I woke up in paradise. Not that I realised it straight away. Wendy is a very early riser generally and tends to go out for a walk first thing in the morning. I woke up to rustling and wondered what she was looking for. I was starting to get annoyed when it went on for ages, till I rolled over and saw her in her bed still, sound asleep. The noise was the rain falling onto the dormer window in the bathroom. So I rolled over and went back to sleep.
When I woke up, I looked out the window and knew I had been right the night before.. The scene out of our window was stunning. Ivy covered old stone cottages, with rain on them, glistening in the morning sun, sat in front of the view of the ocean with waves crashing onto the distant shore. This was beautiful.
We had our showers, got dressed and went down for breakfast. Once again it was proved to us how fantastic Irish breakfasts were. I have to say, I’ve been turning down the white and black pudding but I’ve scoffed all the rest of what’s been on offer. A beautiful hot pot of tea to wash it all down and we were happy little vegemites. The host, Bartley was as gracious as last night and after breakfast and a chat, we left our bags there and went for a walk around the village of Kilronan.
Kilronan is the biggest of the villages on Inishmore and is just beautiful. Be warned, you’re going to hear that word a lot today. Everything on Inishmore is beautiful. The scenery here is almost overwhelming.. There is too much to look at. The old stone cottages, the ocean, the ancient, gnarly trees. I had a sore neck from turning my head in a hundred different directions to try to see it all. Remember I’m from a country with a settled history of roughly 200 years.. Here, 200 years seems like a modern structure.
We walked one way and the sun was shining, the sky was blue and the day just stunning. When we walked the other way, the rain started and it was blowing a gale. We walked through it though and kept going. The rain, the wind, the scenery, the buildings.. it all felt so primal. I felt at one with the world. This is surely what mainland Ireland was like when Gargie lived there. Yes there are cars on the island but they are quite unobtrusive. Everyone waves as they drive by… I mean EVERYONE..
We found lots of things to look at, including a grotto of the Virgin Mary. This is a very catholic island still. We had to go back to Clai Ban as Noel, the busdriver who drove us to the B&B last night, was coming to pick us up for a tour of the island. When he got there, he only had another 2 passengers in the bus with him, so off we went.
The village is not big but is the biggest of 6 villages on the island. Inishmore is the largest of the 3 Aran islands and has about 800 residents all through the year. Summer time is popular with the tourists, but it is quieter for the rest of the year. Only about 400 people reside on the other two islands put together. Inishmore has 3 schools, 3 churches, 3 cemeteries and 6 pubs.. There is a Supermac’s (like a McDonald’s restaurant I guess), a convenience store, an Aran Sweater shop and a couple of restaurants, B&B’s, a doctor, 2 nurses and a police officer. There are other little gift shops up near Dún Aonghasa which is an ancient round fort up high on the island.
We headed up through the tiny narrow lanes and Noel, our driver was happy to stop wherever we wanted to get a photo. I could have taken thousands of photos but I refrained. Past thatched cottages, stone fences aplenty and cows that look so different to ours, I knew I was in paradise. This place is a photographers dream. I would love to come here and spend a few months, just taking photos and writing. I might have to see how I can make this happen.
Noel gave us a running commentary on the island as we asked a lot of questions too. This is a place that looks after itself, which I was really impressed with. You can’t build on the island without strict conditions about the type of structure, so that it is all in keeping with the rest of the environment. Also, if I wanted to buy a house on the island I could, but I am not allowed to build. Only locals who can prove they live and work on the island can build.
Building is different too, as the whole island is rock. There is a small layer of earth on top of it from people in the past who dragged seaweed and sand up from the shore and layered it on top of the rock, eventually leading to some soil. Houses are built straight on top of the rock. Two of the cemeteries have shallow graves as the rock is still there under the soil, making digging deep impossible. One of the cemeteries floods regularly. This cemetery is called the 7 churches. (it actually has 2 churches) It had 7 romans buried there, so you can get a good idea on how old this is.
Up further we went to Dún Aonghasa, the fort on the cliff. I would love to have flown over it to really showcase this. It sits on the edge of a 300 foot cliff and is over 3000 years old. We got told it was a 15 minute walk up to there.. Yes, if you are a olympic walker perhaps? For an unfit, well padded, over 50 year old, it was longer than a 15 minute walk, but well worth it.
We made our way back down to the little village and sat down in a local cafe and had a steaming hot bowl of home made tomato soup. Noel came back to pick us up and we to the other side of the island. After a drive around there it was time to head back into Kilronin to catch the ferry back to the mainland. We had a browse in the Aran Sweater shop and a quick cup of tea and headed over to the ferry.
The ferry was a beautiful trip again, though it certainly is a bit rocky. The waves break out in the ocean so you are getting buffeted around quite a bit but I still loved it. We got off into the icy blast and went back to our car, turning the heater on high immediately.
We were heading to Kinvara so that we could be ready to drive along the west road which encompasses the Cliffs Of Moher tomorrow. Kinvara guest house is a fairly new building and is really nice. Very reasonably priced too. We’re fairly close to Dungaire Castle so will have a wander in the morning and look at that on our way to Dingle.
For now, I think another early night is called for. It must be all this fresh air and fighting to walk through the wind, but I’m so tired. But it’s a good tired. I was sad to leave Inishmore as it really was heaven on earth, but am excited to see the Cliffs of Moher and Dingle tomorrow. Time to close these tired eyes for now.