Have you been watching Outlander, the TV series based on the popular books by Diana Gabaldon? If so, you might have noticed some of the characters speaking Gaelic, one of the languages historically used in Scotland.
Gaelic in Scotland
We asked our Gaelic Officer Alasdair MacCaluim to tell us a little bit about the history of the language.
“It’s widely believed that Gaelic has only ever been spoken in the Highlands and that it is mainly spoken in the West Highlands today”, Alasdair explained. “In fact, historically Gaelic has been spoken all over Scotland at some point or another with the exceptions of Orkney and Shetland. The 2011 census showed that half of all Gaelic speakers today live in the Lowlands, with Glasgow, Edinburgh and Inverness being key growth areas.
“Because Gaelic has a relatively low number of speakers today, some assume it was marginally historically too. In reality, historians believe Gaelic was the dominant language of Scotland in the 12th century, spoken by half of the population in 1500, and by one third in 1700. In the early 1800’s, there were around 300,000 monolingual Gaelic speakers in Scotland.”
Gaelic in Outlander
With a third of people speaking Gaelic in the 1700s, it’s no surprise Gaelic words and phrases turn up in historical drama Outlander. When filming the TV series, they even have Gaelic dialect coach Àdhamh Ò Brion on set to help the actors with their pronunciation.
Today (Thursday April 30th) is Gaelic Twitter Day, so we thought we’d teach you how to say the Gaelic names of the four Historic Scotland sites used as filming locations for the first series of Outlander.
Blackness Castle in West Lothian was built in the 15th century by one of Scotland’s most powerful families, the Crichtons. Its enduring roles were of garrison fortress and state prison, and in Outlander it is used in place of Fort William. The Gaelic for Blackness is Caisteal Blackness pronounced “Cashtal Blackness”.
Caisteal Obar Dobhair
The original Aberdour Castle was built as a fortified residence in the 1100s, making it one of the oldest stone castles in Scotland. However, much of what you see today is the luxurious Renaissance home and gardens of Regent Morton, once Scotland’s most powerful man. In Outlander, Aberdour was used as the monastery in episode 16. The Gaelic for Aberdour Castle is Caisteal Obar Dobhair, pronounced “cashtal opar dowar”.
Luchairt Ghlinn lucha
The royal pleasure palace of Linlithgow was the birthplace of Mary Queen of Scots, and a welcome stopping place for the royal family when travelling to Edinburgh Castle and Stirling Castle. Perhaps surprisingly, it was used to film prison corridors and entrances in episode 15 of Outlander!
The Gaelic for Linlithgow Palace is Luchairt Ghlinn lucha, pronounced loocharsht gleen loocha” with a soft “ch” sound in “loch”
Caisteal an Dùin
Built for the Regent Albany, Doune Castle is a magnificent late 14th century courtyard castle. No stranger to the silver screen, before starring in Outlander as Castle Leoch it played Swamp Castle, Castle Anthrax and Camelot in Monty Python and the Holy Grail, and Winterfell in the pilot episode of Game of Thrones. The Gaelic for Doune Castle is Caisteal an Dùin, pronounced “cashtal an doon”.