IT was once a language which had been pushed to the margins, spoken only in isolated communities and far-flung outposts.

But now Gaelic is undergoing something of a renaissance in Scotland with a fresh interest apparent in the country's songs, signposts and schools.

Gaelic medium education - where pupils are taught most or all of their lessons in Gaelic as well as studying English - has become increasingly popular in Scotland with more than 3,500 children taught this way in 2014.

And now a new front is to be opened in response to the public's appreciation of the language with visitors to the country's historic able to delve into its past and its links to the community.


Gaelic signs have been in use for many years

Heritage body Historic Environment Scotland (HES) is seeking Gaelic-speaking volunteers, or those with an interest in the language, to take part in new programmes developing bespoke tours for tourists.

The guides would explore links between the sites and Gaelic culture and history, running alongside the more traditional information available, and would be available on request.

Dunstaffnage Castle near Oban and Arnol Blackhouse on the Isle of Lewis have been picked as the sites where the project will be piloted, while there will also be a new initiative at Urquhart Castle, near Inverness, which aims to engage visitors with Gaelic language and culture.

The developments are part of HES Gaelic Language Plan 2018-2023, which aims to stress the language and culture importance to Scotland’s historic environment.

Alex Paterson, Chief Executive of Historic Environment Scotland, said: “Gaelic is a distinct and unique part of Scotland’s history and culture which attracts visitors from all over the world, contributing significantly to Scotland’s economy.

"Currently, there is Gaelic interpretation at 29 of our sites throughout the country, from Glasgow to Aberdeenshire and the Isle of Lewis, which shows the extent of Gaelic’s influence on Scotland’s heritage and its relevance to our historic environment."

He added: “Due to an increase in volunteers, we are currently developing and expanding our wider volunteer programme.

"These new opportunities at Dunstaffnage Castle and Arnol Blackhouse will help us continue to support volunteers across the country and empower communities and partners to engage with projects that promote the value of Gaelic culture to Scotland’s past and present.”


A new Gaelic language dictionary has been launched

The Language Plan, the first five-year roadmap developed by HES, was drawn up after a after discussions with  partner organisations, Bòrd na Gàidhlig and the public.  More than 200 people shared their views during a three-month consultation.

It comes as the Scottish Government announced it will fund a new landmark Gaelic dictionary, to safeguard the future of the language.

The £2.5 million project will document the language and its history by tracing the development of every Gaelic word from its earliest written form to the present day.

Dr Coinneach Maclean, Historic Environment Scotland Board Member, said: “Gaelic language and culture has shaped Scotland’s history and is an important aspect of our nation’s heritage.

"Our Gaelic Language Plan demonstrates our commitment to maintaining and promoting Gaelic language and culture, and encourages future generations to explore Scotland’s Gaelic heritage and history.

“We hope to build on the success of Historic Scotland’s Gaelic Plan 2012 – 2017 where 4,000 school pupils and teachers benefited from our Gaelic learning programme and 45 Gaelic publications were published in Scotland.”


The Arnol Blackhouse is a traditional Lewis thatched house, fully furnished and complete with an attached barn, byre and stackyard.

Cabinet Secretary for Culture, Tourism and External Affairs Fiona Hyslop, said: “Gaelic is a fundamental part of Scotland’s cultural identity and history. This development for Gaelic speakers is another excellent example of Scotland’s public bodies and authorities being creative in supporting our rich Gaelic heritage, while meeting and delivering the key aims of the National Gaelic Language Plan.

“The Scottish Government welcomes the contribution HES is making to the promotion and use of Gaelic through its volunteer programme. The programme provides an excellent opportunity to add depth and knowledge to Scotland’s visitor experience, allowing locals and tourists alike to find out more about our precious Gaelic heritage.

“Excellent progress has been made over the years with the learning of Gaelic and it is encouraging to see initiatives such as this one, where people of all ages can use and further develop their Gaelic skills in different contexts.

"The Scottish Government is committed to further creating and preserving a secure future for Gaelic in Scotland.”