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How to have a Gaelic tourism experience in Northern Ireland

If you’re interested in language, culture and history and would like to have a Gaelic experience whilst you’re travelling around Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland whilst you’re over for the Portrush Open, this guide will point you in the right direction and set you on your way.

Irish Gaelic | where is it found and how is it used nowadays?

Irish Gaelic is the ancient language of the Island of Ireland. Gaelic words form the basis of a vast number of words and names you’ll see in Northern Ireland and in everyday use, for example when you hear the term “What’s the craic?”. You’ll also see Gaelic referenced in a lot of the historical narrative as you head off around the place. In some areas you’ll see Gaelic on street signs and in the Gaeltacht areas of Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, Gaelic is the main language spoken. So if you love travelling to places, learning a language before hand and then getting involved, check out where the Gaeltacht areas are below and follow the links to the various apps and Gaelic language sites … and give it a go!

[Note from the Ed. “As someone who always learns the basic phrases before travelling to somewhere new – knowing ‘please’, ‘thank you’, ‘how much’, ‘what is it’ etc in many different languages for the various countries I’ve visited – I’ve found Irish Gaelic pretty tricky to pick up. Important to note that the accent is very different up North and down South e.g. Dia duit – hello: up North they pronounce it Jia Ditch – down South Dia Wit. Once you figure out that the ‘h’ is often used as an apostrophe and what letters are silent, it gets a bit easier!]

Learning the Irish Gaelic language

Míle fáilte a Port Rois!
– Portrush in Irish Gaelic is Port Rois, which means “promontory port”
Fáilte you’ll see a lot on ‘welcome to’ signs, which means ‘Welcome’
Míle fáilte a Port Rois therefore means “A thousand welcomes to Portrush!”

So first up, here are some key words and phrases to learn

The 5 main ones to learn for use in Gaeltacht areas are:

Hello – Dia duit
Cheers – Sláinte
Please – Le do thoil
Thank you – Go raibh maith agat
I am… – Is mise…

The next key ones for basic interaction between people are:

How are you? – Cad é mar atá tú
I am fine – Tá mé go brea
Bye for now – Slán go fóill
You are welcome – Tá fáilte romhat
May God’s blessing go with you – Beannacht Dé leat
A thousand welcomes – Míle fáilte

And a lovely little phrase for the language geeks reading this:
Mar a chaithfeadh sé amach as a bhéal é
He is the spitting image of his father
Literally: Like he threw him out of his mouth!

If you’d like to learn more than the basics the best thing we can advise is to use the apps and translators:

An Chraic app | Irish Gaelic translator

Teanglann | English-Irish Translator

Fainne badge
If you spot this badge on someone’s lapel it shows that they are a Gaelic speaker

Irish Gaelic | Out and about

As you travel around Northern Ireland you’ll spot Gaelic on various street signs. The beauty of this for tourists like yourself is that it usually has both the English and the Gaelic, which is a learning experience in itself in that you can learn what th e words mean and from there, if you want get really geeky, the origins of the words and possibly the places they refer to.

So you’ll learn pretty quickly that ‘Sraid’ is street! As for the historical references linking Gaelic words to the geography you’ll pass through, Wikipedia is the fastest way to do this.

Example: Using the Gaelic for Belfast to trace the origins of Belfast – that you can see today
So Belfast is Beal Feirste. If you work back from ‘Beal Feirste’ you’ll find that (and we’ll take this straight from Wikipedia – so CLICK HERE to go there to read in further detail) – the word béal means “mouth” or “rivermouth” while feirsde/feirste is the genitive singular of fearsaid and refers to a sandbar or tidal ford across a river’s mouth. The name would thus translate literally as “(river) mouth of the sandbar” or “(river) mouth of the ford”. This sandbar was formed at the confluence of two rivers at what is now Donegall Quay: the Lagan, which flows into Belfast Lough, and its tributary the Farset. This area was the hub around which the original settlement developed:

Image courtesy of anextractofreflection (CLICK HERE to read more about this) – this was Belfast in 1789 where you can see the development of the sandbar at the mouth of the river. Today, as you drive across the Lagan Bridge (the big road bridge that takes you across the Lagan River in Belfast) heading East you’ll clearly see the lough coming in on your left and the river to your right. The bridge would almost be where the artists was sitting. We’ve nabbed the image from Google Streetview below from the bridge:

If you’re in Belfast on foot you can walk across the Lagan Weir Bridge to see it better and figure it all out.

This is a great way to look into the Gaelic meaning behind the names and places to understand how everything developed over the centuries.

Gaelic town translator is a great site where you can translate towns into Gaelic, to help you start your journey similar to Belfast above. In truth wikipedia does it all much quicker and is brilliant.

Gaeltacht regions

The term Gaeltacht refers individually to any, or collectively to all, of the districts where the government recognises that the Irish language is the predominant vernacular, or language of the home [Head to wikipedia for more detail]

Map of the Gaeltacht areas of Ireland

The best site we’ll refer you to to find out more about the Gaeltacht regions is ‘Holidays in the Gaeltacht

Irish Gaelic and you | tracing your family ancestry

If you’re going to take the opportunity whilst you’re over for the Portrush Open to trace your Irish ancestry and discover more about the origins of your family name, where you’re from etc we have a section dedicated to that here.

Below are a few useful sites and links:

Find the translation of your Irish name

Find your Irish tartan

Unlike Scotland where family tartan is by family name, in Ulster it is by county/region:

Gaelic section on
We have a section dedicated to helping you have a ‘Gaelic’ experience whilst you’re over for The Open [CLICK HERE] – essentially an extension of this guide.

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