Gaelic

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  • A Gaelic road sign pointing to Ard Mhidhinis or Ardveenish
    Bilingual road sign
  • A Gaelic and English sign for a grocer, arts and crafts shop in Tobermory, Isle of Mull
    A Gaelic and English shop sign in Tobermory, Isle of Mull
  • A Gaelic and English street sign in Stornoway, Isle of Lewis
    A Gaelic and English street sign in Stornoway, Isle of Lewis
  • Gaelic text painted on the side of a craft shop in Isle Ornsay, Skye
    Gaelic text painted on the side of a craft shop in Isle Ornsay, Skye

Boasting one of the richest singing traditions in Europe, Scottish Gaelic is still present in Scottish society and culture today.

Gaelic is the Celtic language still spoken in some parts of Scotland to this day. Once the main language across the country, Gaelic is now only spoken by around one percent of the population, particularly in communities in the Outer Hebrides. However, Gaelic has left its mark across the whole of Scotland and its influence can be seen in Scottish place names, the names of mountains, on official buildings and on bilingual road signs on the west coast and islands.

Gaelic has declined slowly over the centuries and there were several historical events which had an impact on the language. These included the Act of Union with England in 1707, after which English became the official language in Scotland, and the Highland Clearances in the 19th century which saw the number of Gaelic-speaking communities fall.

Thanks to a recent grassroots renaissance, the language has seen a small increase in speakers and learners, with a rise in the number of Gaelic medium schools and courses on offer. An act passed by the Scottish Parliament in 2005 saw Gaelic recognised as an official language in Scotland, which led to the creation of the Gaelic development body Bòrd na Gàidhlig.

From waulking songs, puirt à beul (mouth music), canntaireachd, immigration songs and rowing songs, Gaelic boasts one of the richest singing traditions in Europe. Talented Gaelic singers such as Julie Fowlis and Kathleen MacInnes, to name just two, have inspired great interest in the singing traditions of the language to audiences throughout Scotland and the rest of the world.

You can also switch on BBC Alba on your TV or BBC Radio Nan Gaidheal to hear Gaelic spoken or check out the Royal National Mod and Fèisean, annual competitive festivals celebrating Gaelic music and culture.

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