Up the Connemara Coast we went today en route to Inis Mór, the largest of the Aran Islands. We hopped on a ferry and set out across the calm waters. We were very fortunate because we heard that the crossings aren’t always this smooth.
I was immediately awestruck by the rugged beauty of the island. Everywhere you turn, there are stone walls lining the land, built by hand and standing the test of time.
We stopped at a quaint little café in the village of Kilmurvey for a quick bite to eat. I had a salad with Aran goat cheese and some brown bread—they were both so fresh and tasty.
Energized by our meal, we climbed to the top of Dún Aonghasa, an ancient ringfort built around 3,000 years ago. It was a rocky, winding path to the top, but it was absolutely incredible to see the stone fort perched at the edge of a cliff once we got there!
Between the sparkling seas, the emerald green landscapes and impressive cliffs, I could have stayed up there all afternoon. It’s hard to put into words how awe-inspiring it was to stand up there.
Eventually we did descend and continue on, driving up the western side of the island. We learned that erosion from high tides and terrible storms last winter actually destroyed some of the island’s land. There were some miniature houses built next to the regular ones for the little folks, or leprechauns. Our guide Owen let us in on a little secret: “Drink a load o’ Guinness and you’ll see ’em!”
Many of the 800 islanders that populate the land are fisherman, and in recent years, tourism has become the second largest business. The hand-knitted Aran sweaters are distinct to the island and still crafted today. On Inis Mór, as well as in many surrounding lands in the Connemara region, Irish is the main language spoken. Locals also speak English in these regions, called the Gaeltacht. Irish, which is actually a form of Gaelic, lives on today mostly in these western parts of the country. According to Allie, about one-third of the population today has a good working knowledge of the Irish language.
On the ferry ride back to the mainland, we were treated to an unexpected surprise. The Irish coast guard ran a training session on our boat! A helicopter hovered above the ferry and practiced sending a man down on a cable. It was an exciting end to our Aran adventure.
Have you ever visited the Aran Islands? Tell us about it in the comments!