The Heart of the Irish Experience

Image of wild stag in Donegal.

To get to the heart of the Irish experience, go for a first hand perspective on the culture, history and craic among the locals with a cultural immersion program. You can learn how to speak Gaelic, play an instrument or conduct archeology, or simply go for a walk through an intriguing landscape. In the evening, head to a pub with an informal music session to get carried away by the lively jigs and reels, and general merriment.

Head to Glencolmcille, located in a Gaeltacht region of County Donegal, to soak in Irish culture and learn new skills at Oideas Gael. This renowned adult cultural institute offers weekend and weeklong classes in bodhrán (drum), tin whistle, Donegal dances, Celtic art, archeology and hillwalking, in addition to the language. More than half of attendees are natives exploring their roots.

The language classes are popular since Gaelic has so many seemingly extra letters making pronunciation tough to figure out. “Gaelic is one of the oldest living languages in Europe,” says Liam Ó Cuinneagáin, language director. “It has a mystique about it.”

A three-day workshop to learn to play bodhrán is a great experience – the only prerequisite is the ability to keep a simple rhythm on the flat, round drum. With new skills you can play along with your favorite Irish music and eventually join a music session.

Hiking the surrounding hills provides greater perspective on the history of Gleann Cholm Cille (Glencolmcille). Start your exploration at the Folk Village Museum to see the thatched cottages from different eras, then head for the hiking trails to higher elevations. You’ll see stunning sea cliffs, ancient standing stones, court tombs, a promontory fort and a ring fort. The most popular hike is the Turas of St. Colmcille, a five-kilometre pilgrimage route with 15 ritual stops at stone sites inscribed with Celtic designs.

Nil áit níos fearr in Éirinn ná Tír Chonaill le blaiseadh a fháil ar chultúr agus saibhreas na Gaeilge. Tá réimse leathan de chúrsaí teanga agus de laethe saoire cultúrtha a gcur ar fáil i nGleann Cholm Cille agus i nGleann Fhinne ag Oideas Gael.  Is féidir fanacht sa seomra ranga  ag foghlaim Gaeilge nó dul ar na sléibhte ag siúl agus ag péintéireach cois cladaigh. Tá scileanna thraidisiúnta san fhíodóireacht agus sa cniotáil a dteagasc ag muintir na háite agus turais agus léachtaí ar seandálaíocht Iardheiscirt an chondae. Níl sárú ar Dhún na nGall.

Excerpt from an article in American magazine AAA World

by Kathleen M. Mangan