The history:
The undecked galley – referred to as a Nyvaig or Birlinn – was the vessel developed from Viking lines which enabled Somerled, the founder of Clan Donald to break the power of the Vikings in the Western Isles during the twelfth century.

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Almost 30 years ago, the bold initiative was embarked upon to build a birlinn or galley which would, as far as surviving knowledge allowed, replicate the vessels which plied the west coast of Scotland and beyond during the 12th-15th century heyday of the Lordship of the Isles.

Ever since, the galley – named Aileach after a Scottish princess who sailed across to Ireland to marry – has sailed proudly, contributing to the education and enjoyment of many, before reaching its final destination in South Uist, home to the Macdonalds of Clanranald since the 13th century.

Now the time has come to create a permanent home for the Aileach, where it will become the centerpiece of long overdue inquiry and research into the maritime history of that turbulent period. We know a great deal about what happened on land; too little about how the sea served as the lifeblood of far-scattered communities.

To achieve this outcome, an ideal partnership has been formed between the award-winning Kildonan Museum/Taigh Tasgaidh Chill Donnain in South Uist and the Lord of the Isles Galley Trust which currently owns the Aileach.

Working together, these two charitable organisations have the shared aim of raising sufficient funds to build a basic structure which will ensure the long-term preservation of the Aileach, both as an attraction and source of interest in its own right and also as a bridge to deeper understanding of a formative era in Hebridean history.

Aileach Building Appeal Summary Image
The galley today at the museum.

The presence of the Aileach in an adjacent building will enhance the excellent Kildonan Museum collection of 10,000 South Uist artefacts, built up over the past half century, as well as allowing for the expansion of its educational and research roles.
The objective is to raise £75,000 in order to deliver upon these objectives, in time for the 31st birthday of the Aileach in 2022. Donations of any size will be most welcome and will, unless otherwise stipulated, be publicly acknowledged.
This a great project for all with an interest in Hebridean and maritime history to support and we look forward to keeping you informed of its progress over the coming months.