If you are a fan of Irish literature and culture, then a visit to Teach Synge, a 300-year-old cottage on the beautiful island of Inishmaan (Aran Islands) in Galway is simply a must. The cottage has been restored to its former glory and now houses a museum dedicated to the life and work of the celebrated playwright John Millington Synge (1871-1909).
Synge was one of the leading figures of the Irish Literary Revival, along with W.B. Yeats and Lady Gregory. He is best known for his plays, such as ‘Riders to the Sea’ (1904), hailed by many to be the finest one act tragedy of the 20th century, and ‘The Playboy of the Western World’ (1907), which caused riots in Dublin due to its portrayal of rural life and morality.
Synge first visited Inishmaan in 1898, after Yeats suggested that he should go to the Aran Islands and “live there as if you were one of the people themselves; express a life that has never found expression”. Synge followed this advice and spent five summers on the island, staying with Brid and Paidin MacDonnchadha (MacDonagh), who owned the cottage that is now known as Teach Synge.
Synge was fascinated by the language, folklore, customs and landscape of the island. He learned Irish from the locals and collected stories and legends from them. He also wrote about his experiences in his book ‘The Aran Islands’ (1907), which is considered a classic of travel writing and ethnography.
The cottage where Synge stayed has been preserved as a museum by Theresa Ni Fhatharta, the great granddaughter of Synge’s hosts. She started a campaign to have the house restored in 1999, and it was completed in 2006. The cottage is now open in the summer months as a Synge Museum. Memorabilia includes photographs, drawings and letters. A converted stone out house now holds a small reference library of relevant publications by and about Synge, Yeats and Lady Gregory.
To visit Teach Synge, you can take a ferry from Rossaveal or Doolin to Inishmaan, and then walk or cycle to the cottage, which is located on the road just before you head up to Dún Chonchúir, an ancient stone fort that offers stunning views of the island and the sea.
Teach Synge is a must-see attraction for anyone interested in Irish literature and culture. It offers a unique insight into the life and work of one of Ireland’s most influential writers, as well as a glimpse into the rich and vibrant heritage of the Aran Islands.
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