Crafts in the Donegal Gaeltacht

Northwest Donegal is just brimming with interesting arts and crafts, mng.ie has been out meeting some of these talented people.  

Falcarragh has a host of interesting arts and crafts, a lot can be found at ‘The Visitors Centre’ or ‘An tSean Bheairic’ as its better known. We came across a very talented man, who calls himself the “The Basket maker”. To find the basket maker, you need to go 2 miles out of Falcarragh, to a place called Moyra. There is a quaint Irish cottage nestled in the trees, here, you will find Alastair Simmons, basket weaving.

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 A timeless craft mastered over the last 30 years, using willows harvested from the garden. Alastair makes baskets of all styles and sizes. Authentic works of art and craftsmanship spill out of this workshop, in an area surrounded by outstanding natural beauty, which really did add to the experience.

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Basket making/weaving is one of the oldest and widest spread crafts in the history of any human civilization. It is hard to know exactly how old this craft is. And is it difficult? Alastair says he only had a couple of lessons but a whole lot of practice over the years.

You will find all sorts of useful and decorative designs at Alastairs workshop, ranging from large log or turf baskets to old style potato baskets, known as “císeogs”. They can be used around the home or simply hung as wall art. At one time, every house in Ireland used one if not many of these baskets. Half the fun in visiting this place, is finding it, a short journey, but also a wee adventure through the countryside.

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Alastair’s workshop will be open to the public from 2 to 6pm daily, during the week of the 8th -14th July, and there will be plenty of signage out to keep you on the right track.

To find Alastair, from Falcarragh, head towards Dunfanaghy, just before the bridge, there will be a sign for “Raith” on the right, take that right, there will be blue signs posted along this windy mountain road to Upper Moyra, with Muckish mountain looming in the background. Or, simply ask locally where to find the basket maker, anyone will know.

The 8-14th July, will be a busy week for the Gaeltacht region as Earagail Arts Festival hosts a number of events across the three parishes including, the Clannad and Altan concert, Loinnir, Aonach Jack, Ponydance theatre group to name but a few. For more details on all events, attractions and accommodation in the Gaeltacht, check out www.eaf.ie.