Dr Mairi McFadyen




Loch Ness

See Also

Land Spiritual
'Dùthchas' is a Gaelic word that speaks to a sense of place and belonging to the land, and a sense of responsibility towards the stewardship of that land for future generations. It encompasses the idea of ecological interrelationship between land, all living things, people, language and culture.


The Gaelic language embodies a fundamentally different way of relating to the land: people belong to places, rather than places belong to people. Historically, dùthchas was a customary law – a hereditary collective claim or right to land, or dùthaich, not subject to tenure, lease or rent. Such a claim was lived out through shared stewardship and bound up with relationships to others. Such ideas of place and relationship are completely at odds with private property, the idea that land can be bought and sold. In this sense, dùthchas questions the very notion of ownership and challenges some of the most deeply embedded assumptions of modernity such as capitalism and individualism.


Dùthchas is also richly associated with the concept of dualchas, translated as ‘heritage’ or ‘cultural inheritance,’ and therefore to identity. A communal history was embedded in the landscape, expressed in oral tradition and place names. These three Gaelic words – dùthchas, dùthaich and dualchas – are all connected: together they form a matrix in which land, language and people – an tir, an canan ’s na daoine – are inseperable. With its understanding of ecological interrelationship and emphasis on responsible stewardship, dùthchas prefigures our contemporary need for ecological balance and care.



A place of birth throughout time, image: Robb Mcrae

Questions & Provocations

What does it mean to ‘own land’?
Dr Mairi McFadyen