A chance to explore Gaelic heritage and culture

Volunteer-led sessions are part of Historic Environment Scotland’s Gaelic volunteer programme

Visitors to the Blackhouse in Arnol, on the Isle of Lewis, run by HES, can now enjoy free sessions to explore Gaelic heritage and culture related to the historic site.

Local volunteers, who have researched and created the content as part of HES’ Gaelic Volunteer Programme, will deliver the sessions and explore their interpretation of the Gaelic heritage and culture associated with the Blackhouse and surrounding community. The volunteers have been encouraged to bring their own skills to the programme and deliver creative and informative sessions through music, poetry, storytelling, crafts or talks.

The sessions aim to highlight the central importance of Gaelic heritage, not only to understand the Blackhouse, but to the culture of the surrounding area. The sessions will primarily be delivered in English, but with every session there will be the opportunity to learn a few words of Gaelic.

The Gaelic Volunteer Programme is part of HES’ Gaelic Language Plan 2018-2023, with the Blackhouse the first of the heritage body’s Properties in Care to provide volunteer-delivered Gaelic heritage information.

Brian Ford, regional tourism and community manager at HES, said: ‘The Gaelic Volunteer Programme has allowed us to continue to support and promote Gaelic heritage.

‘We wanted the volunteers to bring their own knowledge and talents to the table to create bespoke sessions, from storytelling to song, to add an extra layer to the existing visitor experience and hope that this will also offer a new opportunity for the local community.

‘The sessions are led completely by the volunteers, which allowed them to be creative and reflect their own personality, and we’re delighted to support and nurture this creativity as part of our wider volunteer programme. We hope to continue to expand the Gaelic Volunteer Programme at the Blackhouse and welcome anyone interested in Gaelic heritage and culture to get in touch to find out how they can get involved.’

Jane Ryder, chair of HES Board, said: ‘The passion our volunteers have for the Blackhouse and sharing Gaelic heritage and culture with visitors from around the world is evident through the stories they share.

‘I encourage anyone interested in learning more about the rich history and heritage of the Western Isles to experience this new offering at the Blackhouse to find out about what life was like for those who lived in these historic houses, and how it shaped communities for generations.’

The Blackhouse, or taigh-dubh as it’s known in Gaelic, was built between 1852 and 1895 and was the home of a Hebridean crofting family and their animals. The thatched house is preserved almost as the family left it when they moved out in 1965.

To find out more or to join the Gaelic Volunteer Programme, contact Marlene Macleod, Blackhouse Monument manager on 01851 710395 or at marlene.macleod@hes.scot.

For further information on the Blackhouse, visit: https://www.historicenvironment.scot/visit-a-place/places/the-blackhouse-arnol/