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A taste of summer: Gaeltacht experience goes online

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Coláiste Uisce usually offers surfing and sailing courses but has had to rethink this year due to Covid-19

Coláiste Uisce usually offers surfing and sailing courses but has had to rethink this year due to Covid-19

Coláiste Uisce usually offers surfing and sailing courses but has had to rethink this year due to Covid-19

How to learn to juggle, ceilí dance and how to master the magic baking skills of a bean an tí are among activities at a "virtual Gaeltacht".

Coláiste Uisce in north Mayo is a year-round outdoor pursuits centre offering surfing, sailing, windsurfing and kayaking courses through the medium of the Irish language.

It has opted to offer a virtual Gaeltacht experience to students who might not be able to splash their instructors in Elly Bay, but can learn how to make a scone or practise surfboard "pop-ups" and other activities online.

Juggling skills, environmental awareness walks and other task-based lessons through Irish form the core of "Blas Choláiste Uisce" which the college is now taking bookings for.

The five one-hour interactive online sessions culminate in a virtual céilí mór, which students can participate in at home with their instructors.

Bean an tí Fidelma Uí Pháidín, who agreed to take part in the online instruction, said she would "really miss the buzz of the students around the house this summer", but added that she was "thrilled" to be able to meet students online.

"Although I was really nervous myself, I am delighted I took part in the challenge," she said.

She said she was looking forward to offering "a taste of the Gaeltacht at home".

The centre, which was founded more than 25 years ago by former Air Corps pilot Ciarán Ó Murchú and his wife Máire, has taught courses to more than 20,000 students and employs up to 17 full-time staff throughout the year.

Mr Ó Murchú, who is managing director, said that the centre had spent €500,000 on preparing for this summer's courses.

He noted that the entire "coláiste samhraidh" sector had been hard hit by the pandemic, with Gaeltacht courses cancelled across the west coast.

"Based on our turnover of €2m, Uisce is worth between €6m and €10m to the local economy of the Erris area," he said.

A Gaillimh le Gaeilge survey in 2009 valued Irish colleges at worth more than €50m to the economy of Gaeltacht areas.

Irish Independent