Cows Found; Hanging out with the Leprechauns

Onward to the Aran Islands, a legendary place of ambiguity and solitude. The ferry dock was about 45 minutes from Galway and more than once, Sarah thought we had surely missed it. There is nothing on the coastal road but rocks, ridges and more rocks.  Luckily, we located the dock for our noon ferry, left our car with the most adorable old Irishman and sat in a grey drizzle playing with our newfound friend.

Sarah’s cold was pretty well at its peak and Nic’s was about 2 days behind. The rain wasn’t helping, but we knew there was no rest for the weary and this would be our only shot at the Islands. We sucked it up and climbed aboard. The ferry looked brand new and shaped like a speedboat, unlike the big square ferries in Washington State. After we found our seats, we were quickly surrounded by a large beer-drinking hen party. The ladies were looking to have a good time and Sarah found them hilarious. Nic’s dose of Kwells had kicked in, as did her ability to ignore the ever-loud hens.

Sadly for the hens, and a few others, the sea was really, really rough. As waves broke over the top of the ferry and we bobbed around like a tin can, one of the crew passed out barf bags and told us we had not seen the worst of it yet. Of course, having been in Ireland for a few days now, we were pretty sure (and praying to god) this was typical Irish humor…dark and deadpan. Sarah was envious of Nic’s zen-like drug induced smile and glad she wasn’t typically prone to sea sickness. Unfortunately, the same could not be said for about 1 in 3 people around us, including several of the hen party…we imagined the warm beer didn’t help.

YEA! We had indeed seen the worst of it and arrived on the largest of the Aran Islands, Inis Mor. To make the scenario ideal, a fine mist covered us within minutes and a low fog blanketed the island. Somehow, it all seemed perfectly suited. Inis Mor is about 9 miles long and 2 miles wide and has the largest population, about 800. The landscape is harsh with steep, rugged cliffs and windswept, rocky fields divided by thousands of stone walls.

We opted to hop in a bright turquoise van for a tour of the island before we checked into our B&B. Lucky for us, we were the only 2 on the tour and sat up front with our driver, Jon, an older gentleman, born and raised on the island. Our first stop was Na Seacht Teampall,  a monastic settlement,  also  called the  Seven Churches . Most of the buildings remain standing in ruins and the main church, Teampall Bhreacain is surrounded by a mish -mashed array of tombs, graves, alters and awe. We wandered around, inspired by the views to the sea and the fact that the 2000+ year old cemetery is still in use on the island. In August, there is even a mass held in Teampall Bhreacain!  Sarah may have to return for that experience alone.

Returning to the van, we caught Jon picking through the wild blackberry bushes along the side of the road and joined in. YUM!  We followed the road up to Dún Aengus, passing by 300 year old thatched cottages and the most famous cottages on the island, the “Man of Aran” movie cottage. Apparently, you can rent a room here and sleep under the thatched roof for a small fee.

Jon stopped the van near another small cluster of cottages and pointed up to the top of the ridge where we could see the rim of a  beautifully preserved Iron Age fort, telling us the rest of the way was on foot and that he would pick us up in 2 hours. Because of her cold, Sarah was ready for a cup of tea and a nap  but Nic, ever the mountain goat, inspired her to keep going.  And SO GLAD WE MADE IT! WOW!  The cliffs here are lower than the Cliffs of Moher but said to be more beautiful and inspiring. We agreed 100%. As soon as we arrived, the last visitors were heading down. We had the place to ourselves! For 20 centuries (!) this fort, spanning 14 acres, has been battered and bashed by waves and wind. There are no restrictions in the space and we crawled out to the edge for a view 300 feet straight down. It was amazing!

On the impossibly uneven steps down, we had a grand view of the island.  The land is so rocky, that the island looks like a drunken puzzle connecting each stone wall with the next, dotted by a smattering of cows.

On our way to the B&B we took the low coastal road, winding around cottages, farms and leprechaun houses. Jon stopped to show us a seal colony and the now defunct seaweed factory.  We shared the van ride back with a lovely couple visiting from Italy.

After settling into our fantastic room and having a lengthy discussion with the proprietor about the wonder and awe that is Bruce Springsteen (who was also our wi-fi password), we headed out for dinner.

Inis Mor has a population of about 800 people and over 1800 meat cattle! Everyone has a couple in their front yard but ship them over to the mainland to be slaughtered. With little else to eat but fine Irish grass, we knew we had to taste the local beef.  We entered the pub early and ravenous, looking for something warm and hearty. We both ordered the Beef and Guinness Stew with brown bread and when the steaming bowls of goodness arrived, we sighed contently. Our bowls were full of beautifully tender stewed chunks of beef simmering in a dark broth of goodness.

Bellys full, we headed over to The American Bar where the wee Mulkerrin Brothers would be playing that evening. These famous boys won the All Ireland Talent show and played on the island, their home, frequently. After winning the show, and 50,000 euro, they  played with Sinead O’Conner and sell out shows all over the UK.  So Impressive. We ordered a few of  the best hot toddys ever,  and settled in with our new Italian friends Frederico and Alice.

After a great night’s sleep, we packed up and made a stop by the local sweater shop before heading back to Galway on the 1:00 ferry The sun was shining and the waves settled down a bit, thank god! We were so glad we stayed here and Sarah is plotting how to move here to make cheese.


3 Responses to Cows Found; Hanging out with the Leprechauns

  1. doolin2aranferries says:

    Looks like you certainly made the most of your visit to Inis Mor – isnt Dun Aengus incredible? Maybe next time try visiting Inis Oirr and then stay on the boat for a 1 hour cruise under the Cliffs of Moher – unforgettable..

  2. Lynette says:

    The greatness of your trip just goes on and on. I love it.

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