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A visit to Connemara

This post is the fourth and final in a series about the author’s 2013 trip to Ireland as a recipient of a Gaeltacht Summer Award from the Ireland-United States Commission for Educational Exchange. The previous posts in this series are A Day in DerryDonegal Diaries 1: Back to Oideas Gael!Donegal Diaries 2: A Fortnight in Glenfin, and An Irish Odyssey: Irish in the Fair City.

Currach in An Ceathrú Rua
A beached currach in An Cheathrú Rua. Photo 2013, By Audrey Nickel.

One of the sad things about traveling is that, no matter how long you’re away, the time seems to go way too quickly!

One morning you wake up and realize that your trip is nearly over, even though it seems as if you set out only yesterday!

A little extra time built in

That’s when it’s nice to have built a little extra time into your trip for a side trip or two at the end of your stay. It softens the blow a bit, eases your transition back to your “real world” of home and work, and gives you a little something special to look forward to before you have to go home.

In my case, I was looking forward to meeting two long-time internet friends in real life: One who lives in An Cheathrú Rua, Contae na Gaillimhe (Carraroe, County Galway), in the Connemara Gaeltacht and another, from Canada, who would be passing through Dublin on my last day in Ireland.

To make things even better, another internet friend of mine offered to drive me from Gleann Cholm Cille (Glencolmcille) to Connemara. Three friends in three days…not a bad way to end a wonderful month in Ireland!

My amazing talent

There was just one little problem with my plans. I broke my foot.

I wish I could tell you I broke it doing something exciting or heroic. Hiking up Sliabh Liag, maybe, or rescuing a kitten from a sheep stampede (hey, it could happen!).

But no. You see, I have the most amazing talent. I can injure myself in all kinds of interesting ways just by walking around and breathing. In fact, sometimes I don’t even have to walk around.

For example, last autumn I sustained a serious injury to my left knee while watching television. Yes, you read that correctly. I was sitting on the sofa watching TV, stretched out my legs a bit, and something went “pop.” That “something” turned out to be a rather large chunk of cartilage. Ouch.

A few years ago I managed to slip several disks in my lower back when I stood up to sing in church. Hazardous activity, singing in a church choir!

No Great Surprise

So it came as no surprise to anyone but me when I managed to fracture my fifth metatarsal during a quiet, leisurely stroll along an Irish lane.

And not just a little crack, either. A full-on fracture. I never do things by halves.

(It’s probably a good thing I’m not into surfing or sky diving, don’t you think?)

This happened on the first day of my last week in Gleann Cholm CilleAt first the pain was just moderately annoying, and I managed to convince myself I’d just slept in a funny position or something like that. I even went to a céilí dance (which, in retrospect, was kind of stupid).

By Thursday of that week, however, I was admitting to myself that I had a stress fracture. No big deal…I’d had them before. And it didn’t hurt that much.

Then, Friday night, on the way to the pub, I felt something go “sproing” and my little stress fracture became a full-on broken foot. My very first truly broken bone! Lucky me!

With only two days left to go in Ireland, it didn’t seem worth bothering a doctor (who would have done pretty much what I did anyway), so I taped up the foot and put on my most supportive shoes to immobilize the fracture and headed off the next day for Connemara.

A lovely field of wildflowers in An Ceathrú Rua. 2013, by Audrey Nickel
A lovely field of wildflowers in An Cheathrú Rua.
2013, by Audrey Nickel

Beautiful Connemara

Despite my sore foot, which put a bit of a damper on my usual method of discovering a new place (I’m a walker), it was a lovely couple of days!

It was great to see my friend Amy again, and to have a nice visit on the drive from Donegal to Galway, past magnificent Ben Bulben, through the attractive town of Cong in Co. Mayo (which we both agreed would make a gorgeous vacation spot), and through the hills of Connemara.

It was also great to finally meet my friend Bríd in person. She’s a native of An Cheathrú Rua (and a native Irish speaker), and we’ve known each other for years, though previously we’d only talked on Skype, Facebook, and internet forums.

And, even though my broken foot limited how much of the area I could explore, it was wonderful to visit such a vibrant Gaeltacht area. Irish is very much the day-to-day language of An Cheathrú Rua…you hear and see it everywhere.

This beautiful mosaic is in front of the sanctuary in the church in An Ceathrú Rua. The inscription says "Listen to the voice of the river." 2013, by Audrey Nickel
This beautiful mosaic is in front of the sanctuary in the church in An Cheathrú Rua. The inscription says “Listen to the voice of the river.”
2013, by Audrey Nickel

A new dialect for me

This was my first prolonged exposure to the Connacht dialect (most of my exposure has been to Ulster Irish), and I was really pleased to find that I didn’t have much trouble understanding people.

As you may know, if you’re a Bitesize subscriber (or if you follow this blog), I think that too big an issue is made of dialects by learners (and even by some teachers).

There certainly is a different accent, and some different terminology, but at the end of the day, it’s the same language.

(If you want to delve further into my thoughts on the subject, this post pretty much sums them up).

Sadly, my cursed shyness (and probably a fair amount of performance anxiety) kicked in and kept me from speaking Irish as much as I probably should have, but I was really, really pleased at how easily I was able to follow conversations…even those between native speakers Bríd and her cousin John Joe!

Despite my injury, I greatly enjoyed my brief stay in An Cheathrú Rua, and can’t wait to visit again when I can hike rather than hobble!

A few more snapshots

I’ll leave you with a few more pictures of this beautiful part of Ireland. Maybe you’ll find yourself planning your own trip some day!

Connemara ponies
Connemara ponies, across the fields in An Cheathrú Rua.
2013, by Audrey Nickel


Two donkeys
A pair of very friendly donkeys in An Cheathrú Rua.
2013, by Audrey Nickel
The church in An Ceathrú Rua. 2013, by Audrey Nickel
The church in An Cheathrú Rua.
2013, by Audrey Nickel


5 thoughts on “A visit to Connemara”

  1. Audrey,
    I’m an artist & work primarily in colored pencil. I follow your blogs & love your photos. I want to ask you if you’ll give me permission to use some of the photos as a reference for my art. Of course I will credit you as the photographer. I usually just show my work & it is required to get permission when using an other’s work as reference. If you need to see which photos I want to use can you supply me with an address where I can send them. i.e.: email or FaceBook addresses. Thank you,

  2. Thank you for your concern. Yes, all has been checked out. I’ve had a bone-density scan, and there’s no sign of osteoporosis.

    I’ve never had any tendon problems. The knee issue and the back issue are both due to osteoarthritis. We don’t know what caused the initial stress fracture in the foot (stress fractures of the metatarsals aren’t uncommon…you can get one from stubbing your toe), but it became a full fracture because, like a fool, I insisted on continuing to use it.

  3. Good morning Audrey,
    I hope that you are now fully recovered, and looking forward to more such
    trips. In reading your story, I was concerned that with your history (medical) you did not relate a basic cause. It would seem that your various injuries,that come on so easily, have to be related to a more basic condition. Have you had a conversation with a MD about “Osteoporosis”, or some vitamin deficiency that would cause tendons and such to weaken and snap? I would suggest such very quickly, as fractures and broken bones, could become part of a “compound fracture” in a situation beyond medical assistance.
    Best Wishes for good health,
    Bob Thurston,
    Naples, Fl USA

  4. Jessie…if you’re thinking of doing an Irish Language Course, you might want to look into the Gaeltacht Summer Awards (there’s a link at the top of this article). I think the award period opens near the beginning of April (that’s when it opened last year, as I recall). That’s really the only way I was able to do it this year. Having the tuition and lodging paid for the course made it doable (I still had to pay my transportation, and for the time I spent off the course, but having that part paid turned the trip from “not this year” to “we can do this!”). Aside from my flight, I did everything on this trip on a shoestring budget: staying in hostels or with friends when I wasn’t on the course, using Bus Éireann or arranging shared rides with fellow students instead of renting a car, doing my own cooking for the most part instead of eating out, etc. It still works out to a chunk of change, but it’s something to set your sights on, anyway!

    One of the nice things about doing an immersion course is you lose your inhibitions about talking fairly quickly. I can highly recommend Oideas Gael as a friendly and supportive place to take your Irish to the next level. There are, of course, other language schools in Ireland, but OG is the one I’m familiar with.

  5. That would have been so cool to do that. I’d love to go to Ireland some day. I wonder if I’ll have the courage to speak Irish when I’m there or if I’ll be scared. Of course due to my pocketbook, it’ll be a while so maybe by then I’ll be fluent enough with the language to be able to talk to people.

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