Thursday, 10 March 2011

Aran Island Adventures

I am a bit sad this evening because I didn't get to meet up with all the awesome people from Journalism School this evening as I was hoping to. I really wanted to, but I have to work again tomorrow and my head is spinning from an entire day googling things. I knew the Royal Wedding was going to cause trouble, but I didn't expect to spend quite so long coming up with timelines to contextualise every royal wedding since 1816. The good news is, it's finished (much faster than expected, which makes me a little bit smug) and I can move on to other things. You may also spot me masquerading under a false name in tomorrow's You The Editor. 

Anyway, fail aside, more reminiscing! 

We actually only went to the biggest of the Aran Islands, Inishmore. We checked out of our Galway hotel very early (so early that the parking garage attendant who had to let us out was off buying his morning paper), and had breakfast on the road.

Actually, the boyf had to have breakfast in the port car park, as he had all that pesky driving to do

A seaside scene
We caught the ferry to Inishmore. It goes twice a day, so we were on the 10am ferry there and the 5pm ferry back. You could spot the tourists from the locals very easily! (For starters, the locals had toolboxes and shopping bags, rather than wheelie suitcases). 

Stubbly seaman
Boat-related excitement 
As soon as we got off the ferry (it takes about half an hour, and we sat on the top deck enjoying the ride), we were accosted by tourguides. The Aran Islands have two main industries: fishing and tourism. Guess which was in season! We eventually decided not to walk or hire bikes, but to hire a tour bus (it really was ours - tourists were a bit thin on the ground) for the same price as bikes, with a very insightful local man to tell us about things as we drove past. 

I learned that the Aran Islands are covered in drystone walls because there's nothing else to do with all the stone that had to be cleared to make fields, and if you put all the walls on the islands end to end, they would stretch more than 7,000 km. I can well believe it!

We saw the seals on their rocks, examples of interesting houses and gardens, old factories, the recycling plant and, of course, a few historical bits and bobs as well. 

The Seven Churches
The Seven Churches are in fact three churches and some accommodation, built long enough ago that there are Roman graves tucked away in the corner. The graveyard was fascinating, but we didn't stay as long as I would have liked because of the obnoxious group of American tourists prancing around. We saw quite a lot of them, regrettably, as they were the only other people to be doing a bus tour. For me, part of the charm of the island is that it feels so empty and old, so having loud, ignorant people screaming at each other in the background is not appreciated. We didn't let them spoil our day, though! (Although our bus driver did almost manage to run one of them over.)

The island from on top of Dun Aengus
The main part of the day was taken up with visiting Dun Aengus, the huge clifftop hill fort. We were dropped off with directions up the hill to the fort and a café for lunch, and left to our own devices for a couple of hours. There is a little walk-through visitor centre on the way to the fort, where you buy a ticket (presumably to go on up the hill) and can read all about the history of the place. We had a brief hike in the increasingly warm sun, and had shed our coats by the time we were halfway up. 

Me, holding the fort (ho ho)
It was actually very impressive when you reached the top - you'd certainly see any enemies coming from miles off!

More fort
We had a civilised lunch (although at tourist prices) in the café at the foot of the hill - vegetable soup and bread that was more like wholemeal scones. Very delicious. After a few more sights on the bus, we were dropped off back in Kilronan, the biggest town on the island (home to its only shop (a Spar) and post office) with an hour to kill before the ferry left. We went to the Sweater Warehouse and Museum and saw lots of beautiful Aran jumpers (all a bit too steep for my pocket, sadly) and some frankly frightening mannequins demonstrating the traditional process of making them. We also had ice cream and wandered around the back of a few people's houses trying to find the local Heritage Centre. There's still plenty to do if we go back!

By the time we boarded the ferry, we were a bit worn out.

Bless!
We made it back to dry land without incident, and had an exciting night drive back to Dublin. 

That's going to have to be it as I am now very sleepy. Its plenty to be getting on with, I'm sure!

Next time: more Dublin! (It was a very good holiday!)

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