How Gaelic language and culture is driving tourism to the Outer Hebrides

The rich culture, traditions and language of Scottish Gaelic are at the heart of a new campaign to draw tourists to the Outer Hebrides.

The Gaelic way of life is being used to draw visitors to the Outer Hebrides to experience an authentic way of life little changed over the generations. Pictured is weaver Billy Mathieson with a bolt of Harris Tweed near his home on Lewis. PIC:  Robert Perry/TSPL.
The Gaelic way of life is being used to draw visitors to the Outer Hebrides to experience an authentic way of life little changed over the generations. Pictured is weaver Billy Mathieson with a bolt of Harris Tweed near his home on Lewis. PIC: Robert Perry/TSPL.

Eileanan na Gàidhlig, or Scotland’s Gaelic Islands, has been launched to help attract visitors who are seeking out a unique holiday experience.

The campaign is being led by Outer Hebrides Tourism and has been developed with Bòrd na Gàidhlig and ferry company CalMac.

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The campaign aims to use the language and its traditions to attract visitors from across the UK to come and experience the cultural offering of the islands.

The Outer Hebrides is the heart of Gaelic Scotland, with 50-70% of the local community speaking the language as part of their daily life on the crofts, boats, schools and shops of the islands.

Rob McKinnon, Chief Executive of Outer Hebrides Tourism, said: “Our visitors tell us they visit the Outer Hebrides because they are a bit different.

"And a big part of that difference is Gaelic – the language itself but also its rich heritage of music, story, kinship, sea-faring and rural life, once widespread across Scotland.

"Our islanders are proud custodians of this language and culture that, each year, draw people back to their homeland from across the globe and reel in curious visitors, intrigued by a different outlook on life.

“This exciting new campaign aims to harness this major draw to bring visitors from across the UK to the Outer Hebrides for an authentic cultural experience.”

Almost 70% of businesses consulted in the Highlands and Islands Enterprise report, Ar Stòras Gàidhlig, in 2014 said that Gaelic is an asset to their business.

It also stated the potential economic value of Gaelic as an asset to the Scottish economy could be between £82m and £149m.

Visit Scotland has given £25,000 to help develop the campaign.

Chris Taylor, VisitScotland Regional Leadership Director, said: “Gaelic is woven into the very fabric of life in the Outer Hebrides, playing a key role in the culture and traditions of the islands and those who live here.

"It’s fantastic to see a campaign recognise this as a unique selling point to showcase the authentic visitor experience available here. I’m delighted we could support this through our Growth Fund.

“At VisitScotland we want to champion collaboration, spearhead digital innovation, promote local areas and events and ensure that tourism is recognised for the positive impact it brings to Scotland.”

A digital guide will be created for visitors to learn more about Gaelic music, Harris Tweed, the medieval Kingdom of the Isles, and crofting.

Places will also be highlighted where visitors can experience Gaelic traditions and the language.

Daibhidh Boag, Director of Language Planning and Community Developments, said: "We believe that tourism can help grow the use of Gaelic and that Gaelic can help grow the tourist industry in the Outer Hebrides and across Scotland.”