Recently in West of Ireland Category

Aran's first green roof in centuries starts to bloom

Aran Islands

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Beautiful yet rugged,
the Pabshsaer Barr Aille, aka the Sea Pink, clings to a crack in the limestone cliff near Synge's Chair. Now hundreds of cultivars of this wild Inis Méain plant are growing on the first green roof to be built on the Aran islands in centuries. The Clochán, built in the bronze age which a few feet behind our green roofed studio still has an intact green roof on it. Its a reminder that there is nothing new under the sun.  We have plenty to learn about becoming sustainabile from looking at the past. Read more about the living roof here here


The currachs of Inis Méain

Hat tip to Una Ni Choinceanainn:  "I remember the evening. I am one of the girls in the currach going out to the Naomh Eanna inthe Hands video - The one with the red hair!"
for pointing out this beautiful flimed and narrated  documentary about the use of currachs in daily life on Inis Méain in the beautiful summer of 1977.

"Hands" was an Irish television program that showcased some of the country's finest craftsmen and women.

No secret now as Spielberg's cover blown in Ireland!

Steven Spielberg and Kate Capshaw in secret vacation in Ireland
Steven Spielberg and Kate Capshaw in secret vacation in Ireland

Hollywood director Steven Spielberg has been on a secret summer vacation in Ireland.

Spielberg, along with his wife, actress Kate Capshaw, and their teenage son have criss-crossed the country from the windswept Aran Islands to the Burren to plush Rathmines in Dublin.

They stayed at Ballyvaughan country holiday homes in the Burren before moving to the east coast.

Officials have dampened down rumors that the Oscar-winning director is scouting the country for a movie location.

A spokeswoman for The Irish, Film and Television Network said: "As far as we are aware Steven Spielberg is not working on a film in Ireland at the moment."

Just last month, Spielberg and Capshaw did a "pilgrimage" walk in Ireland which included poetry, spiritualism and walking on Inis Mor and trips in County Clare.

There were concerns over Spielberg's fitness as he had to use an electric bicycle to climb the hilltop ruins at Dun Aonghas on Inis Mor.

read more 

Thanks IrishCentral.Com for the breathless report, but course readers of already knew about Spielberg's trip from our earlier reporting. Spielberg-is-spellbound-by-aran

Pádraic Connolly becomes a YouTube star

 Filming Pádraic Connolly a tPoll na Peist,  aka the Serpent's Cave or the Worm Hole on Inis Mór, for Tourism Ireland's online film highlighting the 'hidden gems' of County Galway

Galwayman Pádraic Connolly is doing his bit for tourism this year by presenting a short film on the 'hidden gems' of Co Galway on Tourism Ireland's website.  It is one of a series of ten short films or 'webisodes' which have already been viewed by almost 400,000 potential visitors around the world - see here for the video on

Pádraic Connolly takes a trip to the Aran islands

Tourism Ireland recently launched the series of films which feature real local characters from around the island of Ireland introducing their favourite 'hidden gems'.  Galwayman Pádraic Connolly was selected from the 1,000+ people across the island who applied to take part, to tell viewers and potential holidaymakers around the world about some of his favourite places in his home county. 

In the film, Pádraic takes the viewer on a journey around Connemara - highlighting the spectacular scenery and beautiful coastline.  He begins in Roundstone Harbour where he meets some of the local fishermen.  He continues to the beautiful Coral Strand at Carraroe and then it is on to his own birthplace, Rossaveal, and from there to Inis Mór.  Throughout the film, he regales the viewer with his many tales and legends - including a story about the local man who disappeared at the Worm Hole on Inis Mór!  He finishes his journey on Inis Oírr with its cluster of ancient ruins.

"Visitors repeatedly tell us that what distinguishes the island of Ireland from other destinations - what sets us apart from our competitors - is our people and our scenery", said Laughlin Rigby, eMarketing Manager, Tourism Ireland.  "This online movie, presented by Pádraic, provides an added dimension of information on the many attractions on offer in Co Galway, in a novel and entertaining way". 

"Customers are not just searching for the lowest fare any more; they are seeking information and recommendations on the perfect holiday experience - where to go, what to see and do and where to eat.  These movies complement our new global advertising campaign 'Go Where Ireland Takes You'.  The campaign has been designed to capture the spontaneity and fun of holidaying here and to show that some of the most wonderful and memorable experiences you are likely to have here will be stumbled on by chance", Rigby added.

The ten films or 'webisodes', which have been translated into five European languages, feature on Tourism Ireland's suite of 41 websites and are also being promoted in its main overseas markets on Yahoo.  The films will also feature on a new promotional DVD, which will be distributed to potential holidaymakers in the all-important GB market during August.  To see the films, visit

Spielberg is spellbound by Aran


HOLLYWOOD director and producer Steven Spielberg spent a day on the Aran Islands last week as part of an eight day visit to the West of Ireland.

Mr Spielberg and his wife, the actress Kate Capshaw were part of a David Whyte tour to Ireland, which involves poetry, spiritualism and walking tours taking in pilgrimage sites.

Mr Spielberg has made hundreds of films including Jaws, Saving Private Ryan, Schindler's List, The Color Purple and the Indiana Jones movies.

Dun Aengus by the sea

The walking group stayed in cottages in County Clare for the most part but last Thursday they spent a full day on Inis Mór, where the highlight was a visit to Dun Aonghusa, the cliff top fort ruins.

The group cycled to the fort in the early afternoon and Mr Spielberg was one of the group that used motorised bicycles, as most of the journey is uphill on the way there.

At Dun Aonghusa, Mr Spielberg chatted easily with OPW staff, who man the heritage site during the summer season and had his photograph taken with them.

More at The Connacht Tribune

Dun Aonghusa

Aer Arann's very own Peggy Hernon has written a collection of short stories chronicling her experience working with Aer Arann Islands and life in Connemara. Peggy's colourful and descriptive style is sure to draw you in.
Peggy is a member of the Ground Operations staff at Inis Mor Airport. She was born in the Bronx in New York, attended NYU and worked on Wall street for 18 years. She moved over to Inis Mor in 1990 where she married Micheal Hernon, Inis Mor Airport Manager and has been living on the island ever since.
Below is a collection of some of her short stories of life on The Islands. We hope you like them!

Peggy's short stories

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The Aran Islands lie eight miles into the Atlantic ocean, off the West Coast of Ireland, one the last remaining wild and natural environments in Europe.
To contact us please: Email here,
We're pretty busy so you can also keep up on Flickr as well as Twitter and our Facebook page.
Scattered  between sea and sky Seamus Heaney describes the  Islands as "three stepping stones out of Europe".  The island population is about 1,000 peopel most of whom converse in the Irish language. Almost a million visitors come here every year. Most go to Inis Mor, a lot go to Inis Oirr and very few go to Inis Meain. Thats why we think of it as the real Hidden Ireland.
All three islands teem with wildflowers and birdlife and are also considered by many to be the last bastions of ancient Irish culture.

Each of the Aran Islands has its own festival to celebrate its individual Patron Saint. Its an action packed weekend of currach races, swimming, Tug o' war, donkey racing, music and dancing on the pier. The high-light of the day is generally a Hooker Boat race in the bay.

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  • Patrún Inis Mór 2008 27th/28th/29th June
  • Patrún Inis Méain 2008 1st/2nd/3rd August
  • Patrún Inis Oírr 2008 15th/16th/17th August
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LORNA SIGGINS Marine Correspondent The Irish Times

The Shannon rescue helicopter is taken for granted now in the skies above the west coast as it approaches its 20th birthday, but it took a series of tragedies before the crucial service was established

A HAG OR "cailleach" was chasing Cuchulainn across Loop Head, Co Clare, when he leaped onto a rock several metres offshore. She attempted to follow him, fell into the sea, and her body was washed up on the headland named after her.

Were she to repeat her unfortunate experience now, the "cailleach" might well have survived and found herself at the end of a winch suspended from Shannon's Irish Coast Guard air-sea helicopter.

Airman Jim O'Neill might even have told her a few jokes to calm her, having already spotted her in the briny with his heat-seeking infrared camera before leaving the aircraft by cable and karabiner with his bag of parademical gear.

For just as Hag's Head is a distinctive part of the southern Clare shoreline, so the Shannon rescue helicopter has become an institution - taken for granted now in the skies above the west coast as it approaches its 20th birthday.

On a Sunday evening training mission, its presence is a subconscious comfort for the novice surfers - resembling diving beetles - navigating the swell off Lahinch, and the passengers on the Doolin-Inis Oírr ferry. An indigo Atlantic seems deceptively tranquil as the Sikorsky S-61 sweeps over the weathered rock buttresses forming the Cliffs of Moher.

There's a constant patter on the high- frequency radio, with talk about results of football matches mingling with communications between Shannon air-traffic control and the helicopter, call sign Golf Charlie Echo. Should that call sign change to Rescue 115, it is a signal that the training run has become a rescue "tasking".

"Bring some money and your mobile phone," Capt Cathal Oakes had advised this reporter, before becoming airborne with co-pilot Micheal Moriarty, winch operator Ciarán McHugh and winchman Jim O'Neill. "Just in case we have to drop you down somewhere en route."

It didn't arise; but when Capt Oakes donned a pair of plastic glasses, almost completely covered in tape, it was a reminder that even a routine training flight is accomplished under pressure. The glasses simulate night-time conditions. There will be several more exercises by crew members, each having to update his skills constantly, before we land.

Ironically, the most successful missions are often those no one hears about. Only a fraction of the more than 3,000 rescue flights Shannon has recorded over the past two decades have made headlines.

IT WASN'T ALWAYS like this, as those who campaigned over decades for adequate aerial support for the Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI) clearly remember. Back in 1958, the crash of Hugo de Groot , a KLM flight, off Galway, with the loss of 99 lives, prompted such demands.

"Many people will wonder why air-sea rescue operations should have to be co- ordinated from Scotland and southern England when the accident took place within the air-traffic control area of Shannon Airport. Had there been a helicopter in the Republic - not necessarily at Shannon - it could have searched the crash scene by mid-afternoon at latest," this newspaper reported on August 15th, 1958.

There were to be more such calls, particularly from the fishing industry, over subsequent decades. For although pioneering Air Corps pilots undertook many rescues from Baldonnel from as early as 1963, capability was severely restricted by geographical location and helicopter flying range. Much of the coastline was dependent on the goodwill of Britain, principally through the RAF.

It took the death of Donegal skipper John Oglesby on the deck of his boat, Neptune, off the north Mayo coastline in 1988 to change all that. Oglesby, whose son was among the crew, had his leg severed by a trawl warp.

The nearest lifeboat station at the time was Arranmore, Co Donegal. By RAF calculations, the vessel would have reached port before the closest available helicopter would have reached it. Oglesby bled to death within sight of land.

Joan McGinley was distraught and angry at the manner in which Oglesby, a close friend of her partner, had died. After a public meeting in Killybegs not long after the accident, McGinley established the west coast search-and-rescue campaign, run with a group of people including Aran Island GP Dr Marion Broderick, Joey Murrin of the Killybegs Fishermen's Organisation, Bryan Casburn of the Galway and Aran Fishermen's Co-op, former Naval Service commanders Eamonn Doyle and Paddy Kavanagh, former Air Corps pilot Comdt Fergus O'Connor and solicitor Peter Murphy.

Its single-issue focus yielded swift results. An interdepartmental review group, chaired by former garda commissioner Eamon Doherty, recommended that the Air Corps place a Dauphin helicopter on permanent 24-hour standby at Shannon as an interim measure - and so the first dedicated west coast air-sea base was in operation by September 1989.

A final report recommended that a medium-range helicopter service be provided to the State on contract from Shannon, with an operating radius of 200 nautical miles, and that the Air Corps Dauphin at Shannon be relocated to Finner military base in Co Donegal.

The Irish Coast Guard also owes its origins to that report, and to McGinley's campaign. The first coast guard director, Capt Liam Kirwan, effected a radical transformation of capability, assisted by the RNLI, which moved rapidly to open a new lifeboat station in Ballyglass, Co Mayo, as part of a further expansion.

NOW RUN BY Chris Reynolds, the Irish Coast Guard service can provide coastal, offshore, mountain and inland rescue. Aircraft cross the Border when requested and can assist Britain when required.

Shannon became a commercial rescue base within two years, with Irish Helicopters initially replacing the Air Corps. Air-sea rescue bases at Sligo (replacing Finner camp), Dublin and Waterford were to follow, with the contract for all four now held by CHC Helicopters.

Capt Dave Courtney, a former search-and-rescue pilot, recalls in his recent autobiography, Nine Lives , how operating procedures blended the best of experience from the RAF, Royal Navy, Air Corps, British Coastguard and commercial companies serving the North Sea oil industry.

Challenges, such as the near ditching of the Shannon helicopter shortly before Christmas 1993, helped to refine those procedures.

The S-61 had been called out to assist an Irish-registered Spanish fishing vessel, Dunboy , with 13 crew on board, which had lost engine power some 65km west of Slyne Head in winds of up to 150km an hour. Winchman John McDermott had just landed on the vessel's deck in a heaving sea when the boat listed 70 degrees, the cable broke and about 120ft wrapped itself around the aircraft's blades. A Mayday call was issued, but the helicopter, flown by Capt Nick Gribble and co-pilot Carmel Kirby managed to recover and fly to Galway, leaving McDermott to be picked up by the RAF hours later.

Not only has flying become safer, but the decision to approve paramedic training for use by winch crew on missions has also helped to save lives. "We used to scoop and run to the nearest hospital," O'Neill explains. "Now we can give certain types of treatment en route."

Even before that particular development, the Shannon S-61 had marked its first emergency birth. On March 17th, 1996, Sorcha Ní Fhlatharta saw first light of day in the helicopter cabin, when her mother, Mairéad, delivered her with the assistance of two nurses and the helicopter crew en route from Inis Oírr to University Hospital Galway.

"The crew were great and it was a sort of a distraction," the mother said some years afterwards. "I really didn't have time to think about the pain."


Even as Shannon prepares to celebrate two decades serving the coastline, helicopter and maintenance crews will also remember the sacrifice of colleagues - notably the four members of the Air Corps who died 10 years ago this week in the Dauphin helicopter crash at Tramore, Co Waterford.

Capt Dave O'Flaherty, Capt Michael Baker, Sgt Paddy Mooney and Cpl Niall Byrne were returning from the first night of the rescue mission in the early hours of July 2nd, 1999, when their helicopter collided with a sand dune in thick fog.

The official investigation highlighted "serious deficiencies" in the support given the four crew.

The four had only learned on July 1st - the day the search-and-rescue base at Waterford Airport was converted to 24-hour cover - that there was no provision for after-hours air-traffic control. An agreement had not been concluded by the Department of Defence and the airport management.

The report by the investigation unit specifically noted that considerable pressure was brought to bear on the late Capt OFlaherty, as detachment commander, to accept the rescue mission in search of a small boat with four adults and a child.

In June 2008, Minister for Defence Willie O'Dea awarded posthumous Distinguished Service Medals to the crew of Dauphin 248.

This article appears in the print edition of the Irish Times

From Labrador to a Connemara Bog...


By Lorna Siggins and Jem Casey

SOME NINE decades after the British aviators John Alcock and Arthur Whitten Brown flew across the Atlantic and landed in a Connemara bog, their historic non-stop flight was celebrated with an air show in Clifden, Co Galway, at the weekend.

In April 1913 (renewed in 1918), the Daily Mail offered a prize of £10,000[4] to "the aviator who shall first cross the Atlantic in an aeroplane in flight from any point in the United States of America, Canada or Newfoundland and any point in Great Britain or Ireland" in 72 continuous hours".

The flight nearly ended in disaster several times owing to engine trouble, fog, snow and ice. It was only saved by Brown's continual climbing out on the wings to remove ice from the engine air intakes and by Alcock's excellent piloting despite extremely poor visibility at times and even snow filling the open cockpit. The aircraft was badly damaged upon arrival due to the attempt to land in what appeared from the air to be a suitable green field but which turned out to be the bog on Derrygimlagh Moor, but neither of the airmen was hurt.

The world's only "formation" wing walking team, a jet display and a visit by a replica of the Vimy Vickers model used by Alcock and Brown were among highlights of the event atthe weekend, hosted by Connemara Chamber of Commerce.

"Today we take transatlantic travel for granted, but in 1919, these men undertook a dangerous, life-threatening trip which in time opened the skies for us all," the chamber said in a statement.

"Imagine for a moment the hub of activity that was Connemara 90 years ago when these two men literally dropped from the sky into the bog, and were able to send a message from Marconi's wireless radio station to inform London they had made it across the Atlantic - thus assuring themselves their rightful place in history," said the chamber of commerce statement.

They flew a modified Vickers Vimy IV twin-engined bomber powered by two Rolls-Royce Eagle engines, each of 360hp, taking off from Lester's Field in St. John's, Newfoundland at around 1:45pm, June 14, 1919

The aircraft crashed on landing (53°26′N 10°01′W / 53.433°N 10.017°W / 53.433; -10.017) in a bog near Clifden in Connemara, Ireland [7], at 8:40am on June 15, 1919, crossing the coast at 4.28pm. They flew 1890 miles (3040 km) in 16 hours 27 minutes, at an average speed of 115 mph (185 km/h).[8] The altitude varied between sea level and 12,000 ft (3,700 m) and 865 gallons (3,900 L - assuming imperial gallons) of fuel were on board.

An Alcock and Brown exhibition, by Connemara historian Kathleen Villiers-Tuthill, and a ground display by the Defence Forces was also part of the programme.

The Vimy Vickers replica was flown from the Brooklands Museum in Surrey, England, to Connnemara by John Dodd and Clive Edwards, landing at Galway Airport before flying west to Clifden.

Two memorials commemorating the flight are found near the landing spot in County Galway, Ireland. The first is an isolated cairn four kilometres south of Clifden on the site of Marconi's first transatlantic wireless station from which the aviators transmitted their success to London, and around 500 metres from the spot where they landed. In addition there is a sculpture of an aircraft's tail-fin on Errislannan Hill two kilometres north of their landing spot, dedicated on the fortieth anniversary of their landing, June 15, 1959.

Memorial, County Galway

A third monument marks the flight's starting point in Newfoundland.

A memorial statue was erected at London Heathrow Airport in 1954 to celebrate their flight. There is also a monument at Manchester Airport, less than 8 miles from John Alcock's birthplace. Their aircraft (rebuilt by the Vickers Company) can be seen in the London Science Museum in South Kensington.

A number of teams were vying to win the Daily Mail prize (one of many aviation prizes awarded by that newspaper). The first attempt was launched from England. The Short Brothers aircraft company had produced the first prototypes of the Short Shirl torpedo-bomber towards the end of World War I.

A Shirl was modified with extended wings and a huge external fuel tank to produce the Short Shamrock, of which only one was built. The underslung fuel tank can be seen in the photograph below.

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The Shamrock was powered by a Rolls-Royce Eagle VIII engine, which was one of the most reliable aircraft engines of its day. Carrying a total of 435 gallons of fuel, it had a theoretical range of over 3,000 miles.

On April 18th, 1919, the Shamrock took off from Eastchurch in England to fly across the Irish Sea to The Curragh, Ireland, on the first leg of its trans-Atlantic flight attempt. Unfortunately, the engine failed 12 miles out to sea. The pilot, Major J. C. P. Wood, attempted to glide back to land, but was forced to ditch the aircraft in the sea a mile off Anglesey. The aircraft remained afloat, and was towed to the beach, but could not be repaired quickly. After another team successfully flew the Atlantic, it was dismantled.


Senator Dodd's Dodgy Connemara cottage in the spotlight...

"The Senator Sure Knows How to Pick an Investment." say his enemies at the Wall Street Journal


Irish property prices have plummeted since 2002. But a "cottage" in County Galway owned by Connecticut Senator Chris Dodd has tripled in value during the same period, according to a financial disclosure form filed by the Senator this month.

There are two possible explanations for this remarkable turn of fortune. Maybe Mr. Dodd is luckier than a leprechaun. Or could it be that he paid well below the market price when he bought out a co-owner in 2002 and had undervalued the property accordingly? If it's the latter, then Mr. Dodd received a "gift," in IRS parlance, and should have declared it on his financial disclosure form that year. He did not. Oh, and by the way, the seller at that low, low price has been the business partner of a man for whom Mr. Dodd lobbied to receive a Presidential pardon.

It's also been nearly a year since a former loan officer at Countrywide Financial charged that the mortgage lender had classified Mr. Dodd as a "very important person" (a.k.a., a "friend of Angelo" Mozilo, Countrywide's then-CEO). As such, Robert Feinberg said, Mr. Dodd received -- and knew he'd received -- preferential rates and fees on two mortgages he and his wife refinanced in 2003. As a power on the Senate Banking Committee, he also knew this was a conflict of interest. This was the era when Countrywide originated and then sold to Fannie Mae high volumes of subprime loans.

The SEC charged Mr. Mozilo with fraud and insider trading earlier this month, and the Los Angeles Times reported in May that there is an FBI investigation which "includes a probe of [Countrywide's] role in an influence-peddling scandal involving" Mr. Dodd. The Senate Ethics Committee won't comment on its own investigation of almost a year.

Mr. Dodd denies receiving any special treatment, and nearly a year ago he promised to release the Countrywide mortgage documents and clear up the matter. We are still waiting, though he did attempt to placate the Connecticut press with a peek-a-boo release of a few select documents and a review by his own lawyers in February.

Now the Irish cottage on 10 scenic acres is bringing more trouble. At the start of the Irish real estate boom in 1994, Mr. Dodd bought the property with William Kessinger for $160,000. Mr. Kessinger has been a business partner of Edward Downe, who is a longtime friend of Mr. Dodd's. In 1986 Messrs. Dodd and Downe owned a condominium together in Washington. In 1993 Mr. Downe pleaded guilty to insider trading and securities fraud and in 2001, as Bill Clinton was preparing to leave the White House, Mr. Dodd successfully lobbied to get his friend a pardon.

The following year, 2002, Mr. Dodd bought out Mr. Kessinger's two-thirds share in the house and became the full owner. Mr. Dodd reported to the Irish government that he paid Mr. Kessinger $122,351, and Mr. Dodd says that a bank appraisal that same year valued the property at $190,000. From 2002 to 2007 Mr. Dodd reported its worth at between $100,001 and $250,000 on his annual Senate financial disclosure form.

But Hartford Courant columnist Kevin Rennie began digging this year into the mismatch between what Mr. Dodd paid to Mr. Downe's business partner to become a full owner and what the property in Ireland was likely worth in 2002 amid the Irish land boom. Last week, when Mr. Dodd filed his annual financial disclosure form, it included a new appraisal from the same appraiser putting the current value of the house at $658,000.

In an effort to explain the gain despite the fact that the Irish housing market has since gone south, a spokesman for the Senator said that "The value of the cottage, or of Irish real estate generally, isn't something that the Dodds have thought much about." However, according to Galway County records, Mr. Dodd was so uninterested in the value of those 10 acres that he tried to subdivide the property in 1998 and put up another house. No doubt because he had no idea what it was, or would be, worth.

The Senate's financial disclosure forms are supposed to be a tool of honest government, and former Senator Ted Stevens was indicted for allegedly false disclosures. Mr. Dodd's miraculous property reappraisal is further grist for Senate and Justice investigators -- and especially for voters in 2010.

The Serpent's Lair versus the Worm Hole

Inis Mór's lair

To the editor of The Irish Times

Madam, - I'm disappointed to learn that a geological feature on Inis Mór is now known locally as "the Serpent's Lair" (Page 1 and Page 3, "World Champion takes 26m somersault dive off Inis Mór, April 28th). When I spent a week on Inis Mór in 1968 it was known locally as "Poll na bPeist". If asked to translate the term, though I had no wish to, I would have rendered it "the Monster's Hole". But, tempus fugit , and fashions change, and perhaps to escape censorship or censure, Curley's Hole, as celebrated by Joyce, is now called "Curley's Lair". - Yours, etc,


Belmont Avenue,



Madam, - I note your report gives a new name for Poll na bPéist as well as a new myth to enhance it.

Tim Robinson in his magnificent Stones of Aran: Pilgrimage writes, "One of the most curious features of this, Aran's most striking natural curiosity, is that there is no legend attached to it. The writer Tom O'Flaherty pointed this out 50 years ago and if there had been any traditional tale about the place he would certainly have known it, as a native of Gort na gCapall. He adds that it is time someone invented a story. But since it seems that even the most voluble of folk traditions has been left speechless by the place, perhaps it is fitting that this void, this abstract exemplification of Aran's elements, should remain emptiness without an explanation."

As Tim Robinson also explains, the Worm-Hole "is what it is called for English-speaking visitors". Yours etc.


Inis Meáin, Árainn,

Cuan na Gaillimhe.

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.
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Winter Waves, brave souls

By Sarah Lyall

BUNDORAN, Ireland -- It was a typical late-winter day on the Irish coast, no worse than usual. Bands of black clouds sailed ominously across the sky. Rain bucketed down in freezing torrents. Icy winds pummeled and churned the ocean.

The New York Times

Cold, rough water has brought surfing renown to Bundoran.

Joanne Fulton sat in her wet suit with a group of friends in a van in the parking lot above the beach, ashen and shivering.

This is après-surf, Irish style, and the whole enterprise has a unique and subtle appeal. "It is very, very cold," Ms. Fulton observed. "But once you get in, the wet suit keeps you warm. Although my hands actually have no feeling. Or my face and feet."

There's more