crowds of smiling people walk along a street bearing torches

This week, record numbers of revellers descend on Fort William for the Royal National Mòd. The annual festival began on Saturday with a torchlight procession through the main town, and we’re here all week soaking up the atmosphere.

What is The Mòd?

The Royal National Mòd, often known simply as The Mòd, is an eight day festival of Gaelic music, art and drama. It is held in a different Scottish town every year, and celebrates Scottish Gaelic’s creative heritage and traditions.

The first half of the week is dedicated to school competitions, while the second half is for adults. It draws in fluent and learner Gaelic speakers alike, with a host of other interested and curious attendees.

How did the Mòd start?

In 1891, An Comunn Gàidhealach (The Association of Gaels) was established in Oban to help preserve and develop of the Gaelic language. They founded The Mòd in the same year as a way to to celebrate Gaelic literature, history, music and art.

Since then The Mòd has run every year with the exception of wartime periods. It has been hosted in in 28 locations, from Stirling to Sutherland.

old book sitting open with a pair of glasses on top

The Mod aims to preserve and develop Gaelic language and its associated music and culture

What happens?

The main event is competition and performance based, and is modelled closely on the National Eisteddfod festival in Wales. It has over 200 competitions, ranging from traditional instruments like accordion, fiddle and piping, to solo Gaelic singing and choir competitions.

Each competition is judged by a panel of experts, and marks are awarded on musicality and Gaelic fluency. The winners of high profile competitions such as the Silver Pendant or the prestigious Gold Medal perform at a nightly concert broadcast on Gaelic radio and television.

The festival has over 200 competitions! Image © Graham Hood

The festival has over 200 competitions! Image © Graham Hood

What’s special about this Mòd?

2017 is the first time that the Mòd has been back in Fort William for a decade. It has clocked a record number of competitors, with over 3,600 people taking part over 8 days.

As with many festivals, there is also plenty to do and see as part of the festival’s fringe programme. This includes cèilidhs, workshops, lectures and guided walks around the surrounding area. There was also an international Shinty vs Hurling match, with Scotland taking on Ireland and winning on Saturday!

aerial view showing coast line with lots of buildings including a railway depot, church, pier and hospital,

An aerial view of Fort William taken in 2007, the last time it hosted The Mod

How can I see what’s going on?

If you can’t make it down in person, fear not. BBC Alba and Radio nan Gàidheal have roundup coverage every night from 10pm.

We’ll also be manning a Historic Environment Scotland stall and live tweeting updates over the next few days. Come and say hello or, for regular on the ground updates, follow @lower_briogais.

back of a person who is facing a man next to a banner with Gaelic writing on it

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About Author


Ruairidh Graham

Ruairidh is responsible for Gaelic policy at HES and spends his spare time organising Gaelic events. - Tha Ruairidh os cionn poileasaidh na Gàidhlig aig ÀEA, is tha ùidh aige ann an eagrachadh cuirmean Gàidhlig san ùine spàir.