The Aran Islands

Last Friday I skipped the last day of class to explore the main island of the Aran Islands Inis Mor. I hadn’t been out on a tourist adventure for some time and desperately needed to get away from the impending pressure of Final essays for a few hours. I woke up at seven that Friday morning and it was as dark as I had woken at three in the morning instead. The lack of sun in the winter is something I both appreciate and detest. I love that it stays cool and dark deep into the morning hours and then sets when I’m ready to relax for the day around four or five in afternoon but waking up when it is still dark will always fill me with confusion and dread.

The journey to the island was not a short one. It began with a thirty minute power-walk, carried on with an hour long bus ride, and then an hour long ferry ride. For those who know me well, they know I am not a huge fan of boats in general but I learned to trust the ferry once we began moving. The weather was crisp and clear so I had the opportunity to check out the Galway/Connemara coastline from the deck of the boat.

Once we arrived on the island I decided to rent a bike and break away from the group I came with and explore the mid range trail on my own. The trail was about 10km in length, so relatively short, but the majority of it was at a steep incline on a rocky, muddy, cow poopy, path. Of course this meant I had to push my bicycle uphill for about forty-five minutes of walking. The trail wound through cow and donkey pastures and I still cannot get the judging looks of the cattle out of my mind as they watched me slowly push my bicycle up the hill while eating gummy bears.

I have never felt so small as I did when I reached the top of the hill. Though the island is only about ten miles in length the landscape is woven with famine walls, vegetation, massive cattle, and is edged with cliffs. All of these things combine to remind you how miniscule you are in the grand scheme of things. If a tiny island off of the coast of another tiny island makes you feel small then by god you are mighty small indeed.

After I finished the trail I headed back to the little village to explore and find some food. The town seemed deserted and every restaurant was empty. After a weird lunch in an empty pub that smelled of pine sol and stagnant water I went off on my bike to circle the village once more. I stopped at the Aran Sweater Market and touched every piece of textile in the building. The upper level was all hand knit pieces made by artisans of the islands the bottom level was packed with machine knit beauties and rugged Aran weight yarn from Kerry Woolen mills, an old and still functioning wool mill in County Kerry. Of course, I had to have a couple of skeins to play with on my own.

The little village on the island really isn’t much to look at but I did manage to find a cafe that made the best mocha I’ve had since I left the USA. It was deliciously bitter and the foam was solid and warm. The cafe was super tiny, warm and full of locals. It was the perfect way to close out the day.

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