HAVING made his mark on Skye's artisan craft and culinary scenes, entrepreneur James Robertson is turning a hand to a new project celebrating the island's Gaelic heritage through music.

The founder of Isle of Skye Candle Company is the driving force behind the inaugural Beo Festival in Sleat next month. The two-day event, which will take place in the grounds of Armadale Castle, is the first Gaelic music festival of its kind to be held on Skye.

Headliners include Trail West and The Vatersay Boys, alongside trad and ceilidh acts such as Daimh, Gunna Sound, Urban Teuchtars and Ruairidh Maclean.

James, 31, and his brother John, 35, came up with the idea after noticing how their favourite performers often felt the need to translate Gaelic into English at other festivals. They decided that it would be fun to have a large-scale music event where Gaelic came to the fore.

Their goal is to promote Gaelic and show it "isn't a museum language," says James. Beo, which means "alive", felt like a fitting moniker.

Their father Professor Boyd Robertson, now retired from teaching, was a lecturer at Jordanhill College of Education and then Strathclyde University in Glasgow. Gaelic was Boyd's first language growing up on North Uist. Their mother Sheila, who hails from Skye, is also fluent.

James recalls speaking Gaelic at home in Glasgow as a youngster and says it is a big regret that he shied away from it in his teens.

"We went to Gaelic primary school but because the Gaelic secondary school was too far away, we went to Jordanhill School," he says. "When I used to speak Gaelic to my parents in the house, if our friends were over, I would be embarrassed because none of my friends had Gaelic.

"It is not until you are older, you realise what a shame that is. We lost a lot of our fluency. When you don't speak it every day you lose it pretty quickly."

After he left school, James moved to Skye where he lived on his uncle's croft in Braes near Portree. It was there he began making candles in 2006.

His business empire has since grown to include a successful online operation and five shops across Scotland. Most recently, he opened a deli and restaurant in Broadford and Armadale respectively.

Life on the island always appealed. "As soon as I could, I moved here because I didn't like the city," he says. "Up here you have so much freedom. It is amazing finishing work and climbing a hill or going out on a boat."

The rest of the Robertson clan have all felt the pull of Skye. James's parents moved to Sleat when his father was appointed principal of Sabhal Mor Ostaig, the National Centre for Gaelic Language and Culture, in 2009.

Earlier this year, his brother Raghnall, 33, moved up and works alongside James. John remains in the central belt due to work commitments but is a frequent visitor to Skye, not least with the Beo Festival preparations cranking up.

James says he would love to emulate the success of Tiree Music Festival, founded by Daniel Gillespie of the band Skerryvore and businessman Stewart MacLennan, which has grown from similarly modest but ambitious beginnings in 2010 to mark its 10th outing this summer.

"That is amazing," says James. "I was there last year and had a great time. With Beo Festival we want to go even more Gaidhealach [Highland].

"People have so much choice about which festivals they can go to. There is one almost every weekend in Scotland. The fact ours is at the start of the summer, usually when Skye has its best weather in May, is hopefully something that will appeal to people."

When putting together the Beo Festival line-up, James says they drew up a wish list of their favourite bands. Geographically most of the acts hail from the Hebridean islands and Scotland's west coast.

They include Tiree band Dun Mor; the Uist six-piece Beinn Lee; and Ho-Ro, an ensemble with members from Inverness, Ballachulish and Skye among others. "It is honestly the dream line-up," says James. "We have got all the bands we wanted and are really happy with that.

"There are other big traditional bands we could have asked but didn't feel they would be quite the right fit for us. Also, everyone we have on the line-up has at least a couple of members who are fluent Gaelic speakers."

Beo Festival, sponsored by CalMac and The Gaelic Whiskies, has a 1,500 capacity. There is camping on the back lawn of Armadale Castle, as well as hotels, B&Bs and self-catering cottages, available nearby. Buses will serve the site, running daily from Portree, Dornie, Kyle of Lochalsh and Broadford.

Skye has made headlines in recent years due to a growing influx of tourism, but James says this isn't the market that Beo Festival is targeting.

"The people we expect to be coming along to our festival aren't tourists as such – it is other islanders," he says. "Hopefully, it will be a gathering of people from across the islands. It is not aimed at the tourist market.

"The good thing about May is that the accommodation prices are cheaper so people from other islands will be able to come and stay on Skye. It can get expensive later in the summer."

James hopes that the Beo Festival will become an annual occurrence. "All being well, we plan to continue doing this," he says. "It would be the goal to keep it small-scale and fun. We have never done anything like this before so it will be interesting to see how it goes."

Beo Festival takes place at Armadale Castle on Skye from May 17-18. Visit beofest.co.uk