Boat Building

Community boat-building

GalGael build and sail wooden boats in celebration of Scotland’s heritage. These ventures provide a focal point around which a whole number of community benefits can unfurl, including motivational learning opportunities that enrich people’s lives and improve earning potential. 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. 

Our newest project will run for three years from July 2014 and build two 20-foot sailing skiffs. Anchor and Sail is a partnership project that will see GalGael work with the Tall Ship and 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 lifetime of the project Anchor and Sail will offer skills development opportunities to over 200 local people, train 8 'apprentices' as boat builders, restore two boats and see three traditional boats built. Anchor and Sail is 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

For more information, including how to get involved, visit 

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. 

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 and undertake repairs. 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 skill 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 Workshop


Our Journey On programme seeks to reconnect people with the best within themselves.