The main holiday for 2000 was a repeat visit to South-West Donegal: to Oideas Gael, Foras Cultur Uladh (Ulster Cultural Centre), an Irish studies centre in the village of Gleann Cholm Cille (Glencolumbkille), in the extreme south-west of Donegal, about 5 hours drive from Baile Átha Cliath (Dublin), and an hour west of Donegal town. (Here's a map) I first went there in 1997, for a week of beginners Irish, and then again in 1999 for another week of Irish. This time I decided I needed a bit longer, and opted for a fortnight.
Oideas Gael concentrates on providing Irish language courses, but also has a varied program of more general interest courses delivered on a bi-lingual basis: at various times they have such things as Archaeology, Painting, Pottery, Tapestry-weaving, Hill-walking, Dancing etc. (see their web-site for full details). The thought of two solid weeks of language was a bit much, (but would probably have done me a lot of good), so I opted for what sounded as a very interesting course - 'Environment and Culture'. As the brochure describes it:
"This course offers an understanding of both the natural and man-made heritage of the region, with morning presentations and afternoon field trips. Topics will include: the landscape before the arrival of man; the impact of the first inhabitants; the bogs and their flora and fauna; patterns of land use; and other environmental themes."
The second week I had been debating doing the Hill-walking course, but a combination of bad weather and serious doubts about the ability of my body to copy with 6hrs in the hills every day, plus a renewed enthusiasm for Irish, meant that the second week was Irish level three.
The fortnight was really a lot of fun - the walks around the area for the Environment course, the language classes, the evening entertainment program, the craic in the pubs afterwards, but above all the lovely people I met there. The weather could have been a bit nicer, particularly during the second week, although if it had been warm and sunny we wouldn't have had the pleasure of an evening in, with mulled wine, a turf fire blazing away in the grate and singing silly songs. I'm not sure if I actually learnt a lot of Irish during the week, but it certainly inspired me to really get down to the books and tapes so that next year I will be a lot better. Go raibh maith agaibh, Liam, Siobhan, Anna agus Seán.
Anyway, enough rabbiting, on to the holiday snaps (all courtesy of my wonderful new digital camera...). I've divided them into several sections. Each picture is a large-ish thumbnail, with notes, but if you want a larger version, you can click on the thumbnail and see one. The originals were either 896x600 or 1792x1200.