THE principal of the national centre for Gaelic has been named ambassador of the year for the language and culture as the Royal National Mod held its opening night.

Professor Boyd Robertson, who heads up Sabhal M?r Ostaig, was given the accolade for his contribution to Gaelic education.

It came as thousands of competitors descended on Oban to take part in the Royal National Mod as it returned to its spiritual home in the Argyll town for the first time in six years.

The event was launched with a torchlight procession through the town before an opening concert with performances by Donald Shaw and Karen Matheson.

Mr Robertson, who is a former principal teacher of Gaelic at Oban High School, said: “I am honoured and humbled to be given this accolade by the Scottish Government and regard it not just as a personal award but as recognition of the work of Sabhal Mòr Ostaig, the innovative and iconic institution I am privileged to lead.

"It is a particular pleasure to receive the award in Oban where I spent the first 10 years of my career in education."

John Morrison, chief executive of An Comunn Gàidhealach which organises the Mod, said: “Professor Boyd Robertson is certainly a worthy recipient of the Gaelic Ambassador of the Year award.

"He has championed the Gaelic language through education for many years and continues to be a fantastic role model for the younger generation of people looking to learn Gaelic.

"Boyd continues to strive to make Gaelic an appealing and, more importantly, accessible language for those who are interested in learning it."

A total of 200 competitions in Highland dancing, Gaelic music and song are expected to be held over the next few days, with Gaelic speakers of all levels encouraged to take part.

The annual celebration also includes the Shinty Mod Cup, author events, children's discos and a ceilidh.

Paul Bush director of events at VisitScotland, said: “The Royal National Mòd is an important celebration of the Gaelic language and its heritage and we are once again delighted to support the event.

"Song, dance, sport and literature will once again take centre stage as the varied schedule of events gets underway and, as always, we expect a strong gathering of both Gaelic and non-Gaelic speakers in Oban for this year’s festivities.”