The Irish language is only spoken in daily life in parts of six out of Ireland’s 32 counties, including Mayo. These regions have the official designation of ‘Gaeltacht’. There the language that has been spoken here for the last 4,000 years is still used as the main daily tongue.
These places have a respect for tradition that is evident in everyday communication. Just imagine: 4,000 years ago their ancestors picked up a stone and called it a ‘cloch’, and they still do so today.
In Mayo, the Gaeltacht areas of Iorras (Erris), Acaill (Achill), Inis Bigil (Inishbiggle) and Tuar Mhic Éadaigh (Tourmakeady) are rich in folklore, sanctuaries for writing, music, historical and archaeological sites.
The population of the Mayo Gaeltacht is 11,000, although some claim that only 2,500 still speak Irish fluently. For a last vestige of pure, rich, melodious spoken Irish head north-west to Ceathrú Thaidhg, Ros Dubhach and Eachléim in Erris and Fionnaithe in southern Mayo.
Irish language courses are available in most towns and at the traditional music summer schools held around the county.
The most fun way of learning Irish for young people is to take part in outdoor adventure activities. There are two dedicated centres that provide these types of activities; Coláiste Acla, on Achill Island and UISCE located at Elly Bay, Belmullet. Both centres mix Gaeilge lessons with canoeing, sailing, raft-building, coasteering, stand-up paddle-boarding, abseiling, archery and bog snorkelling.
‘Bain sult astu’ as we say – enjoy them!
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