Into the West – as far as Connemara.

I don’t think I’d normally consider signing up for a weekend course that costs €390 to €450, even if it did include two nights’ accommodation, meals and drinks with dinner, as good value for money. Having said that, I do think that that the weekend course at Cnoc Suain, Connemara, Galway ( as described by Kevin Rushby in The Guardian Travel supplement on the 21st of March this year, has a now got a certain appeal.


To call Cnoc Suain a cultural centre will not do – a generation of places selling soft toy leprechauns, four-leaf clovers and green beer have forever debased that coinage in Ireland. But now, hearing Dearbhaill (Standún) reminisce, I begin to understand. What they (Standún & husband Charlie Troy. KC) are creating here is that sublime Irish brew: comhluadar, ceol, craic – company, music and fun – the brew that Dearbhaill supped as a child.

“Musicians would turn up looking for a party,” she says. “It was never planned, but we’d be up till seven in the morning with all sorts of people – the Chieftains, the Dubliners, the Clancys . . . they all came. Mother would say to them: ‘Go upstairs and if ye find a bed, get into it, and hold on to it.”‘

She takes out her fiddle and plays a slow air, one she wrote herself, called McSorley’s Repose. The turf on the fire hiss and crackle; outside the dogs are barking. I lean back in the armchair and close my eyes.


There is more to be said about Dearbhaill Standún, but I’ll leave that for the time being.


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