The Highlands and Islands derive their culture mainly from Celtic roots. The Celts gave the region its literature, its oral traditions, its song and dance, its arts and crafts. The language of the Celts, Gaelic, underpinned it all.
The Gaelic language
Historically, the region's indigenous language, and one of Europe's oldest, Gaelic was spoken as far east as Braemar in Aberdeenshire and Glen Shee in Perthshire. By the 20th century, however, it had gone into serious decline. Many of the young folk, while understanding the language, preferred to speak in English. Gradually English replaced Gaelic as the language in the home. Gaelic was to lose ground to English even in localities that were once strongholds of the language.
But a revival in all things Gaelic has taken place over the last few decades. The Scottish Parliament has recently granted the language official status. In schools, Gaelic-medium teaching is being introduced. At last progress is being made towards re-establishing it as a national language.
Connected closely with renewed interest in Gaelic is an upsurge in interest in Celtic culture. The richness of Celtic culture is amply displayed in its music, song, poetry, oral tradition, visual arts and crafts. Nor is it stuck in the past; new developments are taking place in Celtic music, art and literature which few could have dreamt of a few years back. The media, too, are helping to promote it.
Looking to the future
Recent developments have certainly boosted the Gaelic language. While there is still a long way to go, prospects are looking much brighter for the rich and ancient culture of the Highlands & Islands than it did a few years back.
If a book listed in the bibliography below is available from the Highland Libraries it will be indicated by a book icon -
Improvement and Romance: Constructing the Myth of the Highlands
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