Aran Islands

The night before we caught the ferry to Inis Mor, we had snuck into a B&B that technically wasn’t yet open. The landlady was sweet enough to do up a full Irish breakfast for us, though, which prepared us well for the wild crossing. Despite jouncy seas and crazy strong wind, we stayed bundled up on top, watching the Galway coast recede and the Islands appear. At one point, dolphins played alongside us in the wake of the boat.

early christian stone crossWe plunked about the village near the dock for a while, shopping for sweaters and hats and gloves. By the time we’d wrapped up, all the other tourists from the boat had dispersed, into the waiting vans and horse carts. A single van kept out hope for us, driven by a man named Thomas who kept asking us to “help keep me out of the pubs.” Once we realized how late it was, we were happy to. We could always walk more when we reached the other side of the island, where our lodging was.

Ah, our lodging. I’ll come back to that. First, Thomas offered us  a grand tour of the sights on the island: the lighthouse/watch tower, the various villages, and ending at Dun Aengus, a prehistoric stone fort at the edge of massive cliffs. But my favorite bit of the tour were the family stories that Thomas shared. Each house we passed offered him a chance to gossip a bit about the lives of the inhabitants. We heard about the couple that obviously “kept busy,” with 7 children to show for it, and the single lady from Sweden who did not (is that code?).

At the base of Dun Aengus, we found Frances’ store (referred to by super-knitter @smartgrrrl) full of beautiful knitted sweaters and headbands, and luscious yarn, as well as sheepy trinkets of all kind. She even managed to find a way for us to avoid lugging our bulky wool up the cliffside as we finished our tour.

beehive hutIt was getting on towards evening when we came down, but we weren’t ready to throw in the towel yet. We wandered a beach, then tromped through the rain to an immaculately preserved clochan, or beehive hut. And finally it was back to our lodging.

Our wonderful, wonderful lodging, where Maura had prepared an amazing salmon dinner, with salad fresh from her organic garden, homemade dressing, fifteen kinds of delicious veggies, wine, and rhubarb cake. Oh. My. All this, in the most lovely setting you could imagine.

sunrise on Inis Mor

The Man of Aran cottage was built for a documentary back in the 30s, and is now the most comfortable and beautiful thatched cottage you could imagine sleeping in, surrounded by organic gardens, overlooking the beach, and encircled by bobbing daffodils.

thatched cottage at dawn, surrounded by yellow daffodils

We actually passed up a night in a haunted castle in order to make time for this B&B stay, and I can’t tell you how pleased I am with that choice. I’ll take rugged, remote, quiet beauty over luxury and indulgence any day. And I bet the ghost wouldn’t have even had the courtesy to show up.

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