Cultural heritage


The ancient Macdonald Lords of the Isles saw it as their responsibility to support, encourage and develop the Gaelic culture in all its forms.  The Lords of the Isles built churches and supported monasteries, and were patrons of dancing, clarsach (Scottish harp) playing, poetry and, of course, piping. 

The Clan Donald Lands Trust is pleased to carry on this important responsibility. We work with young people and local partners to promote Gaelic traditions and ensure they are passed to future generations as a living heritage. Through the generosity of our international supporters we are also proud to sponsor competitions to promote piping, clarsach, Highland dancing and Gaelic poetry. You can download a list of recent competition winners from this page (right). Visit our News and Events pages for details of previous competitions.

2022 update: Please note that the UK competitions will not be going ahead this year.


The Clan Donald Lands Trust’s flagship cultural competition is its annual piobraireachd competition known as the Donald MacDonald Cuach. The competition honours the memory of the 18th-century piping pioneer Donald MacDonald.

In 2016, to mark the competition’s 30th anniversary, the Trust launched the first annual Young Musician Scholarships. Prizes were offered for the best young piper and player of the clarsach. We also sponsor junior piping competitions on Skye, in cooperation with the Colonel Jock MacDonald Trust.

Internationally, Clan Donald Lands Trust awards annual prizes for pipe bands in North American (Ellice and Rosa McDonald Memorial Prize), Australia (AWR MacDonald Memorial Prize) and New Zealand (Harold McIsaac Memorial Prize).

Clarsach, fiddle and dance

CDLT offers support to junior clarsach players in the form of an annual competition on Skye entitled the Kate MacDonald Memorial Prize. We also fund local clarsach tuition and have provided twelve clarsachs on long-term loan to local schools. In 2017 we launched annual adult clarsach competitions in both Scotland and North America known as the Princess Margaret of the Isles Memorial Prizes.

In North America the Trust also offers prizes for highland dancing (the Colonel John MacDonell of Lochgarry Prize for Best Male Highland Dancer – North America) and traditional Scottish fiddle playing (the Bishop Faber MacDonald Memorial Prize for best senior fiddle – North America).

On this page, watch films of the finalists of the 2021 Scottish Performing Arts Classic which took place in Charleston, South Carolina, USA, in April. The event comprised the Princess Margaret of the Isles Memorial Prize for Senior Clarsach (North America) and the Dan R MacDonald Memorial Prize for Best Senior Fiddle.  The prizewinners were Rachel Clamente (Clarsach) and Brandon Vance (Fiddle).

Gaelic language and poetry

Ceud mìle fàilte. The traditional Gaelic greeting extends ‘One hundred thousand welcomes’ to you as you visit one of the heartlands of the language. Once at the heart of the historic Kingdom of the Isles, Gaelic is still a vibrant living language used in the local community, and is being actively promoted – locally and globally – through new learning initiatives.

The Clan Donald Lands Trust is proud to work regularly with Bun-Sgoil Shlèite (Sleat’s Gaelic-medium Primary School) and Sabhal Mòr Ostaig, Scotland’s Gaelic-medium higher education college, both based just two miles from Armadale Castle. Collaborations include educational projects, volunteering and working together to build a better profile for Sleat, its culture, heritage and languages.

Since 2015 we have held and annual Gaelic poetry competition, the Macdonald of Sleat Poetry Prize. The competition is run in collaboration with Sabhal Mòr Ostaig and culminates in a poetry-reading and prize-giving at Armadale Castle in September.

Keep checking our news and events pages for details of forthcoming competitions and events.