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The Virtual Cèilidh

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Good times and get-togethers. Image © Margaret MacLellan

“Thigibh a chèilidh!” There’s something rather special about these three simple words, which lie at the heart of our Hebridean history.

Around the world, many people choose to throw elaborate dinner parties or head to a fancy bar or restaurant to get together with family and friends.

But here in Harris, with our far-scattered villages and taxis few and far between, we tend to keep things less formal and a little closer to home.

The invitation to ‘come round for a visit’ needs no planning or preparation. There’s no need to get dressed up or slave over a hot stove, just bring yourself and very possibly something to drink, and let the evening’s events unfold.

Time well spent with close family and old friends. Image © Fiona Macsween

While an island ceilidh (pron: Kay-Lee) can quite easily be thrown in a local village hall, with dozens of guests and plenty of music, more often than not, it’s a semi-spontaneous gathering of a few close friends by the fire.

It’s a chance to catch up with the people you like and love, without any fuss or fanfare, and its roots lie in the long tradition of island hospitality and a natural sense of kinship.

But, during these strange days, when gathering in large groups and getting-together in public places is proving inadvisable, you can still stay connected and celebrate the simple pleasures in life.

To make sure we stick to the new 'Rule Of Six' and other important local lockdown rules, we’re now big fans of the virtual cèilidh, something our grandparents could never have imagined possible.

Catching up, telling stories, getting the craic. Image © Margaret McLellan

While the concept of the ceilidh comes quite naturally to us, we understand that many of you may be new to the idea. So, if you've never held one of your own here are 7 simple steps to get you started...


Think Virtual C . E . I . L . I . D . H .

C for Comfortable surroundings: Find a convivial place to gather online using Zoom, FaceTime or other platforms.

E for Engaging company: Invite a few of your favourite friends and close family.

I for Interesting stories: Have some tall tales ready to tell.

L for Love and friendship: Enjoy time well spent online and in good company.

I for Island music: Grab an instrument, stream some toe-tapping tunes, or simply sing along.

D for Dance if the mood takes you: If the night gets lively, get on your feet!

H for Harris Gin to share: Keep your glass full and the island spirit flowing…

And that’s all it takes!


7 easy steps for the Cèilidh beginner!

To prove it, we’re inviting you to join us at a safe social distance as we host the first in a series of online gatherings and get-togethers on September 26th from 8 pm until 9 pm GMT

Visit to find out more on how to join us for an hour of storytelling, music, cocktail-making and a bit of craic, as Harris reaches out to the world from the comfort of our own homes.

These three simple words “Thigibh a chèilidh!” are all it takes to find connection and community, and thanks to 21st-century technology, they can still be said even in these troubled times.


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