These days on the biggest of the Aran Isles have been bliss. Getting there was a bit of an adventure though. My daft memory let me down again as I thought the ferry from Innis Oirr to Innis Mor left at 8.30…..but no, it was 8am. So I inadvertently had a couple of extra hours to sip hot chocolate, clamber over rocks and beaches and admire the lobster fishers before a ferry arrived bringing huge numbers of day trippers.
The crew were actually heading for an unscheduled pickup on Innis Mor, so I was hoisted on board – the only passenger, for a quick trip across the calmish sea. The naval coast guard was seen checking out a yacht suspected of bringing drugs in from Sth America. The friendly crew gave me plenty of advice about places to see in Donegal and were very helpful. So I got there in style in the end….with a wee bit of sunburn as well.
Will make sure I get the ferry on Saturday at the correct time…doh!
So, armed with a map of Innis Mor I set off from the village, after checking out the local watering holes and
✔trudged the 2 plus kms with the extra 12 kgs of pack weight to the B&B.
✔ made friends with a curious donkey
✔saw my first long horned goats
✔made mental notes of what and where archaeological and general landforms were for later walks
✔dodged the few cars and endless pushbike trippers – though I was a little envious
and finally had the reward of reaching Ard Einne b&b and its advertised panoramic views from every room. Slipping off the packs was delicious! Views and strolling around this higher location were a taste of things to come.
St Enda’s church and the cemetery overlooking the airstrip and the waters where the smaller boats of the lobster fishermen ply their trade were just down the road…explorer’s delight. The low fields of the seasonal nesting birds require caution not to disturb them, and the natural bunkers and heaps of rabbits would be a golfer’s nightmare.
So after a restful night and before a hearty full Irish breakfast, I strode off as the sun rose for Day 2 on Innis Mor. Following the directions of the hostess I headed to the base of the cliff walk and loved the solitude of the dawn and the spongey grasses underfoot. Going at my own pace meant actually seeing the tiny snails, the ancient shell embedded stones, the minute sedge plants and the variation in the types and shapes of the weathered rocks……and sitting just staring out over the water to the mainland.
Having to find each foothold to get up to the top of the cliff was quite a challenge, but I did it! The view and the find of the stone lookout come fortified dwelling made every challenging step worthwhile! Now to get down! I had a bit of an idea of where to head across the fields to loop back to the road…….but this was not really enough. However, I followed the goat droppings, the stone gaps in the walls that had been protecting animals and humans for centuries, and eventually scrambled down. The cows in the lower field were a bit bemused when I had to go through their patch to get to the next level. Finally found the sign post of where the road would have taken me….but hey, what’s a few burrs and blackberry scratches?
And my kelpie mate trotted alongside for a bit on the way back.
Not another soul during those 2 and a half hours…and yes, the b&b knew where I had headed, so it was ok to be on my own. Sturdy hiking boots and socks helped…thanks Anaconda! The skies closed in and 10 minutes before the b&b gate it bucketed down.
And all that before the eggs, bacon, et al. Soggy clothes removed and attended to, and a lovely hot shower. The bus arrived and we toddled off for a hop on/hop off day.
With so many sites to see over the whole island, the bus was a good idea. I started with a walk around the village – curious to see the greens here. G10-14 were provided by the ivy glistening in the dappled sun on the dew; the postal shade; green fields and wondered what was “behind the green door” and the why the green house.
The only shop on the island is the Spar supermarket…….topped up the toothpaste supply and bought a small bar of local salted caramel for supper later. Joe Watty’s pub was a handy loo stop and the Father Ted van brought a chuckle. Plenty of Aran sweater shops to browse, but the harbour was more fun for people watching.
We visited lots of walking places all over the island, but 2 stand out. The fort. (I have given up trying to remember the Gaelic for the sites) The purpose of the 2000 year old fort atop the hill begs the question – who were they defending themselves against? Quite fascinating but also a vertigo nightmare. The Benedictene Monastery on the other side of the island and the Roman graves were fascinating. To see the size and complexity of the spiritual centre from so many centuries ago, and to wonder what tourists will think of the contemporary sites which will become historical relics as well.
All the walking around had fired up an appetite and thirst. The absolutely decadent strawberry fudge based milkshake served in the eco-friendly cups made from sugarcane hit the spot…and immediately wiped out any calorie benefits the walks might have had….sigh! The vegetable soup was delicious too.
The recently born donkey foal, the pristine beach, the house built for the movie Man of Aran in the 1930s, the pony traps and hundreds of pushbike riders, the well of spring water used before water storage tanks arrived quite recently, the college for students of Gaelic, the varieties of stone walls, the monuments to fishermen and others who lost their lives to the sea…..all made for a wonderful day.
Once again it rained just as I trudged up the hill to the b&b. But the thought of the salted caramel spurred me on!