GalGael works together on demanding common tasks that build community and demonstrate ways of living with more humanity. Working together on boats of all shapes and sizes is one of the ways in which we do just this.

Building and rowing wooden boats generate skills, agency and connection to Scotland’s traditions and coastal heritage. At the current time we are repairing Orcuan - our Hebridean galley or birlinn. This means we aren't offering boat building course for the time being.


GalGael’s 30ft long Orcuan was built in 2001 to an ancient Scottish prototype. 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.

Anchor and Sail

Our most recent project ran from July 2014 to January 2018. Anchor and Sail was delivered in partnership with Clyde Maritime Trust to preserve Scotland's fast disappearing maritime heritage and in particular the intangible heritage stored in the skills involved in building traditional boats and the traditions that surrounded boat building itself, such as laying the keel. Over the course of the project Anchor and Sail offered skills development opportunities to 131 people, trained 7 'apprentices' as boat builders, restored one boat and see four traditional boats built. Anchor and Sail was funded by Heritage Lottery Fund, Historic Environment Scotland, William Grant Foundation, Hugh Fraser Foundation, Agnes Hunter Trust, MacRobert Trust, Barcapel Foundation, Trusthouse Charitable Foundation and the Radcliffe Foundation


Project blog:


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. Not least 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 restores that relationship within the heart of the city of Glasgow by building boats that can take us on voyages that connect up to Scotland's stunning west coast.