New Gaelic environment course on Skye

A groundbreaking new Gaelic environment course is to be piloted this summer, giving fluent speakers the skills and confidence which will allow them to interpret the Scottish environment through their own language.

Àrainneachd, Cànan is Dualchas (‘Environment, Language and Heritage’) is a ten-day course, consisting of both classroom work and excursions, and will be based in Staffin on the Isle of Skye.

The course is the brainchild of Inverness-based Gaelic journalist, broadcaster and educator, Ruairidh MacIlleathain (Roddy Maclean), and will be hosted by Staffin Community Trust.

“We will be looking at habitats as varied as the tidal zone on the beach, deciduous woodland and our famous Scottish boglands,” said Maclean, who has been running courses about the Gaelic environment for English-speakers for some time, and who wants to create a body of Gaelic-speakers able to work in the same field.

“There is a phenomenally rich heritage connecting the language to the environment, and we need more Gaelic-speakers to be able to interpret the Gaelic landscape and environment for the general public of Scotland, and for visitors to our country.”

The course, which will be vocational rather than academic in its approach, will concentrate on the Gaelic view of the environment and will include study of species names, place-names, habitat and landscape description, weather, seasons, traditional usages of various species and elements of general natural history.

There will be an emphasis on how Gaelic oral tradition, proverbs and literature assist in the interpretation of the Scottish environment. Although the course will be based on Skye, the approach in general will be a national one, so that students from any part of Scotland can apply what they learn in their local environment.

In addition to looking at plants and animals alive today (with Roddy Maclean), Dugald Ross of Staffin Museum will teach about the amazing geology and fossil heritage of the Trotternish Peninsula, and Sìne Gillespie will impart knowledge of stories and place-names.

The course will be based at the well-appointed Columba 1400 Centre in Staffin, where the classroom component will be taught. A minibus will be used to take students to a number of habitats in different parts of Skye.

Students, as well as being fluent Gaelic-speakers, will be required to be reasonably fit and to be equipped with stout footwear and weatherproof clothing. Students will be accommodated within the Staffin community.

The course will run over ten days from Monday 15 July to Friday 19 July, and from Monday 22nd July to Friday 26th July 2013. The total cost to each student, including full board, will be £350. Applications to participate in the course close on 15th April.

For information on Urras an Taobh Sear, the Staffin community and student applications for places on the course, contact Sìne Gillespie on or 01470 562 325.