this song means.

31. "Faileas Air An Airigh"

Album: Proterra
Release date: 2003
Sung by: Rory MacDonald

This gentle song is about travelling and missing those you've left at home. I feel this song is quite personal to Rory, as he mentions his home island, Uist.

30. "Book of Golden Stories"

Album: The Stamping Ground
Release date: 2001
Sung by: Bruce Guthro

This is a great song about sharing and remembering wonderful memories. The "autumn leaves" may refer to getting older. This song is always quite popular at Runrig's live shows for its nostalgic feel.

29. "Dream Fields"

Album: Amazing Things
Release date: 1993
Sung by: Donnie Munro

This song always reminds me of my mother. I wasn't the best teenager in the world, but she's always loved and supported me all the same. I think this song is about love and forgiveness.

28. "The Old Boys"

Album: Proterra
Release date: 2003
Sung by: Bruce Guthro

This song was dedicated to the memory of Colonel Jock MacDonald who died in 1980, and also seems to be about honouring fallen soldiers in war. I really like the instrumental in this song and the recordings of spoken Gaelic add some mystery and a bit of magic.

27. "This Beautiful Pain"

Album: The Big Wheel
Release date: 1991
Sung by: Rory MacDonald

I adore this gentle and loving song that Rory sang for (I think) his daughter or his wife. He truly has a gift for lyrics and although the tune is gentle, there is a lot of power I feel behind it.

26. "Clash of the Ash"

Album: Everything You See/Year of the Flood
Release date: 2007/2008
Sung by: Bruce Guthro/Rory MacDonald

The pace of this song is completely different from the previous one! This happy and cheerful tune is about a sports team making their way to play shinty. There are references to Scottish history as well as praise for the amateurs. It's a really cool and positive song.

25. "The Stamping Ground"

Album: The Stamping Ground
Release date: 2001
Sung by: Bruce Guthro/Rory MacDonald

This is one of the first songs I heard with Bruce Guthro, and we were all happy that Runrig still retained their original sound even though they had a new singer. The Stamping Ground is about Scotland, I think, and its beauty as well as its history. To me, it's them welcoming Bruce, who is Canadian, into their "clan" of sorts.

24. "Siol Ghoraidh"

Album: Searchlight
Release date: 1989
Sung by: Donnie Munro/Rory MacDonald

I have a lot of great memories with this song, too. It's about local legends, generations, the singers' own family, and the generations after them.

23. "Dance Called America"

Album: Heartland
Release date: 1985
Sung by: Donnie Munro

I have a bizarre memory of being about four or five years old and optimistically saying to my mother, "this is a happy song!" and her saying "ahh... no it isn't." This song, although with a fantastically cheerful tune, is about the trickery, colonization, and enslavement. It's one of Runrig's most loved. I've posted the live version below as it's better than the album version.

22. "Chi Ml'n Geamhradh (I See Winter)"

Album: Play Gaelic
Release date: 1978
Sung by: Donnie Munro

"Chi Ml'n Geamhradh" is one of their first ever songs, and it's one of my favourites. As the title suggests, it's about the coming of winter, both literal and metaphorical. The colder season is coming, as is heartbreak when a loved one leaves for the city. Just listening to it makes me want to cuddle up in a blanket.

21. "Year of the Flood"

Album: Everything You See/Year of the Flood
Release date: 2007/2008
Sung by: Bruce Guthro

This is much more new-age sounding yet still retains Runrig's beloved sound. "Year of the Flood" is an upbeat song with lots of references to nature and is also, I think, about a positive person they know or has recently passed away. I might be wrong in my analysis, but enjoy the song anyway!

20. "In Search of Angels"

Album: In Search of Angels
Release date: 1999
Sung by: Rory MacDonald

Rory always seems to sing about the important people in his life, which is endearing. I think this song is to someone close to him who he considers to be innocent and pure. He's effectively calming her with this song and reassures her to not worry. I often listen to this when I'm down or stressed out. It's really a beautiful song.

19. "Big Sky"

Album: 30 Year Journey: The Best
Release date: 1999
Sung by: Bruce Guthro/Rory MacDonald

The song opens with Calum MacDonald speaking Gaelic and the awesome tune is about Uist, Calum and Rory's home island. There might also be references to life and death. I've got nice memories of my mum and Clarky driving us through Skye and Uist while this played.

18. "Flower of the West"

Album: The Big Wheel
Release date: 1991
Sung by: Donnie Munro

This song is just fantastic. It's got an epic transition into the chorus and it's one you'll want to listen to over and over again. It's about Scotland, God's great creations, and is sort of a song of praise for their homeland. Truly gorgeous!

17. "Edge of the World"

Album: The Big Wheel
Release date: 1991
Sung by: Donnie Munro

Another one from The Big Wheel album is "Edge of the World." I get a lot of meanings from this song. It might be about how technology and development rush humanity along in a hurry, leaving only their homeland at the "edge" of the world. The last few lines say that "a man from St. Kilda went over a cliff on a winter's day" suggesting either an accident or maybe suicide.

16. "Rocket to the Moon"

Album: The Cutter and the Clan
Release date: 1987
Sung by: Rory MacDonald

This energetic song with some lovely vocal harmony in the chorus is also about the development of technology taking over our beautiful and innocent homelands. They cleverly mixed a positive and negative attitude towards this, perhaps communicating that development comes with both good and bad results.

Again, I feel inclined to post the live version as it's really exciting and with, as always, perfect vocal work.

15. "Maymorning"

Album: In Search of Angels
Release date: 1999
Sung by: Bruce Guthro

I really love the positivity of this song. It's about spring and the coming of a new hope, "wiping the slate clean", and following your dreams. I always find this song refreshing and uplifting.

14. "Alba (Scotland)"

Album: The Cutter and the Clan
Release date: 1987
Sung by: Donnie Munro/Rory MacDonald

"Alba (Scotland)" is just a great song about how wonderful their (and my) homeland is. They sing about empty acres, moorland lochs, and even Edinburgh Castle. It's a tune that makes all Scots proud and all non-Scots envious!

13. "Headlights"

Album: The Big Wheel
Release date: 1991
Sung by: Donnie Munro

What a gorgeous opening to the album. "Headlights" reminds me of being in the car while we drove among glens and mountains up to the Isle of Skye. It's the perfect song to listen to while you're driving around the island for the first time.

12. "Lighthouse"

Album: Mara
Release date: 1995
Sung by: Donnie Munro/Rory MacDonald

This song is about a sailor on unfamiliar waters who is using the trusty lighthouse to navigate his way. It's a really sweet song and we always used to sing it when we saw lighthouses in Scotland.

11. "Hearts of Olden Glory"

Album: The Cutter and the Clan
Release date: 1987
Sung by: Donnie Munro

This is one of Runrig's most loved songs, and although many people prefer the original, Bruce Guthro also sang his own version. It's a song about growing old and wondering if there's anywhere as wonderful as Scotland to go after you die. That's how I interpret it, anyway! The original song is below.

10. "Loch Lomond"

Album: The Highland Connection
Release date: 1979
Sung by: Donnie Munro

This is probably Runrig's most well-known song and the one they often used to play as the last song of their concerts.

9. "Rhythm of My Heart"

Album: n/a (single)
Release date: 1996
Sung by: Donnie Munro

This song first appeared on René Shuman's debut album of the same name, and then later performed by Rod Stewart in 1991. Runrig maintained their sound while covering this great tune and it remains one of my favourites to this day.

8. "Every River"

Album: Searchlight
Release date: 1989
Sung by: Donnie Munro

"Every River" is about falling in love and the innocence of youth. As always, Runrig managed to reference nature, such as rivers, hills, and valleys, in this song. It's a lovely romantic tune which Bruce Guthro also covered.

7. "Pride of the Summer"

Album: The Cutter and the Clan
Release date: 1987
Sung by: Donnie Munro/Rory MacDonald

This song is about being young and fearless, going on exciting adventures and enjoying summer love. It's a happy song that holds a lot of great memories for many people.

6. "Cnoc Na Feille"

Album: Heartland
Release date: 1985
Sung by: Rory MacDonald/Donnie Munro

This song is about the supernatural landscape, where the band members described a mysterious light (that only those with a "second sight" could see) appeared on the moorlands that no one could ever explain even after searching for the source.

I really love this exciting tune and it makes you ponder the mysteries of life. It's also in Gaelic, which to me makes it even more exciting, and it's also got one of the best guitar solos.

5. "Running to the Light"

Album: The Stamping Ground
Release date: 2001
Sung by: Rory MacDonald

This gorgeous song is said to be about dying and going on to heaven, but I like to think it is also a celebration of nature, and exploring and going on adventures in nature. Below is the live version, which I feel is more exciting than the album version.

4. "Going Home"

Album: The Highland Connection
Release date: 1979
Sung by: Donnie Munro

Since I live on a different continent than my family and my home country, Going Home always chokes me up and makes me a little homesick. It's a truly gorgeous song about heading home and never forgetting where you came from.

3. "The Mighty Atlantic"

Album: Mara
Release date: 1995
Sung by: Donnie Munro

I've never been able to find a song that so perfectly describes the excitement of riding a ferry. Every time I listen to "The Mighty Atlantic," I'm a kid again, hanging onto the cold railing of the ferry, watching the waves and letting the wind blow our hair about as we sailed from Skye to North Uist.

The song was so cleverly written, as it sounds like the mighty ocean and the thump of waves against the bow. Truly one of Runrig's masterpieces.

2. "The Only Rose"

Album: The Cutter and the Clan
Release date: 1987
Sung by: Donnie Munro

This song has a dark beauty that I just adore. "The Only Rose" is a love song about missing his lover while he drinks in a bar in a dirty city. There's a newer version sung by Bruce Guthro, and although it's nice, the original is the best, in my opinion.

1. "Skye"

Album: Heartland
Release date: 1985
Sung by: Donnie Munro

At number one is "Skye," a fantastic masterpiece about Donnie's homeland, the wonderful Isle of Skye and also one of my favourite places in the world! It's impossible not to smile while you listen to this, and join the crowd's excitement and that great drum solo.

45 is really not enough to cover all of Runrig's best songs! Honourable mentions include "The Wall of China," "This is Not a Love Song," "Transmitting," "Here We Stand," "From the North," "Our Earth Was Once Green", "Proterra", and many more.

Fans are sad to see Runrig go, but we're so happy they left us timeless music to enjoy long after they retire. Are you going to their farewell concert in Stirling next August? Which song do you think should be number one?

© 2017 Poppy

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    • poppyr profile image
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      Poppy 6 days ago from Tokyo, Japan

      Thank you! A lot of these types of articles have been cropping up since the news that Runrig are retiring. They've had quite a few members but Rory and Calum have stayed loyal for the whole 45 years. I feel that including personal memories added a personal touch. Thank you so much for commenting even though you haven't heard of the band, it's very kind of you. Have a lovely day.

    • FlourishAnyway profile image

      FlourishAnyway 6 days ago from USA

      I may be the first to comment but I see others have taken a look as well. I enjoyed your personal knowledge and the memories that you interwove into this article. Well done! It’s such a challenge for anyone to stay together that long, whether you’re talking about a couple or a creative collaboration.