I was so excited to be heading to the Aran Islands which I didn’t have time for back in 1987. We carried just a small and medium backpack for the two day stay. The plane held just a few of us with a window seat for all. Thirty minutes after takeoff we had landed and retrieved our baggage. So quick!
Our first order of business was to find the gentleman renting bicycles Bill had spoken to the night before. He wanted to meet us and look at each other eye to eye before agreeing to a price for two days! He was just a few minutes walk from the airport and turned out to be an energetic kind man! We later found out he is about 75 years old and still has his finger in projects for the island.
Next up was finding the bed and breakfast, Aun Dún. He directed us and off we peddled. Despite having 21 gears we found we still needed to dismount on the steepest hills and push the bikes, and ourselves, to the top. The B&B cafe was open so we stopped in. The owner gave us tea and coffee to warm ourselves. Another man was there as well who was going to spend a couple of nights. He was quite the talker! Check-in wasn’t for about four more hours so we left our bags and headed out to explore the island of Inishmaan.
This quietest and least populated of the three Aran Islands is a maze of narrow winding roads, paths and trails. Stonewalls abound and are used to keep livestock and as potato plots. The population is only about 160 and many still speak Irish and have a knowledge of English. Not being concerned with tourism, there are few facilities. We had dinner at the B&B as there wasn’t really any other choice. The food was pretty good as was breakfast. She didn’t want to serve that until 9 AM, though!
Right across from the B&B and up the pasture a bit is Dún Chochúir (Conor’s Fort) dates from between the first and seventh centuries AD.
Further down the road is Synge’s Chair, a lookout at the edge of a sheer limestone cliff. It is often sheltered from the wind which made it a great spot for the author to look at the ocean and be inspired.
On the way there is a clochán, a drystone hut with a corbelled roof, hidden behind a house and shed.
We biked across the island to the side opposite the airport. Rain spit at us a bit but never became a downer. Along the way we marvelled at the plethora of stonewalls, sheep and lambs, some bovines, and a goat or two. The shore is rocky, of course, and no one else was around. In the distance was the smallest of the islands.
The second day we headed east and hoped the drips would pass by, which they eventually did. There seemed to be an never-ending supply of rock for walls and huts.
Later we returned to the B&B for our bags and slowly wheeled our way to a less interesting part of the island where, unfortunately, was a smattering of litter. There is a knitting factory between there and the airport. I had hoped we could see the woman working but that was not allowed. The shop was filled with their efforts at a price I didn’t want to pay. Living in Costa Rica, I didn’t feel a temptation to splurge! The very talkative cow had caught sight of us the night before. When she came close to the road she had a rather unusual bovine reaction when I she spied!
We had a bit too much time before our return flight at 4:45 so after returning our bikes we braved the chance of rain and walked to the airport. That was locked as there is no point in them being open until just before the flight. We ambled over to the ferry pier where one was departing as we approached. On the return the two men we had seen in a field conversing earlier were then squatting and huddling by a stonewall for a bit of shelter.
When the airport finally opened an Irish man from the Wexford area chatted with us. He was in Inishmaan on business and gave us some pointers for visiting the eastern side of the emerald isle. He said Wexford is known as the wooded area and there are many gardens. The Irish language, mostly heard in the western part of Ireland, is nothing like English. If it is not spoken in one’s childhood home, it can be hard to learn.
We arrived back in Spiddal in time for dinner at Tigh Goblin again. The piped-in music was too loud, there were a few young kids who tended to shriek, and one waitress was counting the coins in the till. She dropped them in one by one with such effort the clanging was resounding in my brain. The amount of each denomination was determined and then rechecked. I thought I would loose my mind with the auditory overload! Soon the kids left and the incessant coin dropping ceased. The food was still as yummy as the first time!