I’m Donna and I work for Tourism Ireland in Sydney having worked my way across the world with the company after a couple of stints in our offices in both Frankfurt and Paris. I love to cook, eat, travel, take photos, walk and play tag rugby. A couple of months ago I travelled to Inishmore on the Aran Islands for what must have been my fourth day trip and I have since vowed to make sure I stay overnight on my next visit.
As we boarded the Aran Island Ferries vessel, the Atlantic Ocean (or what I could see of it from Rossaveel) looked very calm; serene even… as we eased out of the harbour the sea started to get a bit choppy. The bouts of raucous laughter coming from the stern gradually subsided as we were rocked to and fro. Some passengers couldn’t get enough, ‘wahey!’ they cheered. Other passengers couldn’t get out of their seats quickly enough, as they scurried towards the back of the boat for fresh air. Another twenty minutes into the crossing and the ferry actually flew over a wave, I jest not, she soared, suspended over the Atlantic for a few seconds before crashing back into the ocean again. That’s when Michael from Aran Island Ferries started distributing the paper bags. “Would you like a sick bag Madame?” he said to a lady cowering in her seat, her face paler than pale. She shook her head adamantly. “Is that your normal colour?” quipped Michael, much to the amusement of us all within earshot.
As we disembarked on Inishmore, the largest of the Aran Islands we were greeted by our chauffeur-guide Michael from Hernon Tours. Michael took us on a tour of the island stopping off at the many ancient stone forts and churches along the way. He pointed out the Leachtai Cuimhe, a type of roadside monument, which were erected as memorials for the dead.
No trip to the island would be complete without a visit to Dun Aengus Fort, a semi-circular stone fort perched dramatically on the edge of 100metre cliffs that drop straight to the sea (that’s right, there is no fence, so watch your step). It is a stunningly beautiful area and well worth the walk to the top. In addition to the fort itself, you can enjoy arresting views of the Atlantic Ocean on one side, while the other side offers a panorama of the island’s landscape, which is similar to that of the karst landscape found in the Burren in County Clare.
If you fancy a dip after walking around Dun Aengus then head to the Blue Flag awarded Kilmurvey beach. It was the location for the world renowned Irish film/documentary ‘Man of Aran’, which was filmed in 1934 on Inishmore, the making of which was fictionalised in the Martin McDonagh play, “The Cripple of Inishmaan” some years later. On this particular visit we didn’t have time to brave the water, but we did manage to happen upon a herd of seals sunning themselves along the island’s shore.
After a sumptuous sea-food lunch at Joe Watty’s Pub, it was time to leave the truly authentic time-travel experience that is any visit to the Aran Islands. If ferries aren’t your thing, rest assured there’s also an airport on the island that will take you to Inveran on the mainland in under fifteen minutes! Likewise, other options for touring the island include walking, cycling and jaunting cart. If you want my advice, learn from my mistakes and stay the night! The island boasts numerous bed & breakfasts, as well as one hotel and I’ve no doubt that the locals will keep company once you settle down in a cosy pub for the night.