Although the main language spoken on Islay today is English, we have many Scots Gaelic speakers too. In fact, around 25% of us speak Gaelic as our native language. A century ago, this was around 75%. And this proud Gaelic influence affects many aspects of life on Islay, including our culture, dialect and accents. We use lots of Scots Gaelic words on Islay, which can be difficult to read and spell for visitors. So here, we wanted to help you out with this guide to a few words, which you may hear on a visit to Islay…
Scots Gaelic words
These are some of the most common Scots Gaelic words you might come across on Islay. Please see the guide in brackets for how to pronounce them.
- Islay (“eye-la”) – Islay
- Ileach (“eee-luch”)* – a person from Islay
- Alba (“al-ba”) – Scotland
- loch (“loch”)* – a Scottish lake
- Gaelic (“gal-ick”) – Celtic language native to Scotland
- fáilte (“fahl-che”) – Welcome
- slainte mhath (“slanj-a-va”) – cheers, good health
- uisge-beatha (“ishke-baha”) – water of life, whisky
*ch is a soft sound, like this.
Islay whisky brands
Islay is famous for its whisky, and most of the island’s whisky brands are named after Gaelic place names. Watch this video and learn how to pronounce a few of them:
Islay is the southernmost island of the Inner Hebrides and we are known for our soft, lifting Hebridean accent, which is heavily influenced by our Gaelic roots. The best way to get to know our accent is to come along and visit us! Islay is easy to get to from mainland Scotland by air or ferry. Call in to our welcoming restaurant, Peatzeria in Bowmore, for some delicious pizza and a chat. And if you’re looking for a place to stay, check out our comfortable Islay accommodation nearby. To find out more about our remarkable island and start planning your visit, see our Islay Blog.