Friday, October 6, 2017

Ireland, Day 3: Inis Moirr

On Inis Moirr
The last time I was in Ireland my sister and I visited the smallest of the three Aran Islands, Inis Oirr. This time I thought to go back there, but since the forecast was for rain pretty much all day, we opted for the largest island, Inis Moirr. On this one there were van tours, while on Inis Oir there were only donkey/horse carts or bicycles. We wouldn't have melted, but who wants to be soaking wet outside in the cold all day? Not me.

The drive to the ferry was wild! We left at 9am, right after a good breakfast of eggs, bacon, three kinds of toasted bread, jam, tea and coffee. The bacon is more like ham really, large slabs of meat. We thought the ferry left at 10am so we wanted to be sure we had time to get there. Even though it was only about 30 miles away, the roads in rural areas like Roundstone don't allow for making good time.

At first we were just moseying along, enjoying the scenery--the bogs are strangely beautiful. But then we realized that we'd never get to the ferry on time if w didn't make tracks. So there we were, zooming along this narrow, bumpy one-lane road, me gripping the seat tightly and being v-e-r-y quiet. We got there ten minutes before 10--and found out that the b&b host had told us wrong, and that the ferry actually left at 10:30! Well, it made for some good laughs, especially on the return trip when we could take our time and see what we'd flown past earlier.

Looking out the window of the ferry. 

The ferry was large and full of tourists, many from America. You can pick them out almost immediately, especially the men because they almost all wear ball caps and logo sportswear. One was even wearing sunglasses, even though the rain was pouring and it was gray as could be at the moment. It was interesting to see the amount of small cargo loaded on to the ferry for delivery to the island.

I selected the very first van we came to--it was raining and he seemed like a happy guy, and he turned out to be a great tour guide. He was full of stories and jokes ("there's the pub, that's me local. Music every night it's open. Course it's only open Saturday night."). He told us that there are about 800 people living on the island, and you cannot build a new house there unless you were a native. The only way an outsider can live there is if one of the homes actually comes up for sale. the old stone cottages are usually renovated or restored for new generations, although we did see several that were in ruins. According to our guide, those too were candidates for restoration. As simple as the construction of these little homes is, I can see that.

Now for the island:

See the tiny house beside the cottage? Our guide said it was a leprechaun house. Hmmm...just a story for the tourists, or for real?
 One of the highlights of the day was the ancient fort on the island's highest cliffs. Dun Aengus it is called, and no one is sure who built it or who they were defending themselves against.

The walk up was long, steep, and winding--and tricky. Lots of rocks, slippery places and such. We were lucky enough to get up there before too many other tourists arrived.

 And lots of stone walls. These walls were built with stone cleared from the fields. Then sand and seaweed was hauled up from the sea and layered on top of the stony ground to decompose into soil. So almost every bit of soil on the islands is manmade in this way. Think of how long it would have taken!

 And finally, the reward of the long climb:

Wet and happy! This was as close as Larry would get to the edge--it is a long, long, long way down to the sea.

 The entrance to the fort is very small, more easily defended.

Such beauty! I still cannot believe I actually saw this.

And in the other direction:

Looking through the entrance to the fields far below.

And though the outer wall.

We were glad to get back in the van. Some braver folks took the horse carts.

At this ruined church, we had a little trouble. There was so much rain that the area was fairly flooded.
Larry and I waded across anyway, getting our shoes thoroughly soaked.

And here in this churchyard, I found a surprise. My maiden name, in Gaelic, on a tombstone. There is a chance that my family originated in Galway, and these islands are part of that county. Who knows? Maybe my roots are here. My sister is working hard to find out just where we came from in Ireland.

And then, back to the sea. And seaweed!

Fertilizer, and also food--some of it is edible, and sometimes it is used in cosmetic and toiletry products.

There was a beehive hut down here, but the way was too flooded for us to see it up close.

Another beach, and...

seals! Which had me humming the Great Silkie of Sule Skerry, a Child ballad from the Scottish Orkney Islands.

 And finally, back to the ferry. There was so much more, but with the rain it was not easy to get photos. Still, what a mystical, magical place. I already want to go back.

Copyright Susanna Holstein. All rights reserved. No Republication or Redistribution Allowed without attribution to Susanna Holstein.

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