The Northwest Feature
Gaeltacht: Understanding the Language
County Donegal was part of the ancient kingdom of Ulster not conquered by the English until the 17th century. When the English withdrew in the 1920s, they had still not eradicated rural Donegal's Celtic inheritance. It thus shouldn't come as a surprise that it contains Ireland's largest Gaeltacht (Irish-speaking) area. Driving in this part of the country, you may either be frustrated or amused when you come to a crossroads whose signposts show only the Irish place-names, often so unlike the English versions as to be completely incomprehensible. To make things more confusing, some shop and hotel owners have opted to go with the English, not Irish, variant for their establishment's name. All is not lost, however, as maps generally give both the Irish and English names.
And locals are usually more than happy to help out with directions (in English)—often with a colorful yarn thrown in.
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