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Aran Islands - Inisheer & Inishmaan

Fri 1-Aug 03	Swords (Co. Dublin) - Inisheer, Aran Islands (Co. Galway)

Jason had a four day weekend (Fri - Mon) so were going to the Aran Islands!  Because this is a Bank Holiday weekend accommodation was very scarce, therefore our plans had to revolve around the accommodation we could get - which was Friday and Saturday nights on Inisheer (the smallest of the three Aran Islands), and Sunday night on Inishmor (the largest).  How we were going to get between the islands was still a bit of a mystery as all details we found regarding the boat timetables were vague or contradictory - We were going to take our chances anyway!  (Aran Islands Map and Info)

The Aran Islands:

English Irish Meaning
Inisheer Inis Oírr Eastern Island
Inishmaan Inis Meáin Middle Island
Inishmor (or Inishmore) Inis Mór (or Árainn) Big Island

We caught a bus from Dublin to Galway, arriving about 12:45pm.  After lunch and having a nosey around the Galway information centre, got picked up and taken out to Connemara Airport (took about 45mins).  During our time in Ireland (5 ½ months now) we had heard Irish (Gaelic) spoken, but usually for the benefit of tourists, or on TV/Radio - On this bus and many times over this weekend on the Islands we heard Irish spoken for the first time in everyday conversation (for many of the people that live on the Aran Island Irish is their first language). 

We finally flew out to Inisheer at 4:30pm - it was only an 8 minute flight!  We had great views of all three islands as we came in to land.  Inisheer is incidentally the island shown as 'Craggy Island' during the start of the TV comedy series Father Ted - although the parochial house itself is in Co. Clare on the edge of the Burren.  (Aran Island Ferries Aer Arann Islands)

After hauling our stuff to our B&B, we went for a stroll around Inisheer.  Wow, we were impressed.  What a really lovely and quaint little island!!  We walked around the western end which is extremely rocky and looks exactly like the Burren in Co. Clare, with rocks and stone walls everywhere!  (The Aran Islands are actually a continuation of the same stretch of limestone that makes up the Burren).  We could see Inishmaan clearly across the water and it's three windmills.  Ended up walking about a 1/3 of the way around the island (Inisheer is only about 3km x 2km) before heading back into the (only) village for a pub meal.  Jason had his second interview with Microsoft over the phone between Inisheer in the Aran Islands, and Redmond USA!

O'Brien's Castle and hill overlooking the village on Inisheer

The Strand, Inisheer

Rocky Landscape and Village, Inisheer

Sat 2-Aug 03	Inisheer, Aran Islands

This morning, after a good sleep in and a big hearty Irish Breakfast, we went out an a longer walk to explore the rest of the island.  Managed to arrange a boat for tomorrow morning to visit Inishmaan (the middle and middle-sized island) for about 6 hours, before then continuing on to Inishmor for the night.

Headed off to the south-eastern corner of the island through quaint walled country lanes to find the shipwreck of the Plassy, the ruin that is seen during the opening credits of 'Father Ted' (along with the rest of Inisheer), and that we had also seen from the plane yesterday.  Had a lovely day just wandering around with no real plans or direction in mind, and also not in a rush for a change.  A very peaceful and slow place - a great place to wind down and take it easy.  Everyone very friendly also.  Makes a nice change from the hustle and bustle of Dublin (or any city for that matter)!.

Horse and Cart, East side of Inisheer

The 'Plassy', Inisheer
(as seen on opening credits of 'Father Ted'!)

Burren like landscape, South eastern end of Inisheer

Next we wandered along the coast to the lighthouse and then back across the centre of the island into the village.  Visited the O'Brien's Castle on the hill above our accommodation, the beach, the small gift store, and the Sunken Church - couldn't even see it until right above it!  Even though it was overcast (but fine) for most of the day, we both got quite badly sunburnt today!

The Inisheer Village, with Inishmaan in background

O'Brien's Castle, Inisheer
(15th Century)

The Sunken Church (St. Kevin's Church, or Teampal Chaomhain), Inisheer

After dinner Jason went out again in search of an authentic traditional Irish music seisún.  What better place than on a small island off the west of Ireland - and of course he wasn't disappointed!  In a very small but increasingly tightly packed pub, two musicians spontaneously started playing some traditional tunes, more for themselves to have a good time than necessarily for anyone else.  Over the course of several hours extra people turned up and decided to join in, till there were about 13 musicians playing an assortment of Guitars, Fiddles, Accordions, Uilleann Pipes (like the Bag-pipes but even more complicated), Tin Whistles and a Bodhran (a type of drum).  Very down-to-earth music played from the heart but with a sufficient amount of humour added in also.  A great evening.

Sun 3-Aug 03 	Inisheer - Inishmaan - Inishmor (Aran Islands, Co. Galway)

Got up early and caught a Boat from Inisheer to Inishmaan at 8:30.  Only took about 20 minutes to get across.  If Inisheer was quiet and backwater then this was 10 times more so!  There was practically no-one around, and those that were greeted us in Irish/Gaelic!  Inishmaan has the same population as Inisheer (about 300) but almost no tourists or tourist facilities.  They are content with keeping to themselves and enjoying the island on there own, although that isn't to say they weren't friendly, because they were.

Inishmaan is also a very rocky island, but with a slightly higher proportion of green areas than Inisheer.  There was also some strange areas of rock that looked almost like a random dumping of concrete.  First we climbed up the hill to the Dún Fearbhaigh fort overlooking the harbour. 

Concrete looking rock formations, Inishmaan

Dún Fearbhaigh on the hill above Creigmore, Inishmaan

Village of Creigmore, Inishmaan, with 'concrete' rock in distance

We then set out in search of the next fort, which although being the biggest on the island, and the island being rather small, we got lost and took an hour or so to find it!  This wasn't in vain though as we ended up near the south western corner where we found some pretty cliffs and then further on the enormous wind-turbines.  A really nice peaceful walk where we didn't see another person at all, although tiring carrying a pack! 

Eventually headed back across the island and found myself in 'An Cora', the second village on the island and the location of the fort we had been looking for all along!  Dún Chonchúir is an enormous oval shaped stone fort with extra outer perimeter walls, and great views of the island and out to sea.  We slowly made our way back towards the wharf, having lunch (and cider) along the way as well as the odd bit of extra site-seeing. 

Next stop - Inishmor, the last and largest of the Aran Islands.  After holding off most of the day, the rain was finally starting to come in.

Cliffs on South-Western edge of Inishmaan

Dún Chonchúir fort, Inishmaan

Currach, Inishmaan


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