A living landscape is more than just scenery; it is the interaction between people and place. Stories, music and song reflect these interactions, helping us better understand where we have come from and where we might go. Coigach and Assynt have a wonderfully rich cultural heritage – the area was Gaelic speaking until three or four generations ago and it has produced more than its fair share of musicians, many of whom have achieved national acclaim.

The aims of the project were to:

  • Produce a song and music book enabling musicians and others to bring old tunes back to life and ensuring future generations can access and use them.
  • Unearth new material as well and research and connect existing archived information.
  • Commission and record a modern piece of music, inspired by the area’s living landscape, to encourage our young musicians to promote the area through their music.

In 2019, as part of the project,  journalist Lorraine Kelly undertook an oral history project which involved interviewing ten local people: five from Coigach and five from Assynt. They spoke about their lives here; about tunes, songs and stories they have heard.

The designer and musician, Ronan Martin, was engaged at the beginning of 2020 to take these recordings and additional material provided by the interviewees, along with other archive material, and make a beautiful book. As of January 2021, the book is nearing completion: it contains songs and tunes – some old, some new – along with stories and many photographs. We are very much looking forward to its publication in the near future.

You can listen to some of the tunes, which were recorded at a live performance at Lochinver Hall on 27 February 2022, as part of the Our Living Landscape mini-festival. Our thanks to David Haines, of the Assynt Field Club, who made the recordings using the sound equipment purchased for the Sounds of Nature project – also through CALLP.

These are all the musicians involved over the weekend: Stuart Edwards (guitar) Ann Marie Firth-Bernard (whistle/flute/fiddle) Martin Gilligan (mandolin/banjo/tenor guitar) Lisa Macdonald (voice) Ronan Martin (fiddle) Jon Miller (fiddle) Mark Saywell (bodhran) Helen Simpson (fiddle) Bill Wilder (harmonica) Thanks to all of them for their wonderful performances!

Running alongside the book project, Mary Ann Kennedy (musician, writer and broadcaster), Nick Turner (producer, sound engineer, composer), Finlay Wells (producer, musician) and Donald Maclean (poet and business expert) are working collaboratively on composing an album-length piece of music inspired by the landscapes and people of Coigach and Assynt. They too have used Lorraine’s oral history recordings as inspiration.

Of course, the pandemic has been an obstacle for everyone and we’ve had to be creative in finding ways to work with the musicians. During the first lockdown in the spring of 2020 we arranged several online community meetings with Mary Ann and her team, discussing topics ranging from history and Gaelic, to landscape and conflict. The meetings were a success: the team felt they got to know us and have used ideas from the conversations as inspiration for their composition.

In summer 2021 the project brought together eight musicians to create the Coigach Collection, a new
body of music inspired by the people, places and landscape of Coigach and Assynt. You can download the brochure and find out more about this inspiring piece of work here.

Download Coigach Collection brochure

A stunningly illustrated book of the music and stories, The Coigach Collection, has been published as a result, and is available to buy online and at some local bookshops.

This beautiful video was also made as part of the project. It not only captures the spirit of Coigach & Assynt, but of one of the area’s most well respected and loved musicians, Ali Beag, who sadly passed away not long ago.

Project timeline

Related category


Oral History Researcher required for Music & Tales project

Oral History Researcher The Coigach & Assynt Living Landscape Partnership (CALLP) Scheme comprises fourteen organisations working together to deliver twenty-eight projects over a five-year period, with principle funding secured from

The Soil Beneath Our Feet

Guest blog by Joseph Peach, local musician and Project Manager for the Music & Tales project A living landscape is more than just scenery; it is the interaction between people


Project partners

Funding partners