AS global interest in Gaelic grows, students from across the world are travelling to Skye to study at Sabhal Mòr Ostaig, the National Centre for Gaelic Language and Culture.

Situated in the stunningly beautiful peninsula of Sleat in the south end of the island, Sabhal Mòr Ostaig is a unique Gaelic-only environment and the only college of its kind offering further and higher education through the medium of the language.

The college offers a range of provision from beginners’ courses to a PhD, with the flexibility of studying part-time or full-time, on campus or via distance learning. At a crucial time in the survival of the language, graduates have helped create a Gaelic speaking workforce that now holds key posts across a wide range of sectors in Scotland.

Sabhal Mòr Ostaig is one of the key partners in fulfilling the government’s objectives in the National Gaelic Plan, which aims to increase the number of people speaking the language and accelerate the growth of Gaelic.

Many people are keen to learn more about the language because of its rich culture and the college provides a wide range of short courses in Gaelic language, song and traditional music. Ceilidhs, workshops, conversation circles and music sessions all create an encouraging atmosphere that bring together students from 30 countries across five continents.  

As a modern, innovative college, Sabhal Mòr Ostaig has excellent learning resources on campus including an exceptional library collection, residential student accommodation, broadcast and recording facilities and a Gaelic medium childcare facility on site. It also has a growing international reputation for academic research.

The college was founded on the principle of being part of the local and wider community and its activities are greatly enhanced by co-operative links, being home to a number of significant national creative and cultural projects such as Tobar an Dualchais, Ainmean Àite na h-Alba and Cànan Graphics Studio.  It plays a leading role in the promotion of the Gaelic arts and culture and also offers an international exchange programme with universities in Canada and Ireland.

The college’s graduates include Seumas Greumach (James Graham), Chief Executive of An Comunn Gaidhealach, which runs the Royal National Mod, who studied the Cùrsa Comais in 2004 and then returned for another year to study Cànan is Cultar na Gàidhlig.  He went to Sabhal Mòr to improve his language skills and says he would not hold his present job had he not become a fluent speaker.

“I was fully immersed in the language at Sabhal Mòr Ostaig, which is essential to become fluent in any language.” he says.  “You could hear Gaelic being spoken every day, in every situation and that helped me no end in improving my own Gaelic.  I gained a great deal of confidence in terms of Gaelic grammar, spelling and writing, all of which has been invaluable in my working life.” 

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BBC weather presenter, Joy Dunlop, is another graduate of the college who says the fluency in Gaelic she developed at the college has given her many opportunities that she otherwise would not have had.

She studied Gaelic as a second language when she was a pupil at Oban High School then decided to do her sixth year at the college. She initially planned to stay for just one year to do the Cùrsa Comais but loved it so much she stayed for four, graduating with a BA (hons) in Cànan agus Cultar na Gàidhlig (Gaelic Language and Culture).

“Attending Sabhal Mòr was a revelation for me,” she says. “The education I received was unparalleled.

“The personal support and guidance I received from all the staff was of the highest level and I always felt that our teachers were genuinely invested in both the language itself and our progress.

“Being immersed in the language is definitely the best way to learn, difficult as it could be at times, and having the opportunity to speak Gaelic in both the classes and the community was a real help to me. 

“Simply, if you genuinely want to learn Gaelic, there is no better place to do so than Sabhal Mòr Ostaig. Tha i math agus tha i math dhut! (It’s good and it’s good for you!)”