A Charming Seaside Irish Town
Good timing resulted in my opportunity to live in one of Ireland’s most charming towns this summer, An Cheathrù Rua. An hour west of Galway along the coastline, this town is called home by some of Ireland’s remaining native Gaelic speakers. Unbeknownst to much of the world, Ireland has a native language preceding English that many dedicate their lives to keeping alive. My July was spent practicing Gaelic tenses, vocabulary, and talking about my “past times” (the Irish love talking about past times) at the National University of Ireland Galway’s Carraroe branch. I lived with a five other students and a host family, who cooked delicious, and pants-tightening, meals for us every day and gave me insight into Irish life.
Before this summer trip to County Galway, I had been to Ireland once before. I had seen Dublin, Galway, and the Cliffs of Moher. It was not until I took the time to explore An Cheathrù Rua that I realized how truly enchanting the country is. Never in my life have I seen such vastness, seemingly untouched nature, and so many rocks! Most people recognize picturesque Ireland as smooth, rolling green hills, but western Ireland shatters this idea with rocks on rocks on rocks everywhere.
The center of town is comprised of two pubs, one grocery store-post office combo, a school, and a handful of restaurants. Narrow roads web out from the center of town to the coast where stunning beaches appear to be untouched and inland toward the English-speaking areas. The absence of artificial light at night paints innumerable stars in the sky that seem to go on forever. It only took two days in this town for me to wonder why it was not flooding with tourists looking to catch a glimpse of authentic Irish life.
We frequented the local pub, An Chistin, several nights a week where we found ourselves practicing our Irish with locals, listening to traditional music, playing pool, and draining pints. An Cheathrù Rua is home to some of the kindest and most charming people I have ever had the pleasure of getting to know. The Irish language is incredibly difficult to learn and understand. Throw in a few whiskeys and a thick western brogue and you’ll see me looking lost. For a while, I was nervous to even attempt to converse with anyone whom I thought I might need to ask to repeat sentences and speak more slowly. It comforted me how patient and appreciative my conversation partners were of the fact that I was simply trying to speak to them in their own language.
If you find yourself in western Ireland, take the time to visit An Cheathrù Rua (anglicized to Carraroe), the town with few street signs, lovely people who will give directions to a place as “up the road” or “down the road,” and amazing walks with the most beautiful views.
If you’re interested in seeing more of what I did in Ireland, you can watch my video: Seven Weeks in Europe