Colaisde na Gàidhlig is first and foremost an educational non-profit institution, offering year-round programming in the culture, music, language, crafts, customs, and traditions of the immigrants from the Highlands of Scotland. Currently, students are able to choose to study from over ten traditional arts, including Cape Breton fiddle, piano, guitar, step-dancing, and piping, highland dancing, weaving, and of course Gaelic language.
The only institution of its kind in North America, students of all ages and skill levels visit the College every year to study under some of the finest instructors in Nova Scotia Gaelic culture. With an international reputation for its contribution to the preservation and promotion of Gaelic culture, the Gaelic College offers a truly one-of-a-kind learning experience.
The Gaelic College was founded in St. Ann’s, Nova Scotia, in 1938, by people from the local community who wanted to create a memorial for the Gaelic speaking pioneers of Cape Breton. Efforts were spearheaded by Angus William Rugg MacKenzie, the minister at the Knox Presbyterian Church in nearby Baddeck. That year, the Cape Breton Island Gaelic Foundation began the work of raising funds to establish the Gaelic College. A committee toured the United States and Canada, raising money through $5 subscriptions.
The first building at the site on the Bay of St. Ann’s was a log cabin raised in 1939. Classes in the early years included Gaelic language, Gaelic grammar, Gaelic song, bagpiping, the history of the Gaelic in Scotland, in Nova Scotia and in the rest of North America, as well as social economics. Classes in weaving, folklore and highland dancing were soon added.