Must-see Gaeltacht regions when you get to Ireland

The view from Feirm Chinn Sléibhe (Slea Head Farm)

So you started learning Irish (Gaelic) and want some proper practice. You also thought of traveling to Ireland but never got the chance. Well, once you decide to come to Ireland, you will probably want to impress the locals with your Irish and practice the spoken language as well!

First thing’s first. An important part of your trip is where to rest your sleepy head after a long day. There are actually so many accommodation options available to you, it’s difficult to decide on where to stay.

What type of accommodation to pick?

Bed & Breakfast in Ireland

These are usually family-run businesses run at their home. You pay by night and, obviously, you’ll be treated to breakfast the next morning.

The great thing about B&Bs is that they can be found on just about any village, town or main road. You’ll never be too far away from one.

Price-wise, B&Bs aren’t too bad. Expect to pay about €40 per person sharing and €50 for single person. These rates change as the tourist demand changes over the summer months, and prices will vary across the country. Credit cards are usually accepted.

Guest House Accommodation in Ireland

From what I understand, these are pretty much like bed & breakfast services, but they would be more commercial than simply a family business. The building may be custom built for guests, without the family living in it as in B&Bs.

You may also like to stay in a farmhouse, much like a B&B but is situated on a working farm. This may give you a better taste of rural life in Ireland.

Hotels in Ireland

These are as you’d expect in other countries. The quality of service varies, but the only way to find this out is by staying in them.

Midsummer is the most expensive time to stay in a hotel. The price for a room varies from about €50 to €125 and upwards. Breakfast is usually included in this price, but sometimes it’s not, so check that out.

As far as tipping goes, we don’t have so much of a tipping culture in Ireland as in the USA. There’s no need to tip, and the restaurants will probably add a service charge. Basically if you want to tip, do so.

Hostels in Ireland

If you’re going for the cheaper holiday, these will suit well. They should be pretty clean although staying in hostels won’t afford you total privacy.

The price in hostels seems to be standard. During the summer prices will rise to €30.

Camping in Ireland

If you’re a more out-of-doors person, this may be a good option. I must admit that the quality of some camp sites in Ireland isn’t great. When you get to Ireland, pick up a camping guide in a tourist information office. These guides will give you ratings on each camp site in a specific area.

Getting back to the money side of things, you’ll pay maybe €15 a night.

And one more thing: if you’re planning on camping anywhere near the Atlantic coast, be ready for a lot of rain and wind!

Which one to pick?

When picking a place to stay, be it in Dingle/An Daingean in Kerry, Connemara in Galway or up in Donegal, there’s a couple of rules I set out for picking where to stay. This should help you when you’re doing your own travel research.

  1. Prefer B&Bs (bed and breakfast accommodation) over hotels. A B&B is always family-run, and you will always be greeted by the proprietor. They’ll have the top tips for you on where to visit in the region.
  2. Choose a B&B where the family speaks Irish (Gaelic). The only way to find this out is to ask the proprietor. You’ll be able to hear the language being spoken, and you’ll be supporting these locals.

I’ve stayed in places in many of the Gaeltacht regions. Of all of them, Slea Head Farm (also called Feirm Chinn Sléibhe) has been my favourite. It is based at the tip of the Dingle Peninsula, in the Gaeltacht of Co. Kerry. Caitlín, the proprietor, is an Irish speaker. What’s more, the views from here B&B are spectacular. Be sure to book yourself in for at least a night there.

Where to go for cúpla focal?

If your main goal is to learn and practice Irish any Gaeltacht will do! Here are some of our favourite spots.

What is An Ghaeltacht?

An Ghaeltacht (“The Gaeltacht”) covers all regions in Ireland which are officially recognised to be mainly Irish-speaking areas. More generally, Gaeltacht (plural Gaeltachtaí) is a word in the Irish language to describe any region where Irish (Irish Gaelic) is the main language. Special funding is available for these areas, and the definition of the areas has evolved over decades.

The Gaeltacht Regions

The Gaeltacht regions are generally scattered along the west coast of Ireland (Kerry, Galway, Donegal), plus a small Gaeltacht in the south-east in County Waterford, and a Gaeltacht in County Meath. These regions cover some of the most breath-taking landscapes of the island of Ireland.

Ciarraí (Kerry)

Kerry is a large county with beautiful scenery and wherever you go you won’t regret it. However, for a proper Irish experience go to the Dingle Peninsula, where the locals still speak Irish over their pints.

An Daingean from Connor Pass

An Daingean (Dingle), Co. Kerry

An Daingean is both a tourist hot-spot and a local fishing village. Many small boats operate out of the town’s port, and you can wander up the pier to see the men at work. While you’re wandering around, grab yourself a traditional “fish and chips”.

You won’t hear much Irish spoken in the town of An Daingean, despite its Irish-speaking status. Chances are you won’t hear a word. However, it’s still being spoken in the privacy of many locals’ home, and you might hear the ould lads speak it in the local pub. If you’re booking a local B&B, I suggest that you first ask if the family is Irish speaking. If you want to hear the Irish language, drive out further down the peninsula to places such as Baile an Fhéirtearaigh.

Dingle Accommodation

One thing is for sure, accommodation is not hard to come by in Dingle. However, prices and availability will vary according to the season.

B&Bs in Dingle

Feirm Chinn Sléibhe (Slea Head Farm; +353 (0)66 9156120) is Europe’s most western family-run farm and guesthouse. It sits high on the cliffs above the Atlantic Ocean at the tip of the Dingle Peninsula, on the Slea Head Drive, between Caenn Trá and Dún Chaoin. It offers magnificent views over the Atlantic and treats you with fine Irish spoken by the owners.

Feirm Chinn Sléibhe (Slea Head Farm)

Nic Gearailt B&B (+353 (0)66 9155142) is situated in the heart of the Gaeltacht in Baile na nGall (Ballydavid) and nestled between Mount Brandon, Ireland’s second highest mountain (925 metres) and Smerwick Harbour on the Northern side of the Dingle Peninsula. This bungalow is the Irish-speaking home of Máire Dolores and Thomás Mac Gearailt and family who offer homely accommodation, home cooking and friendly atmosphere. Nic Gearailt is an ideal base from which to explore the un-spoilt area rich in flora and fauna and archaeological sites such as Gallarus Oratory and Cill Maolcéadar Church. It is a walkers and hill climber’s paradise.

Gaillimh (Galway)

County Galway is the heart of Cúige Chonnacht (Connaught, or Connacht), Ireland’s western province. The West is known for its traditional, rural, sparsely populated land, with windy mountains and countryside speckled with low stone walls and peat bogs. The rough Atlantic coastline gives shelter to numerous prehistoric sites such as the ring forts on the Aran Islands, and the tower houses.

Conamara is quite a large region, so try to plan your trip to see where the best place to spend the night would be. Galway City is a great base from which to start you travels.

Conamara (Connemara)

County Galway is home to Loch Coiribe (Lough Corrib, the largest lake in the Republic of Ireland), Na Beanna Beola (Twelve Bens) mountain range, Na Sléibhte Mhám Toirc (the Maum Turk mountains), and the low mountains of Sliabh Echtghe (Slieve Aughty).

An Cheathrú Rua (Carraroe)

An Cheathrú Rua is a small vibrant town at the heart of the Conamara Gaeltacht. The population swells during the summer’s months with people visiting here to learn the language. An Cheathrú Rua sits within its own small peninsula. At the end of this peninsula is a great view from the small beach of the Atlantic and Conamara mountains.

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Comments

  1. Pat Martin says:

    We have always stayed in B & Bs; wouldn’t do it any other way. Does the tourist board still publish a list of the B & Bs?

  2. Tracey-Keel says:

    what is the village with highest percentage of gaelic speakers ???
    thanks

    Sarah Bridget Tracey-Keel

  3. Sasa says:

    I’m not sure which village has the highest percentage of Irish speakers. I found this on wikipedia: “The numerically and socially strongest Gaeltacht areas are those of South Connemara like Carraroe-An Ceathrú Rua), the west of the Dingle Peninsula (Dunquin-Dún Chaoin and Baile an Fheirtéaraigh) and northwest Donegal (Gweedore), in which the majority of residents use Irish as their primary language. These areas are often referred to as the Fíor-Ghaeltacht (“true Gaeltacht”) and collectively have a population just under 20,000.”
    There is a lot of numbers on the CSO website as well, but it’s not very village-specific: http://www.cso.ie/census/census2006_volume9.htm

  4. I live in Corca Dhuibhne, west of Dingle and, though my father’s people were from Connemara, I don’t know a more beautiful place than this. Just before I opened your post I was driving round Slea Head. Though I have to admit it’s so shrouded in mist today that I didn’t get the fabulous view in your photograph! It’s the perfect place to wake up in, though, whatever the weather.

  5. Marlene Taylor says:

    I loved staying in B&Bs. I love supporting the local populations, and often get information about the area that I wouldn’t have gotten otherwise. I did stay in a hostel in Dublin, not the most pleasurable experience but did manage to get a the private family room. They told us that if a family did show up we’d have to relinquish it, and it did cost a lot more per person. I just didn’t want to sleep in public split male and female quarters.

  6. Mary says:

    I’ve been to Ireland twice. The first time was a whirlwind – see the Island in a week. Not the best way to see Ireland. My husband and I returned with friends a couple years later and stayed at a B&B outside Dublin for a night and made our way over to Galway where we had booked a holiday house in Spidell. Our wonderful hosts lived next door and it was a great savings with three couples sharing the house, each with their own bedroom and bath. We were all surprised to find everyone around us speaking Irish. At Easter Sunday Mass the only thing we understood were the Alleluias and Amens! LOL If I’m blessed to make another trip, I would like to be able to say a few things at least, I will book a flight to Shannon rather than Dublin, and I will check the tires on my rental car. It turned out that we were responsible for flat tires, so we got to meet some wonderful folks who helped us out with some tires that were not much better than what the rental company gave us, but they held air. It turned into a fun adventure worth the price. I love the wildness of the north west. Will this dialect be appropriate for us in Ballycastle, Co Mayo?

    • Hi Mary,

      Thank you for taking the time to share your story with us.

      It seems that you had a wonderful time.

      You might find this blog post interesting: http://www.bitesize.irish/blog/irish-dialects/

      Le meas,
      Ana.

    • Hi Mary,

      It was lovely to read of your pleasant trip. It’s delightful to hear that you had a true Gaeltacht experience!

      There are various dialects within Mayo, but on the whole, they are most similar to the Conamara dialect, which is a Connaught dialect. As a result of being in north Connaught, the influence of the Ulster dialect can be heard also.

      If you have any further questions, don’t hesitate to ask.

      Le meas,
      Siobhán

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