The Outer Hebrides, located off the north west coast of Scotland, incorporate the islands of Barra, South Uist, Benbecula, North Uist, Harris and Lewis; a group of islands each uniquely different.
Festival events are programmed in and around Stornoway and at the main area in the Lews Castle Grounds. This venue is capable of accommodating up to 5000 people with three stages and a host of activities and facilities to cater for festivalgoers.
The ‘Castle’ a Victorian mock Tudor castle was built in 1849 by Sir James Matheson of Jardine Matheson Company and is surrounded by a beautiful wooded area once believed to rival Kew Gardens for its richness in variety. Lord Leverhulme granted the lands to the folk of Stornoway in 1923 and this saw the establishment of the Stornoway Trust who now oversee the daily management of the Grounds and croft lands within the Trust area.
In addition to the many complementary events in Stornoway, the ‘capital’ of this island group, a variety of events are hosted by community groups around the islands of Lewis and Harris.
Language - Cànan
In the Outer Hebrides, the Gaelic language is still very much the language of the community. In the last Census figures in 2001 the Outer Hebrides had the highest % of Gaelic speakers in Scotland with 60% or 15,723 of the population over the age of 3 years able to speak the language. 24 of the area’s 40 primary schools have Gaelic Medium Units where 542 children are taught through the medium of Gaelic for most of their primary education. Gaelic is compulsory as a subject for the first two years of secondary education, for all pupils, after which pupils are able to choose whether to continue studying it to Standard Grade and/or Higher level.
Today Gaelic can be heard in shops, offices, workplaces and villages throughout the Outer Hebrides. In recent years, employment opportunities for Gaelic speakers have been created in the media and arts sectors which has resulted in a number of young Gaelic speakers returning to the islands after Further and Higher Education on the mainland.
More information on how to access local music and language courses can be found through Lews Castle College www.lews.uhi.ac.uk.