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Scots Gaelic week-long courses on the Isle of Skye

Greetings, fellow travellers. I'm an American who has been living in Scotland for 5 years and I wanted to share with you my absolute favorite experience to date.

A week-long Scots Gaelic language course at Sabhal Mòr Ostaig (the Gaelic college) on the Isle of Skye is the best back-door experience I've ever had in Scotland. It's like summer camp for grown-ups who love Scottish culture, but manages to be authentic and not at all touristy despite attracting people from all over the world.

Everyone is welcome and class levels are offered from the complete novice to the fluent speaker. These classes are dialogue-based and there are no textbooks so you don't have to be an academic to learn. In one week on the beginner course I learned to make conversation in Gaelic, which opens cultural doors to a side of Skye and the Highlands and islands that the tourists rarely get to see. I spent a fantastic evening in a converted barn surrounded by 100 Scots singing folk songs in their native language. Each day my walk to class came complete with sea views over the magnificent Sound of Sleat, looking towards the mountains on the mainland.

Accommodation (single or twin rooms), meals and a class taught by a native speaker all cost less than a week at a hotel and the course comes with nightly entertainment, including traditional music concerts and ceileidhs, group outings like boat trips and small tours to Skye attractions like whiskey tasting and visiting the Clan Donald Centre and castle. The SMO Short Course team has advice on public transportation for those of us without cars (I did just fine without one) as well as helping with all the other practicalities. Language and music courses run during spring break and summer.

I cannot recommend these courses enough. Sabhal Mòr Ostaig is a magical place and true cultural back door. 'S math sin! (That’s Gaelic for fantastic). Information is available at SMO's website:

I would be happy to chat with anyone who wants more information from a short-course alum.

Happy travels!

-Kimberly Truitt-Turner
From Austin, Texas - residing in Aberdeenshire, Scotland

Posted by
5677 posts

I spent a week on Skye on a photo workshop. There were more English than Scots on it, but it is lovely to spend a week on Skye! It was based in Skye Picture House near Broadford and the daily helper was attending the Gaelic College. I know that she hitched her way to work every day and now that I've located the college I have a better appreciation for her journey! She was from somewhere in eastern Europe and was now studying Gaelic!

I also will always remember a conversation I had with the English wife of a Scotsman who owned a hotel that I was staying at a number of years ago. They have since moved on. But, she had a young son and she was having quite the battle with the school of learning Gaelic. She wanted him to learn Gaelic, but the teacher didn't seem to see the point. It was probably more reflective of the issues with English incomers I expect. And, I was a sympathetic ear. Everyone else in their lounge was male and talking about golf or football. :)


Posted by
1 posts

Hi - thank you for your valuable comments and insight. I live in Houston Tx and will travel to Scotland in June 2015 for a week tour. I can only dream about living there and taking a course in Gaelic !

My interest is sparked by my Aunt Cynthia Beattie, who married a Scotsman , and lived in a castle in Ayr in the 50's. Reading the Outlander novels and watching the Starz Outlander series motivated me to take this overdue adventure.

kind regards,
Cynthia Gleason-Pierce

Posted by
8293 posts

If you want to stay on this continent, Gaelic lessons are available in Cape Breton, Nova Scotia.

Posted by
5677 posts

I actually knew someone who took Gaelic lessons in Chicago. I think it was more Irish than Scots though and I believe that there is some difference between the two.


Posted by
1599 posts

The three Gaelics (Irish, Scottish and Manx) have a high level of mutual comprehensibility between them but enough differences to be obviously difference. Spelling is the big one. The stress mark in Irish is an acute, in Scottish Gaelic it is a grave, and Manx is written much more phonetically.