The Gaelic Language

The Gaelic Language:

Gaelic has strong connections with many other languages of the North and Western edges of Europe. There is Irish Gaelic (pronounced "gaylick" - whereas Scots Gaelic is more of a "gallic" sound) - the two are closely linked, and anybody who speaks one of them will be able to converse and read in the other, albeit with some differences in words and speech.  The Isle of Man also has Manx Gaelic spoken, and many words there would be familiar to speakers of the Irish and Scots varieties.

The link with the land:

Gaelic is to be found everyday in Wester Ross, amongst the names and places on the map. If you are a regular walker or visitor to the area, you possibly know a few words of Gaelic yourself without realising this! For a fascinating and readable insight to how this language has helped shape the Wester Ross that we know today, have a look at a recently published book by Scottish Natural Heritage:

Gaelic in the Landscape - Place names in the North West Highlands

A’ Ghàidhlig air Aghaidh na Tìre - Ainmean-àite ann an Iar-thuath na Gàidhealtachd

Link to "Gaelic in the Landscape" -  Direct to The Book

Link to Scottish Natural Heritage -

Gaelic Place names throughout the Highlands:

 A recent project to develop a definitive list of all these has resulted in this fascinating website:   Have a look, and finally work out the meaning of all the road signs you have been looking at in puzzlement as you drive through our country!


The recent history of Gaelic as a language:
Before reading on, listen to this piece. This will give you a flavour of some of the troubles the Gaels have experienced over the years:

"Orain Badantarbairt" by Neil MacLeod, spoken in Gaelic by Roddie Macleod from Kevin Macleod on Vimeo.

Up until a few hundred years ago, the language in the home and in the community would have been Gaelic. However, Gaelic suffered heavily as Highlanders and their traditions were persecuted after the Battle of Culloden in 1746 , and began a gradual decline between then and the 20th century. In the last hundred years or so, use of Gaelic has declined significantly, and now there are very few fluent Gaelic speakers.Education, the Church and parents played a significant part in the original decline of the language. When children whose first language was Gaelic started school, (which became compulsory from the 1870s, though many in this area delayed starting until they were seven years old), they were discouraged from speaking Gaelic. Many parents mistakenly thought that Gaelic was a hindrance to their children and did not encourage them to speak it.
When it became apparent that more people began to attend the English services, the church also turned its back on Gaelic to a large extent. Even so, there are still a few churches in the area ( the Gairloch Free Church, for example) which struggle to keep a fortnightly Gaelic service, when they can get someone to preach it, and very few people attend.

The Present Day:
Gaelic has enjoyed a revival in recent times in many places and we hope it will
continue to do so in the future. For example, you may also have noticed a large number of road signs in Gaelic during your drive over to Wester Ross. In the main these have only been installed over the last few years in a drive to increase the exposure of Gaelic in daily life. There is an annual Gaelic Mod in Poolewe Hall which attracts performers and visitors to its high quality competitions and presentations. Unfortunately, it is a fact that incomers to the area often show more interest in the language than people born and brought up in it. In an attempt to counter this, the Education Service has tried to reverse the process by setting up classes in recent years to be taught through the medium of Gaelic.  As a result, there are increasing numbers of children who are growing up in todays's Wester Ross with far greater exposure to Gaelic use than their predecessors.

Particularly with the recent release of a new television channel - BBC Alba - the future for Gaelic has rarely looked better, with a distinct air of optimism for the future.

A wee bit of music for you here - this is the hugely successful "Capercaillie", with lead singer Karen Matheson:

Alasdair Mhic Cholla Ghasda - Capercaillie from Greg on Vimeo.

What's the Gaelic name for an Eagle? A Gorse bush? Or even a fly ? Have a look at the Scottish Natural Heritage database of English - Gaelic names for the Natural World HERE!

Are you interested in hearing Gaelic being spoken here? Tune into the smallest public broadcasting station in the Uk - Gairloch's own:

Two Lochs Radio

Regular Gaelic programmes each week



Posted on Monday, January 6th 2020

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PLANS for a new £2.3 million Wester Ross visitor centre at a major natural visitor attraction have been revealed. Conservation charity the National Trust for Scotland says its plans for a world-class visitor fac Full Story...

Posted on Thursday, December 5th 2019

Major Award for West Coast Trail

PRESTIGIOUS AWARD NOMINATION FOR HEBRIDEAN WHALE TRAIL    Conservation charity the Hebridean Whale and Dolphin Trust is celebrating after its newly launched Hebridean Whale Trail was a finalist in a major Full Story...

A simply beautiful part of the world. I stayed near Gairloch with my family recently, and we'll certainly be back.
Jeff Gilberston, Florida

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