“How long will you be on the oilean?” asks the driver. He blesses himself as we drive past a statue of our Lord on the side of the road. He tells us how he was born and raised on the island. He offers us a minibus tour but we politely decline saying we would prefer to walk. He drives 8km to our BnB and charges us €5 a piece. He wishes us well, we say goodbye and he returns to the pier to await more passengers.
Last summer, my boyfriend and I spent two days on the Aran Islands. We got a hell of a lot done in those two incredible days.
We left Co Meath at 9:30am and caught the 1pm ferry from Doolin pier. It was all smiles as we board and the crewman tell us it will be rocky for the first 25 minutes. The boat bounces upon the waves as we make our way to our first stop, Inis Oírr.
We catch a glimpse of Sandy/Dusty the dolphin as we head for the island. Upon disembarking, two divers enter the water and begin to swim with the dolphin. The next hour consists of cheering and laughing at the majestic creature swimming through the sea.
Suddenly, it begins to rain, hard. We seek shelter under the nearest roof, a bike rental shed. We are greeted by two islanders who welcome us into their shelter. They comment on the rain saying it is unusual to be raining as the clouds generally surpass the island. Their faces are tanned and they smile at us and we tell them our plans for the next two days.
We board the boat to Inis Mór. It is windy when we alight and we find ancient minibuses waiting by the pier waiting to ferry us around the island. We hop into a red transit van with five other tourists. “How long will you be on the oilean?” says the driver. But he pronounces it like allen. He blesses himself as we drive past a statue of our Lord on the side of the road. He tells us how he was born and raised on the island. He offers us a minibus tour but we politely decline saying we would prefer to walk. He drives the 8km to the BnB and only charges us €5 a piece. He wishes us well, we say goodbye and he returns to the pier awaiting more passengers.
Kilmurvey House is massive. It is situated at the foot of Dún Aonghasa. We are offered tea and cake on our arrival, and a complimentary return trip to town when we feel like getting dinner.
We unpack and head for the beach. It is a 7 minute walk. We edge into the freezing sea under a deep blue sky. Some locals peer out the windows of their houses as I shriek in the cold waves. We last all of 15 minutes then decide to hop out. We’re giddy with adrenaline.
We return to the house, shower, change and hop straight into another mini bus. We step out of the bus at a place called ‘The Bar’. We are served the most amazing meal. A sign outside reads ‘Live Music Every Night.
A mixed race man with afro-textured hair enters the bar. He takes a stool and sets up a piano and guitar. He begins to play Christy Moore’s ‘Back Home To Derry’. Once finished he thanks the audience for the applause. He speaks with a strong country accent. It reminded me of that scene from Father Ted.
Our lift is leaving at 9:30am. It is 8am and we are ready to lead. So we take on the 8km walk. We search the route on google maps and choose the longer route which diverts off of the main road. We walk and talk. I’m freezing in my denim jacket but win the rain coat off my better half.
About 3km in to the walk, it begins to rain, torrential rain. It is extremely mild and the rain is warm. We are drenched but it feels great.
When we return out clothes are ready to be wrung out. The landlady offers to dry them in her tumble dryer. What a legend.
The next day, we have breakfast and make plans for the day. We want to visit Dún Aonghasa, Dún Duchathair and Poll na bPéist. The landlady is polite in saying we’re basically mad thinking we can do all that in three hours. But I am a woman on a mission.
We visit Dún Aengus. I am slightly underwhelmed by the views. From the aerial photographs, the site is unbelievable. Standing there, it is a different perspective.
We head for the Serpent’s Lair otherwise known as the Wormhole or ‘Poll na Péist’. It is a long walk and we get lost. An islander is in his gardens strimming the grass. We approach him in our hiking gear, equipped with Raybans and DSLR camera cringing that we must be the 1000th tourists coming onto his property to ask directions! He is a gentleman. He provides clear directions and asks us how we are. 30 minutes later we are at the Wormhole.
We leave at 3pm to catch the ferry at 4pm. Laden down with gear, we walk up the main road. 30 minutes later it becomes clear that we may miss this boat. We walk along with thumbs outstretched in the thumb a lift symbol but to no avail. Exhausted and feeling like a damsel in distress, my partner offers to leg it up to the bear carrying his stuff and 90% of my gear. I jog after him and catch sight of him speaking to a local. He motions to me that he has found a lift. Drenched in perspiration I sprint to the car.
A man, in his 70s sits in the front seat of a 1996 Toyota Corolla. On the back seat lie two planks of wood, a bottle of dettol and an iron stained jug. He begins to drive as my feet are still on the road. I can’t see this man’s face but the grey hair protruding from his ears are palpable. He speaks calmly as we express our gratitude. Upon arriving at the pier 8 minutes later, we offer €20 for the ride, he refuses, we offer €10, at this point he is telling us to get out of the car. We thank him endlessly and run for the boat.
We reach the boat and hurry on board. We sit down and catch our breath. We stop at Inis Meáin and encounter and extremely interesting man made port. We reach Doolin by 5:30. We decide to visit the cliffs of moher and Father Ted Parochial house before returning home. The islanders and the services they offered summed up the magic of Irish hospitality. We are indebted to their service. Go raibh maith agat, Inis Mór.