Fodor's Travel Talk Forums

Fodor's Travel Talk Forums (
-   Europe (
-   -   Scottish Highlands and Outer Hebrides (

airillusion Sep 5th, 2013 10:05 AM

Scottish Highlands and Outer Hebrides
My friend and I are taking a three week trip through the Outer and Inner Hebrides as well as some of the Scottish Highlands. I know that those areas are the outposts of Scottish Gaelic culture and language but I just wanted to be sure the people there also speak English.

sparkchaser Sep 5th, 2013 10:22 AM

Yes. English is very much spoken there. You'll see signs in Gaelic an English and that might make you think everyone speaks Gaelic, but that's not really the case. Occasionally you'll hear locals speaking Gaelic but everyone does speak English.

yodababe Sep 6th, 2013 09:12 AM

After the Battle of Culloden in 1746, England broke the clan system and forbade the speaking of Gaelic, playing of the pipes, and wearing of clan tartans. English has been the first language there for centuries. But it's pretty cool that Gaelic is making a comeback!

ParisAmsterdam Sep 6th, 2013 02:13 PM

You might want to read Boswell's account of his travels in Scotland with Dr Johnson...

English is indeed spoken but you'll find it a bit different. A brother in law once had to ask directions from 3 people before he found one he could understand. It took him a while to get used to the accent...

Gordon_R Sep 6th, 2013 06:44 PM

Don't forget that the locals may have trouble understanding your strange English accent too :)

Yodababe - next time you're in Scotland, visit the excellent National Trust for Scotland visitor centre at the Culloden battlefield site. You'll learn that the protagonists did not fall simplistically into "English" versus "Scots", but rather the rebellious supporters of one claimant to the throne versus those of the "sitting tenant".

yodababe Sep 8th, 2013 07:12 AM

You're right Gordon_R, the visitors center is very nice.

Since the OP's question was about whether Gaelic is the only language spoken in the Scottish highlands and islands, I limited my reply to what was historically pertinent. The larger topic of the line of succession to the throne of England at the end of the Tudor dynasty, the House of Stuart being deposed from the line of succession, the eventual Jacobite uprising, and the religious/political forces that shaped events--not really what's being discussed here. It is a fascinating bit of history though.

zippo Sep 8th, 2013 10:52 AM

In the Outer Hebrides road signs are in Gaelic only, so Castlebay is given as Bàgh a' Chaisteil, but this should only cause a little head scratching, you won't get lost.

sparkchaser Sep 8th, 2013 11:48 AM

<i>In the Outer Hebrides road signs are in Gaelic only,</i>

Ummm, no. Isle of Lewis has signs in English and Gaelic.

sparkchaser Sep 8th, 2013 11:52 AM


sparkchaser Sep 8th, 2013 11:57 AM

I realize that Ullapool isn't Isle of Lewis so I'll nip that one in the bud. ;)

I have a bunch of pics of signs on Lewis and the Highlands but I can't find them right now. :/

Gordon_R Sep 9th, 2013 03:07 AM

You might also be surprised by the number of lowland Scots and English people you'll come across running B&B's, cafes, gift shops etc. Many of these are former city dwellers who've swapped the rat race for a slower, more peaceful lifestyle in the Hebrides.

sparkchaser Sep 9th, 2013 03:57 AM

Agreed. I've noticed that as well.

dwdvagamundo Sep 9th, 2013 10:59 AM

As ParisAmsterdam recommends, read Boswell's account (Journal of a Tour to the Hebrides), but also read Johnson's own account (A Journey to the Western Islands of Scotland). Johnson wrote about Scotland, and Boswell wrote about Johnson. It would be neat to read what it was like 250 years ago or so while touring it today.

All times are GMT -8. The time now is 02:07 PM.