Our Gaelic project aims to celebrate Callander’s Gaelic heritage and promote engagement with the language through guided walks, place-name research, and art. Find out more about the importance of Gaelic to Callander from Ruairidh Maclean, who will be leading a workshop in July as part of the annual Callander & Trossachs Summerfest.

Have a glance at a modern map of the Callander area and you’ll see Gaelic place-names everywhere: Garbh Uisge, Ben Gullipen, Coilhallan, Loch Lubnaig, and even Callander (or Calasraid) itself! Embedded within the landscape is the history and heritage of the Gaelic language in Callander.

Until relatively recently in its history, Gaelic was the native language of most people in Callander. In 1724, it was recorded that “all the inhabitants…use the Irish [i.e. Gaelic] language.” Seventy years later, a social divide had emerged: the local minister reported that Gaelic was still spoken by the “lower classes”, while English was spoken by “persons of rank and of liberal education”. By the 1950s, the number of native speakers had dramatically dwindled, a trend seen in other nearby areas, such as Aberfoyle, Drymen, and Luss.

In recent years, there has been a renewed interest across Scotland in Gaelic’s history, but also in its status as a living language. A handful of people in Callander are currently known to have Gaelic, and more widely the 2011 Census records 394 Gaelic speakers in the Loch Lomond & The Trossachs National Park (2.66% of the population), an increase from 355 speakers since 2001. There is huge local interest in the language, especially in the place-names that describe the landscape to this day.

Alongside its place-names, it could be said that the richness of Callander’s Gaelic folklore is smior nan sgeul – the stuff of legends. There are stories about giants, kelpies (or eich-uisge), and clan battles, many of which are intimately related to the place-names around Callander, like Loch Venachar (or Loch Bheannchair) and Uamh Mhòr. The natural world is also a popular theme in Gaelic place-names: have you ever wondered which native mammal is named in Tuim Bhroc, or the tree recalled in Tom Bheithe?

At our introductory workshop on Tuesday 23rd July, we’ll explore these names and many others in the Callander area, the wider Trossachs, and beyond. This workshop is suitable for people who have no knowledge of Gaelic, although Gaelic-speakers and learners are particularly welcome. This training is the first step in the Gaelic volunteer programme for Callander’s Landscape, in which a group of volunteer guides will be trained in how to design and lead Gaelic-themed walks around Callander.

If you’re interested in finding out more about Gaelic landscape heritage and becoming a volunteer guide, book your space at our workshop by contacting Ross Crawford: ross.crawford@lochlomond-trossachs.org.