2016 Irish Traditional Music and Dance Summer Schools and Festivals

If you are anywhere near Ireland this Northern hemisphere summer, there is absolutely no excuse for not learning to play, sing or dance. Festivals and summer schools are burgeoning, with most offering opportunities to learn Irish set dancing, Irish sean nós dancing and/ or to learn to play or master a range of traditional musical instruments, as well as a wide range of concerts, céilís and lectures. And, of course, there are the four provincial fleadhanna (flaa-na), festivals incorporating competitions for traditional musicians and dancers, with the Fleadh Cheoil na hÉireann  being hosted by Ennis, Co.Clare in August this year.

There is a tangible increase in 2016 for opportunities to learn and compete at sean nós dancing, to attend singing classes and performances, and much more on offer specifically for children.

You can find your way around all 38 festivals listed here by either using the interactive map or by scrolling the date listing below, which also includes a brief description.

FESTIVAL LISTING BY DATE
(If you don’t see your festival here, please let me know)

JUNE 2016

Friday 10th – Sunday 12th June 2016
Craiceann International Bodhrán Summer School 
Inis Oirr, Co.Galway (Aran Islands)
www.craiceann.com

Friday 10th – Sunday 12th June, 2016
Doolin Folk Festival
Doolin, Co.Clare
www.doolinfolkfestival.com

Sunday 12th June- Thursday 16th June 2016         
Enniscrone Irish and Country Music Festival          
Enniscrone, Co.Sligo
The 5 day festival brings together some of the best Country and Western stars under one roof in the Diamond Coast Hotel but the festival also gives the opportunity for people to take part in set dance workshops, ballroom and social dance workshops, music tutorials, sessions and with music and dance taking place till late in the night.
http://www.diamondcoast.ie/Irish_Trad_and_Country_Music_Festival.html

Sunday 12th-Sunday 19th June 2016
Galway Sessions
Galway city, Co.Galway
Dedicated this year to the memory of Éamonn Ceannt, there will be lectures, music, recitals and wide range of other events.
www.galwaysessions.com

Thursday 16th -Sunday 19th June 2016
Jim Dowling Uillean Pipe & Traditional Music Festival
Glengarriff, Co.Cork
www.jimdowlingfestival.com

Friday 17th June – Saturday 18th June 2016         
All-Ireland Sean Nós Dance Festival          
Athboy, Co Meath, Ireland          
A summer sean nós festival with workshops, sessions, céilís and a competition with a top prize of €500.
http://www.discoverireland.ie/Whats-On/all-ireland-sean-nos-dancing-festival/511411

Monday 20th June – Friday 1st July 2016         
BLÁS         
Limerick, Co.Limerick     
Intensive “deep dive” workshops and master classes for experienced singers, dancers and musicians with a focus on collaborative integration of understanding between the disciplines- a residential program at the University of Limerick.
www.blas.ie

Saturday 25th-Sunday 26th June 2016 & Saturday 2nd – Sunday 3rd July 2016
Fleadh Cheoil Chonnacht 2016         
Strokestown,  Co.Roscommon 
Connacht Province Fleadh, which is primarily provincial competitions for traditional musicians, dancers & other artists, organised by the local Comhaltas Cheoltóirí Éireann (CCE).        
http://www.connachtfleadh.ie/

Saturday 25th-Sunday 26th June 2016          
Carlow Set Dance Weekend 2016
Weekend of set dancing workshops and céilís.
Carlow, Co. Carlow         

JULY 2016

Saturday 2nd July- Saturday 9th July 2016         
Willie Clancy Summer School 
Miltown Malbay, Co.Clare  
Affectionately known as Willie Week, this is probably the longest running of these festivals. There’s always a great buzz in Miltown: we call it Set Dancing Mecca! Classes for music and dance are run each morning from 10-1pm from Monday – Saturday, interspersed with a wide range of afternoon and evening set dancing céilís around the area, singing sessions & music sessions in pubs. Highly recommended for those who want full immersion, deep dive into Irish culture & craic.        
http://www.scoilsamhraidhwillieclancy.com/
http://www.armadahotel.com/events.html/armada-festival-of-music-dancing-2016

Monday July 4th– Friday July 8th 2016
The Junior Davey Bodhrán Academy
Gorteen, Co Sligo
www.juniordaveybodhranacademy.com

Monday 4th July-Sunday 10th July 2016         
Leinster Fleadh Cheoil 2016         
Kilkenny, Co.Kilkenny
Leinster Province Fleadh, which is primarily provincial competitions for traditional musicians and dancers and other artists, organised by the local Comhaltas Cheoltóirí Éireann (CCE).   http://www.leinsterfleadh.ie

Sunday 10th July- Saturday 16th July 2016         
South Sligo Summer School         
Tubbercurry, Co.Sligo
This has become my favorite festival for it’s laid back nature but also the learning to dance program is excellent. Different energy to Willie Clancy, it’s more intimate, gentler and very enjoyable in this beautiful part of Co.Sligo, with very deep music & dance tradition. Set dancing and music classes are in the morning 10am-1pm, a sean nós dance program in the afternoon from 4-6pm, and a range of concerts in the afternoons, and set dancing céilís in the evenings, with sessions in the pubs to follow.         
http://www.sssschool.org/index.html

Monday 11th July– Friday 15th July  2016
Ceol na Coille Summer School of Irish Traditional Music
Letterkenny, Co.Donegal
www.ceolnacoille.ie

Monday 11th July– Friday 15th July  2016
Westport Scoil Cheoil 2016
Westport, Co.Mayo
Full summer school with tuition, concerts and recitals.
www.westportscoilcheoil.com

Monday 11th July- Friday 15th July 2016         
Sean Nós ar an tSionnan Feet and Beat Summer Camp
Ballymote, Co Sligo
A week of dance training for children from 7 to 15 years.     
http://edwinaguckian.com/dance-classes/

Friday 15th July – Sunday 17th July 2016         
Danny Webster Weekend
Meenaneary, Co Donegal         
Kilkenny’s master accordionist visits Donegal for a weekend of three céilís.

Friday 16th July -Sunday 25th July 2016         
Ulster Fleadh 2016         
Bangor, Co.Down 
Ulster Province Fleadh, which is primarily provincial competitions for traditional musicians and dancers and other artists, organised by the local Comhaltas Cheoltóirí Éireann (CCE).
www.ulsterfleadh.com

Saturday 16th July – Sunday 17th July         
Munster Fleadh 2016          
Listowel,Co.Kerry
Muster Province Fleadh, which is primarily provincial competitions for traditional musicians and dancers and other artists, organised by the local Comhaltas Cheoltóirí Éireann (CCE).
www.munsterfleadh.ie

Saturday 16th July – Sunday 17th July         
Céilí at the Crossroads Festival         
Clarecastle,Co.Clare
Annual céilí at the Crossroads – an opportunity to dance outside!         
www.clare.ie/event/ceili-at-the-cross-roads-festival-clarecastle/

Sunday 17th July – Saturday 24thJuly 2016         
Joe Mooney Summer School         
Drumshanbo Co. Leitrim
Drumshanbo is delightful – a similar format to South Sligo Summer School, the difference here is the focus is very much around the unusual main street, which has a pedestrian mezzanine above the lane of traffic, where you can sit out in the sun, dance, listen to music & enjoy the people going by and enjoy a number of excellent evening céilís.
www.JoeMooneySummerSchool.com

July 18th – 22nd, 2016
Meitheal Residential Summer School
Villiers School, Limerick City, Ireland
Residential Summer School for young traditional musicians.
www.tradweek.com

Monday 18th July – Friday 22nd July          
Get in Step Summer Camp         
Riverstown, Co Sligo
€60 for five classes sean nós and set dancing summer school for kids from 5 to 17 years from 10am–2pm daily         
Eimear Mulvey (086) 258 4465

Friday 22nd July- Sunday 24th July          
Kilrush Traditional Festival         
Kilrush, Co Clare         
Free outdoor céilís in the market square are the big attraction at this weekend organised by Kilrush Comhaltas
http://www.wildatlanticway.com/directory/details/kilrush-traditional-music-set-dancing-festival-2016/511986/#52.637223|-9.481393|14

Saturday 23rd July  – Saturday 30th July 2016
Scoil Acla Summer School
Achill Island, Co.Mayo
Traditional Music Courses, Art Workshops, Sean Nós Singing, Writers Workshop, Dance Workshop, Sean Nós Dancing,  Basket Weaving Workshops
www.scoilacla.com

Monday 25th July- Sunday 31 July 2016          
Kilcar Fleadh          
Kilcar, Co Donegal
A village on the wild Atlantic coast of Donegal hosts this week-long music and dance festival.           
https://donegalgathering.com/july/kilcar-fleadh/

Monday 25th July – Sunday 31 July 2016         
Summer Festival of Dance          
Ballyfin, Co Laois
Maureen Culleton, one of Ireland’s best-known dance teachers organises this festival for the love of music, song and dance.
http://www.midlandsireland.ie/events/maureen-culleton-summer-school-and-festival-of-dance

Monday 25th July 2016          
O’Carolan Summer School and Harp Festival         
Keadue, Co Roscommon         
The Irish composer Turlough O’Carolan is the inspiration for this summer school and festival in this gorgeous town.
http://www.ocarolanharpfestival.ie/

Monday July 25th- Friday 29th 2016         
Liffey Trust Studios, 117-126 Upper Sheriff Street, Dublin 1       
Rince 2016-Treblehop 
Irish step dancing intensive tuition including solo technique, stage performance, céilí, show style and injury prevention.       
http://www.treblehop.com/rince_2016

Friday July 29th –  Sunday 31st July  2016
Ballyshannon Folk Festival
Ballyshannon, County Donegal
www.ballyshannonfolkfestival.com

Saturday 30th July 2016          
James Morrison Traditional Music Festival         
Riverstown, Co Sligo.    
A full trad festival with open air céilís, concerts, sessions and more in the home village of a fiddler who became famous in the USA.
http://jamesmorrisonfestival.com/author/admin/

AUGUST 2016

Saturday 31st July – 7th August 2016         
The Irish Dance Festival         
Carlingford, Co.Louth   
Spend a week learning from some of the world’s best Irish dance masters of three styles – step, set and sean nós – and connect with fellow lovers of Irish dance by immersing yourself in Irish culture and heritage.      
www.irishdancefestival.com

Wednesday 3 August-Monday 8th August          
Feakle International Festival of Traditional Music          
Feakle, Co Clare  
The big festival in the small village of Feakle runs for seven days from Wednesday to Monday with many concerts & sessions in addition to the dancing events shown here.       
http://www.feaklefestival.ie

Monday 8 August – Friday 12 August          
Get in Step Summer Camp         
Kilcummin, Co,Kerry      
Sean nós and set dancing summer school for kids from 5 to 17 years.   
Adrian Moriarty (087) 933 0768

Monday 8 August- Friday 12 August 2016         
Sean Nós ar an tSionann Feet and Beat Summer Camp
Drumshanbo Co. Leitrim         
A week of dance training for children from 7 to 15 years.
http://edwinaguckian.com/dance-classes

Sunday 14th August- Monday 22 August 2016          
Fleadh Cheoil na hÉireann         
Ennis, Co Clare
Nearly two weeks of fabulous music, dance and a wide range of concerts and other events celebrating Irish culture. Don’t miss it!
http://fleadhcheoil.ie

Wednesday 17 August – Sunday 21 August 2016         
Masters of Tradition         
Bantry, Cork
Celebrating traditional music in its’purest form through a series of concerts and performances, directed by Martin Hayes.
www.WestCorkMusic.ie/MastersOfTradition

Thursday 18th August- Sunday 21st August 2016
Coleman Traditional Festival
Gurteen, Co.Sligo

The Coleman Traditional Irish Music Centre is a celebration of Irish Music, Culture and Heritage as expressed in the South Sligo Style of music played by Michael Coleman and other musicians of his time.
This community based enterprise in Gurteen, Co.Sligo, Ireland is dedicated to ensuring that the tradition of Irish music remains a living one ‘an traidisiún beo’ and that it continues to be enjoyed by all ages and nationalities.
www.colemanirishmusic.com

Enjoy the craic!
Nora Stewart
www.EasyIrishDance.com
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WINNER 5

 

Irish Dance: Real Women DO Batter- The Race Is On

I had the pleasure of teaching a sean nós & battering workshop in October with a group of 13 dancers from Sydney, Newcastle, Melbourne and Canberra, on the 10th annual October set dancing weekend here in Canberra. We went through and learned our 3 step sean nós routine to hornpipes (see below), which was nervously but well performed to an expectant crowd the next day.

Not surprisingly though, the highlight was really getting stuck in to the battering steps, particularly the Clare battering step. This is a name that is loosely used for steps that are popularly danced in Clare to reels, and experienced dancers will recognise that very familiar tattoo immediately, as heard below:

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Irish Dance: Real Ladies Don’t Batter

I occasionally overhear fascinating conversations – as a bystander, you understand.

And so it was on this occasion when two women were recollecting their experience of set dancing and tut-tutting about other women dancers who dare to dance battering steps.

“In our day, it was never done” they said, with the implicit message was that “it shouldn’t be done”.  My face was aflame as I sat there, not sure if this missive was being directed at me or not. I kept quiet.

My initial reaction was to feel a bit indignant. Yes, I’ve been known to batter – quite loudly at times and probably over enthusiastically – but I have always found the sound and subtle rhythms used in sets and sean nós completely addictive, and is how I got really hooked in the first place. I really, really wanted to be able to do THAT. Continue reading

Irish dance music: It’s child’s play

Great music is tSeamus_Begleyhe lifeblood of dancing and fortunately, Ireland has it in abundance. One of Ireland’s most beloved musicians and singers, Séamus Begley reveals more (hear audio link below) about the unbreakable bond between Irish music & dance when being interviewed by Joan Armatrading for the BBC.

As he says, his experience of playing music on his accordion was only for dancing and when there was no dancing, he was told to “put it away”.

So, how do you tell a jig from a reel? Or a polka from a slide?

As with most things Irish, it’s complicated. The intricacies of music mathematics can be a difficult thing to get your head around: even the best musicians seem to struggle to explain how it works mostly because there are style differences in the playing, in some cases. In addition, some of the names sound like musical timings – eg, “treble jig” and  “light jig”, but are actually names of a dance rather than a specific musical timing. So, thinking about all this too much will not help your understanding.

Happily, one of the best ways of learning this difference is by moving or by singing/ humming to each different signature timing, and this also goes for musicians who are learning to play Irish music. And why not try to remember each different type – hornpipes, reels, jigs, waltzes, polkas, slides– by what we did when we were kids?

By having fun – playing, clapping and singing to nursery rhymes, and using pictures and word games to remember the basics.

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Irish summer dance and music 2015: Always absolutely brilliant!

Summer time in Ireland, particularly July is really the best time to get your concentrated dose of learning in music, dance, singing, culture and craic with a mix of well-established festivals and new ones springing up all over the place.

I remember my first trip to the Willie Clancy Summer School in Miltown Malbay, travelling down from Dublin to Co.Clare in 1999, zipping down the roads in my new bright red, sporty Honda. Besides the gorgeous trip down the very narrow hedge-bound winding country lanes and roads to get there,  glimpsing the Atlantic over the brow of the hill, the shock of dancing every day and every night for a week in a sea of 300 or more slightly damp, very enthusiastic, experienced dancers was absolutely exhilarating, as you can see:

It’s hard to convey the excitement these festivals generate : providing comfortable predictability, laced with the unexpected. And on each of my successive return trips almost every year since then, as I said to Bill Lynch at the Set Dancing News, they never disappoint – always absolutely brilliant, no matter what the weather.

IRELAND SUMMER SCHOOLS (in date order)Google map icon

Seosamh MacGabhann (Joseph McGavin) Summer School, Kilmovee, Co. Mayo 27th June – 3rd July 2015 This is a relatively new festival started in 2011, with music classes each morning & sean nós dance classes and singing classes amongst others, in the afternoon. http://smgsummerschool.com/

Willie Clancy Summer School, Miltown Malbay, Co.Clare 4th July – 12th July 2015 Also affectionately known as Willie Week, this is probably the longest running of these festivals. There’s always a great buzz in Miltown: we call it Set Dancing Mecca! Classes for music and dance are run each morning from 10-1pm from Monday – Saturday, interspersed with a wide range of afternoon and evening set dancing céilís around the area, singing sessions & music sessions in pubs. Highly recommended for those who want full immersion, deep dive into Irish culture & craic. http://www.scoilsamhraidhwillieclancy.com/full-calendar.html

South Sligo Summer School, Tubbercurry,Co.Sligo 12th July – 18th July 2015 This has become my favorite festival for it’s laid back nature but also the learning to dance program is excellent. Different energy to Willie Clancy, it’s more intimate, gentler and very enjoyable in this beautiful part of Co.Sligo, with very deep music & dance tradition. Set dancing and music classes are in the morning 10am-1pm, a fantastic sean nós dance program in the afternoon with Edwina Guckian (deep dive immersion here also!) from 4-6pm and a range of concerts in the afternoons, and set dancing céilís in the evenings, with sessions in the pubs to follow. http://www.sssschool.org/index.htm https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Vv7qC-YGKug

Joe Mooney Summer School, Drumshanbo, Co.Leitrim 19th July- 25th July 2015 If you have any energy left after the first two festivals, Drumshanbo is delightful. A similar format to South Sligo Summer School, the difference here is the focus is very much around the unusual main street, which has a pedestrian mezzanine above the lane of traffic, where you can sit out in the sun, dance, listen to music & enjoy the people going by and enjoy a number of excellent evening ceilis. http://www.joemooneysummerschool.com/

Camp Rince 2014, Dublin, Co.Dublin July 27th-31st 2015 A workshop in Irish step dance with expert tuition from Ronan McCormack in solo technique, stage performance , céilí, show style and injury prevention. http://www.treblehop.com

The Irish Dance Festival – NEW COMBINED FESTIVAL Carlingford, Co.Louth 2nd-9th August 2015Irish Dance Festival 2014 2014 saw the emergence of a festival that blends Irish step dancing, Irish set dancing & Irish sean nós dancing in the absolutely stunning 800 year old town of Carlingford, on the Carlingford Lough.  http://www.irishdancefestival.com/

FURTHER STUDY IN IRISH TRADITIONAL MUSIC & DANCE
Blas, University of Limerick, Limerick June 22nd- 3rd July 2015 If you want a more structured intensive program which provides academic credit for further studies –range of Masters degrees, there is this program at University of Limerick. http://www.blas.ie/

USA SUMMER CAMPS I have this information from The Irish Dancing Magazine about a range of Irish step dancing camps across the USA. I’d be very happy for reviews or more information about any of these and other favorites you may have.google map icon folded

CAMP RINCE CEOL (NYC), USA for Adult Dancers- NEW!! 5th-10th July 2015 Camp Rince CEOL now welcomes Adult Irish dancers from around the world for a week of hard work for individual dance improvement, enhancement of physical abilities and to increase social opportunities, through céilí, music and other optional Irish cultural activities and events. The Camp has put together a full week of all that the kids’ camp has and more….our voices have been heard…Dance Camp isn’t just for kids, anymore I Let’s create a global adult Irish Dance movement….at Camp Rince Ceol 2015!! http://www.irishdancecamp.com/adult.html

CAMP RINCE CEOL, Santa Inez, California, USA 21st-26th June 2015

CAMP STEP ABOUT, Schenectady, New York, USA 7-12th July 2015

CAMP RINCE CEOL, Schenectady, New York, USA 11th-31st July 2015

CAMP RINCE NUA, Lenox, Massachusetts, USA 16th-21st August 2015

GERMANY SUMMER CAMPS
CAMP RINCE BERLIN, Berlin, Germany 17th-23rd July 2015

CAN’T MAKE THE NORTHERN SUMMER? If you decide to go in either Spring or Fall, you are most likely going to find that regular weekly classes in an area or weekend workshop/ festivals is what is most available. Bill Lynch, Set Dancing News has an exhaustive listing of Irish set dancing, Irish sean nós dancing classes, workshops and festivals all over the world. http://sets.ie/

Happy, sunny dancing, folks!!
Nora Stewart
Easy Irish Dance
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Provisional Irish Dancing vs. Real Irish Dancing?

I have been rudely reminded this week that most people consider Irish step dancing to be “real” Irish dancing, and other styles such as sean nós are of a lesser ilk. This came when I was asked the question “Is Edwina Guckian an Irish dancer?

The fact that this question was attached to one of my YouTube films clearly marked “Irish dance sean nós brush dance”  and showed her dancing made me think that the person was joking.

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Irish Dance Style: Up or Down?

I remember learning the High Cauled Cap in Ireland, a year or two after I had moved there from Australia- I think it was a lovely weekend in Mullaghbuoy, Co.Louth.

For those of you who don’t know, this is quite a complex Irish figure dance that crosses over between being a ceili dance and a set dance: an unusual creation with  a foot in both camps!

We got to the part where we do “sevens” – dancing sideways and back again to place – and I thought, “Goody -I know how to do this bit” ( SEE FILM at the bottom of this post). Every dancer who learns Irish step dancing will pretty much start with this step. And then a funny thing happened. Everyone else was doing sevens but they didn’t look the same, although it was very like the sevens I was dancing, with pointed toes and little leaps at either end but not the same. Then, the confusion of the next few moves overtook me and I forgot that thought. Continue reading

Irish sean nós : Rich and deep

Sean nós  (say shan-nose) means old style in Irish, and I have often wondered just how old old really is. The very first time I remember seeing Irish sean nós dancing was in  early 1989 at my very first Irish set dancing weekend in Donegal Town, Co.Donegal. The snow was all aflutter outside the big windows of the hotel ballroom and three auld fellas shuffled along, “doing a bit of shtep” during the céilí -that’s how I recall it. It was relaxed, simple, very rhythmic and obviously, memorable.

Picking up the thread from my last post  Irish dance history: A contrary tale: Part 2 , I have been exploring more about the potential roots of Irish sean nós heritage, which it seems, may possibly originate from North Africa.  Bob Quinn, in his 1981 documentary series The Atlanteans, illustrateEurope map with travel route of Berberss his theory that  dwellers on the West Coast of Ireland, particularly in Connemara,  are not Celts but what he terms “Atlanteans”. They are ancient descendants of sea-faring people from Algeria and Morocco- the Berbers – who travelled all along the Atlantic coastline – West along Spain, Portugal, Basque country, Brittany in France and then North -West to Ireland – settled in parts and continued using the sea as a big super highway, that was much safer than travelling across land.

I found the evidence presented in the documentary compelling and curious,  with potential multiple connections between ancient Irish and Berber civilisations starting with traditional singing, dancing & music, musical instruments including the Irish drum bodhrán which has a double in the Berber bandir, sailing boats – Galway Hookers with púcán sails & Felucca with lateen sails,  stone circles, standing stones and carvings in similar contexts in both countries, art and fine jewellery pieces thought to be Celtic have an eery resonance in the Berber style, and on it goes. Have a look here for picture examples.

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Irish Dance History: A Contrary Tale: Part 2

Irish dance history is difficult to pin down for many reasons, most likely because the culture was primarily oral – passed down through stories, songs and dances- with very little being written down.

Indeed, there are no less than four versions of the greatly loved Caledonian Set from Clare, and despite differences between districts, it appears that most dancers had difficulty recalling all aspects of that dance clearly.* (I will write more about why the Caledonian Set is the most perfect of all sets  sneak preview below with some absolutely fabulous dancing:)

Indeed, Fintan Vallely in his book The Companion to Irish Traditional Music proposes that tunes, songs and dances that lasted the test of time were mostly those that were written down, and it appears that much of that was done, ironically, by the English.

In 1775, the Dr. Rev.Campbell wrote:

“I was at a dance in Cashel (Co. Tipperary) and the Irish boys and girls are passionately fond of dancing and they dance beautifully.

We frog-blooded English dance as if the practice was not congenial to us, but here in Ireland, they dance as if dancing was the one and only business in life. **

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Irish Dance History: A Contrary Tale: Part 1

When I first started Irish step dancing classes as an adult in 1996, I felt happy and excited to be part of such of a complex and traditional style of dance. Mostly, I wanted to have fun and make a great sound with my feet.

I had no idea then that the complexity and tradition is truly a direct reflection of Irish history, and the connection with the Irish people, landscape and life in rural Ireland. There are twists and turns in the roads, boreens, hedges and ditches, private little snugs and back entrances, soft gentle pasture and roaring Atlantic westerlies.

What I have also come to appreciate is how convoluted and seemingly contrary the whole business of Irish culture and history really is, and that there is a story behind everything.
 There is truly nothing straighforward about the Irish.

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