Boat building at GalGael

Boat Building

Community boat-building

GalGael celebrates Scotland’s heritage. We are best known for getting local people involved in crafting and sailing traditional boats. We do this because we’re convinced true wellbeing will only return to urban Scotland when people reconnect with the mountains, moors and waterways on which its ancestral heritage was built. GalGael is dedicated to restoring that link within the city by building boats modeled on a 1000-year-old Scottish prototype.

GalGael’s 30ft long Orcuan was built in 2001 to just such a native blueprint. She is an interpretation of the historic galleys of the West Coast; the Birlinn, Scotland’s traditional Gaelic longboat. These boats were effectively banned by the repressive Statutes of Iona, 400 years ago. Once they would have provided the main form of transport in a mountainous island region – linking the constellation of settlements on the West Coast of Scotland and beyond to the coasts of Ireland and Isle of Man. Today, we use Orcuan and our other boats to open sail training opportunities to the local community, linking urban and rural communities and enabling access to Scotland’s unique natural heritage. 

Why boats? “It has to do with the ritual,” said the late Colin Macleod, “of involving the community in building something that has part of them in it. All these planks somehow go together and make a boat. And that boat somehow can hold us, take us all on a voyage. The voyage of a busted-up community to a better, more hopeful future.”

Our logo depicts a Birlinn, connected with the GalGael of history. When we started out, Colin soon realised that we could achieve many of our social, cultural and ecological objectives by involving communities in boatbuilding.

Private commissions

GalGael welcomes private commissions for traditional boats. Our associate boat-builders, operating from Galgael’s Glasgow workshops, are self-employed and take commissions on our behalf. These highly skilled craftspeople will give you the highest level of technique and service, but your commission will also help us keep traditional craft alive in our workshops, as they share their unique skills with Galgael regulars and volunteers.



GalGael sells quality, well seasoned hardwood timber for firewood.