The Irish language runs through everything on the island of Ireland, from music and literature, to festivals, events, place names and even in the rhythm of the way English is spoken.
But the native tongue is strongest in the Gaeltacht, the generic term for a group of cultural regions scattered around the country where Irish is still spoken as the first language in the home and the community, and where its traditions are very much alive and thriving.
Offering fantastically varied and interesting holiday experiences, each Irish-speaking region is rich in culture, heritage, folklore and tradition, with a strong sense of its own identity and uniqueness.
Here you get the chance to fully immerse yourself in Ireland’s true culture, and in addition to an authentic and unforgettable experience you can return home with at least a ‘cupla focal’ (a few words) of Irish.
The Irish-speaking communities are mainly scattered in rural areas over seven counties in Ireland, with Belfast boasting one of the biggest urban centres for the language.
The official Gaeltacht covers parts of counties Donegal, Mayo, Galway and Kerry and also parts of counties Cork, Meath and Waterford, with six of Ireland’s inhabited islands also included in the Irish-speaking landscape.
County Donegal, a land of breathtaking mountains and lake-filled valleys fringed by the clear waters of the Atlantic Ocean, is the largest geographical Gaeltacht, and the county’s permanently inhabited islands also offer jewels of Irish culture that are both inspiring and engaging to all of the senses.
At the other end of the island, the County Kerry Gaeltacht is famous for its beautiful scenery, and wherever you go you could never regret it. However, the Dingle Peninsula, where the locals still speak Irish over their pints of Guinness is ideal for a genuine Irish experience.
In Ireland’s Ancient East, the County Meath Gaeltacht is an excellent place to hear or even practice speaking Irish, and there’s no shortage of fantastic things to do while you’re there.
Ireland’s largest Gaeltacht region is located in Connemara in County Galway. Here, amid a majestic landscape, the native tongue is the everyday spoken language of the people, but they can switch from Irish to English with ease, and their English is beautifully peppered with native Irish phrases.
Still unspoiled and relatively unexplored, Connemara is a treasure house of all that is best in Irish heritage, culture, sports and folklore. And just off the coast, in the mouth of Galway Bay, the three Aran Islands of Inis Mór, Inis Meáin and Inis Oírr are renowned for their unique way of life. Here, the Irish language, rich history and age-old traditions co-exist comfortably with modern living.
In the country where the most ancient written language in Western Europe is still the everyday speaking language, there is much to discover. Combine a Gaeltacht holiday with walking options, adventure activities, touring, golfing, horse riding or even an Irish language course and the most famous Irish phrase of all will ring out: Céad Mile Fáilte – a hundred thousand welcomes.
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