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Island Day!!

Hat tip to Trail Journals: Global Backpacking Journals from Long Distance Hikers for this great post about a day trip to Inis Méain by -Bluebearee

Island Day!!  I love visiting small working islands.
Have long wanted to go out to the Aran Islands, today was the day!

We made a last minute decision as to which island to visit. I had been interested in Inishmaan as being the least visited and touristed. B wanted Inishmoor because of the Fort. He left it to me and I went with -maan. 50E and we were off on a smallish ferry.

The day actually had some sun to it. The crossing was rough in my estimation, water coming up and over the bow crashing against the windows. I have to fight back panic on my phobia of capsizing in a boat.

A cute dog was the 1st off the ferry, Sailor, a 13 y/o who gets to spend some time as an island dog. Gaelic/Irish is the language out here.

We walked up towards the village amongst incredible stone walls. Like none we've seen yet. Not even describable. So many squared off plots of them, far as the eye could see, really quite amazing. One stone thick unlike our multi-width ones @ home. I couldn't have placed the differences, but frost and the lack of it here would be the reason they can stand.

Eventually we reached settlements, a Post, a church, a closed B&B. And the local archeological fort, Dun Choquoin. I can't say it holds total fascination for me. We wandered around in the rain, climbing up onto the ring of stones, steps carefully placed but also precarious and occasionally loose. I wasn't comfortable after almost getting stuck trying to descend, had to downclimb the silly thing.

Stopped @ the little shop open for 2 hours today, when we were passing by amazingly. Didn't plan on a t-shirt but they had some there and a size small. I believe Inishmaan or inis meain translates to Island Middle.

Walked on and found the island's only pub. As most islanders, talk with tourists is limited or not at all. We were the only tourists out there today and on the ferries. The pub scene was something else. The barkeep/tender was the teenaged (14? at most) son of the taciturn owner. Okay.... 4 20 y/o boys from the island sat at the bar drinking pints and watching TV and bantering about what 20 y/o guys talk about. Others came in after us, diluting our nonp-native status. I had a 1/2 pt of Guinness and we ordered 2 sandwiches. It was as authentic a scene as you get. Just what I wanted. Hey-we spent a bit of $$ there. After lunch we headed in the other direction and ended up @ a smaller fort, missed seeing the cliffy coastline, could look over to Cliffs of Moher and the other islands: Inishmor and Inisheer.

Capped the afternoon with a walk back to the ferry pier via the airstrip. Waited in the cold and wet for the ferry to take us back. B had been worried about us getting there on time so we started walking from town earlier than necessary, I knew if we ran behind likely someone would give us a ride in their car. Sure enough 1/2 hour after waiting in the cold and wet, cars started to file down from town, I am betting they wait til they see it leave Inisheer before starting down. I was not relishing the heavy seas a second time but barring a last minute flight, what choice did I have?

The boat was very full which either bolsters confidence or leads me to think of all those ferries that go down in Asia overloaded. I sat and tried to breathe and not freak out about the rollers. This phobia of going over in a boat, trapped underneath it in the ocean dates to my childhood, though I don't really know why. I think it would be the worst way to die yet the anticipation of this event or anxiety it could happen never hits me ahead of time or prevents me from taking ferries. Go Figure. I did ask B to make sure he grabbed me a life vest should we need one. I think he thought I was kidding.

Anyhow, 1/2 across we were out of the big seas and I could relax. We headed north out of the car park, bound for Connemara, driving in the dark. There isn't a lot of ambient light around though the moon appeared full. Tried to stay @ Ben Lettery hostel but they had shut for the season. It was on the N59 but in the middle of nowhere. Pressed on to the booming metropolis of Clifden, which actually boasted THREE supermarkets!!?? All closed of course on a Sunday night.

We landed @ the Clifden Town Hostel and were quickly oriented by Sean to the building and the town. Headed across the street to a pub still serving. It was quite empty though the usual suspects trickled in and out. There's seems to always be a local Irish couple who come in for a pint; the woman typically has a half pint. It's cute. Then the random single man....

 Got the low down on Irish whiskey from the bartender. He described one as "ruff as fock" I crashed tonight, long tiring day.

Got here yesterday and have nearly two weeks to enjoy the peace and quiet. Fantastic dinner in the restaurant last night - fresh-caught crab and delicious skate with hazelnuts - and a good hike along the cliffs while the sun was out this morning. The clifftop along the south-west side is extraordinary - like a stone beach set high above the sea itself, a flat expanse watered by the spray from the breakers below and unsure in itself whether it's part of the land or the sea. Fabulous bird life too - just this morning I saw ringed plover, whimbrel, a pair of shelduck, cuckoo, whitethroat and all the normal ones you would expect. Robins rule the island: on every field wall, a proud bird sings its heart out to mark its territory.

Handpicked Aran Islands

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Off Ireland's west coast near Galway lie the Aran Islands: rich in the language, culture and heritage of Ireland, unique in its geology and archaeology and in its long tradition of gentle hospitality. Here is a place to sense the spirit of Gaelic Ireland, to touch the past, but with all the comforts and facilities of the present. Aran will take you back to an Ireland of Celts and Early Christians. This is an island of great peace and tranquility, but it is also an island of great fun and activity.
A timeless land in an endless sea, weathered monuments on awesome cliffs, great labyrinths of limestone, meandering walls, patchwork fields, quiet beaches and a welcoming island people, this is Aran in Galway bay on the west coast of Ireland...
Aran Islands
The spirit of Gaelic Ireland
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of Ireland including the Aran Islands
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Browse our small group tours of Ireland that visit the Aran Islands here.
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Ireland's shark island

Steve Connolly

                Irish writer James Joyce described it as "the Holy island that sleeps like a great shark on the grey water of the Atlantic Ocean".

Fifteen kilometres long and just three kilometres wide, Inis Mor is the largest of the three Aran Islands just off Ireland's west coast.

It's made up mostly of barren limestone rock and small fields surrounded by stone walls.

Most tourists explore the islands on a bicycle or take a trip on a horse drawn buggy driven by one of the friendly locals, who converse with one another in Irish but readily switch to English.

The most popular destination is the Celtic bronze-age, cliff-top stone fort hillfort known as Dun Aonghasa.

Parking your bike at the visitors' centre, there's a 10 minute uphill walk to the gated fort entrance.

Just pray though that no one at that moment sends your mobile phone a text message. If you look down to read it you might drop 100m into the Atlantic as the cliff edge is just metres from the gate.

Similar to the famous Cliffs of Moher just a short flight away on the mainland, some visitors balance perilously on the cliff to take a look at the ocean below.

Unfortunately, some have gone too close and there have been about five deaths in recent years, including a German man who committed suicide last year.

Dun Aonghasa is the location of just one of many Celtic forts on the island, all reachable by bike or walking.

Although just a five-minute flight from the mainland, most people travel to the Aran Islands by ferry.

The 90-minute sea journey from Doolin can be an adventure in itself.

Our group got a bit nervous when we saw the small open vessels we had to board just to be taken to the ferry as it bobbed around in the bay.

The Atlantic Ocean and the coastal cliftops were shrouded in a heavy mist and the sea was a foaming swell.

Within minutes of setting out, the crew were rushing around handing out plastic bags to green-faced passengers sitting inside who were watching a DVD of the comedy classic Father Ted.

Those of us who stayed outside looked out to sea nervously as the waves rose above the ferry and the water occasionally washed over the rear deck.

But within half an hour the seas calmed slightly as we started getting shelter from the smallest of the three Aran Islands, Inis Oirr.

Some of our passengers were dropped off there and we then continued on to our destination, the port of Kilronan on Inis Mor.

Although it was a trial for some, the adventurous sea journey to Inis Mor added to the expectation of our Aran Islands visit.

Famous for its woollen sweaters, the Aran Islands don't have any sheep and mostly cattle graze in stone-surrounded fields.

Visitors to Inis Mor - and about 250,000 tourists travel to the Aran Islands each year - can stay in a number of hotels or hostel accommodation, mostly around Kilronan.

Businessman and former musician PJ O'Flaherty owns the Aran Islands Hotel - the largest hotel on the three islands.

The son of a fisherman, Mr O'Flaherty says tourism is the main source of income for the island and was a growing industry.

"If we didn't have the tourism it would be pretty drastic," said Mr O'Flaherty, who added that increases in ferry and air services to the island had boosted tourism.

Aran Islanders have a few difficulties compared to their mainland Irish cousins including paying about 40 cents a litre more for fuel.

But they have a proud heritage and Mr O'Flaherty is one local who hopes to build his business and stay on the island.

"I'm an Aran Islander," he boasts.


Getting there: Ferries run from Doolin and Galway to the Aran Islands from April to October. Alternatively there's a short direct air service with Aer Arann Islands between Galway or Rossaveal on the mainland to Killeany airstrip. The return airfare is about 45 euro ($A60). There's limits though on luggage.

Gulf Air flights depart from Sydney to Dublin, via Bahrain, every Monday, Wednesday and Friday evening. Return economy fares are from $1815 between May 28 and August 15, $1650 between August 16 and September 19, $1540 between September 20 and October 3 and $1485 between October 4 and November 11. Additional taxes are about $315. Gulf Air also has discounted first and business class fares to Dublin for people aged 55 and over. For bookings: Phone Flight Centre on 131 600.

* The writer travelled from Australia to Ireland as a guest of Tourism Ireland, Gulf Air and Flight Centre.

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