Gaeltacht adventures

By Ailbhe Ní Ghearbhuigh

8 min read
12 Oct 2018
Photo: Ireland’s Content Pool

Imagine a course for Visiting Students where, instead of reading about a culture, they live and experience it. The Department of Modern Irish at University College Cork offers such an experience. In the residential course ‘Language and Culture in an Irish-speaking area,’ the emphasis is on active learning through workshops and informal classes at Coláiste na Rinne. Located in the small but dynamic Gaeltacht of Ring in Co. Waterford, students spend a week immersed in Gaelic culture, as they sample what the region has to offer in terms of language, music, dance, sport and heritage.

Many international students who visit Ireland are intrigued by the glimpses of the Irish language they notice on signposts and shop fronts. They are often eager to learn more about this strange language and to try out some simple phrases. In the morning sessions, the language classes are tailored to those students with no previous knowledge of Irish.  Once they have grasped the haon, dó, trí, it’s time to dance.  The dance workshops provide a fun outlet to put what they’ve learned to the test.

The Déise area is known for its history of song, and students will not only study the rich tradition of ‘sean-nós’ but also participate in this unique and ornamental style of singing. But it’s not all song and dance, for the ancient sport of hurling, too, will be explored as students experience the skill and physicality of Ireland’s national game. 

There is much to see and do in the surrounding areas. In nearby Ardmore, where Saint Declan founded a monastery, you can see a round tower that dates back to the 12th century and stands at an impressive 29 metres. At the same site are Romanesque sculptures depicting Biblical scenes and two Ogham Stones. A guided tour of these significant monuments is a highlight of the module for many Visiting Students.


Let us not lose ourselves entirely in the mists of history for the Gaeltacht is a real place where real people live and work. Students learn about the diverse range of industry that sustains the local people such as an oyster growing co-operative (Meitheal Trá na Rinne), artisan crystal (Criostal na Rinne), seaweed baths (Sólás na Mara) and a television production company (Nemeton). 

Gaelic culture has been attracting visitors to Ireland for centuries. And the Gaels have long welcomed curious travellers, sharing with them their music, language and folklore in a compelling dialogue that enriches host and guest alike. This module continues that dialogue into the 21st century, serving as a reminder that the native tradition is living and breathing and available to all.


Film by Stephen Bean Music by Mary Rafferty

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