What is a Celt? The Celts are one of the ancient races of the world, tracing their origins to before written history, somewhere in Eastern Europe. By 500 BC the Celtic world stretched from Ireland and Scotland in the West to Russia in the East and down to the Mediterranean. By the fourth century BC, they were thought to be one of the four great barbarian races by the Ancient Greeks.
The Celts were never really unified as a people, but they shared a common culture. To this day, a Welsh speaker can make themselves understood to a Breton, or recognize links to Scots or Irish Gaelic.
Today, the Celtic strongholds are Scotland, Ireland, Wales, the Isle of Man and Cornwall in the British Isles, and Brittany in France, but you can find evidence of the ancient culture across Britain and parts of Western Europe.
When it comes to emigrating, the Irish did it in style. It’s estimated that 80 million people around the world consider themselves to be of Irish descent – that’s 14 times the current population of the Irish Republic. While the Irish government takes no responsibility for these people, it amended its own constitution, the Bunreacht na hÉireann in 1998 to read “the Irish nation cherishes its special affinity with people of Irish ancestry living abroad who share its cultural identity and heritage.” In many ways, Ireland’s tourist industry is built on its Celtic heritage. Irish tourism is making the most of international interest in Celtic history and heritage. Dozens of tours promise a taste of the myths and legends, the history, the landscape and even the cooking of this Celtic nation. Dublin is a big city, full of history – but you’ll get more of a feel for the Celtic heritage if you head for less cosmopolitan places.
“Do you have the Gaelic?” you might hear one Scot ask another. Their ancient Celtic language has been less successful in being dragged back from the brink of oblivion, but inroads are being made. Centuries of conflict with neighboring England have left a nation fiercely proud of its independence. A visit to a more remote area will give you a heady dose of Celtic culture that you will never forget. A trip to the Scottish isles, such as Mull or Skye, will introduce you to many Scottish traditions, including, of course, whiskey. Try to take part in a traditional “Ceilidh” (pronounced kaye-lee), a kind of social evening, musical event and dance all rolled into one, to experience authentic Celtic entertainment at its best.
Interested in discovering your Celtic roots or just exploring the history of Ireland and Scotland? You’re in luck! Check out our Celtic Hearts Tour, where you can travel to Ireland, Scotland, or both this fall! We’d love to have you join us! (Oh, for those of you who enjoy golf, there’s some time for that, too if you wish!)
Have you been to either place? If so, what did you enjoy most? If not, what do you most want to see or experience in Ireland or Scotland?