An Island in an Island – The Inis Mór

By: Aj Orji Uzokwe

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Its Friday finally can’t believe this day has finally come. Excited…after months and months of procrastinating, this trip is to be after all. I am making the first official trip for MyDreamEscapade first destination, Inis, Mór Aran Island.  The Island of InisMór (the big Island) as the name suggests is the biggest of the 3 Aran Islands lying in a North – Westerly direction across Galway Bay. The Island is approximately 12km in length and 3km in width.

Bag packed, camera checked. I went off to work happily. The thought of crossing the sea to get to the island, kind of increases the tension of the trip even the more and lingered on my mind throughout the day. My boss and a dear friend Derek Stewart has been instrumental in convincing us to make this journey as he felt it is one of the most beautiful yet less visited tourist spots in the country. But funnily, he kept laughing at us in crossing the Atlantic to get to the island as the three people embarking on this trip Me (Aj), Peter and John not only can we not swim, but also have a mad fear of water. In his words, “Aj it is worth every fear. When you get to the island you will love it and I bet you, you will go back someday.” Before we set off Derek was kind enough to speak to his friend Joel who runs a bed and breakfast in the island called Mainstir House, who was kind enough to give us a 50% discount.

Work flew by so quickly and it was nearly lunch time, time to depart but of course as usual, never get to leave the office on time; finally ran out about 1.45pm to catch the 2pm Citylink bus from Burgh Quay to Galway. Nothing ever works out as planned does it? I met up with my friends, got to the bus stop only to find out that the bus stop has been moved to Aston Quay.

We of course missed the bus and had to wait for the next bus which was at 2pm but because we have to catch a bus from Galway at 5.40pm, we were advised by a stuff of Citylink to take the 2.45pm as it is faster and a non-stop bus to Galway which is relatively faster than the normal bus. We chilled out in temple bar and had a cup of coffee to talk about our travel strategy, while. Finally time came, boarded and settled in the bus and off the journey began.

The bus pulled into its Galway station at 5.28pm and our excitement turned to panic as the thought of missing the bus to Ros a’ Mhil where we were to board the boat. We had less than 10minutes to find the Arran Ferries Terminal in a town we never been before….was mad. After crisscrossing Galway city centre and taking directions from passer byes, and given up hope of making the bus and going to the Ireland that evening, we miraculously stumbled on the terminal and alas the bus was delayed for a bit and didn’t depart till 6pm.

The bus ride was uneventful; there was a huge delay by Gardaí checkpoint presence along the road.  We made it to the boat terminal and had to again run to get the tickets and make a quick toilet break as the boat was already ready to depart.  It has been a near miss journey all day so far…not a good sign…

The first 10 minutes was surprisingly pleasant. As we were beginning to settling down to that comfort then for no overt reason the sea and boat turned violently into the trough. I started feeling sick and could see that Peter and John were as scared as a turkey in November. We held our sits and prayed why other passengers that observed what was happening simply laughed at us…..yea laughed at us…not funny!

Thankfully we finally arrived at the Island about 9.30pm. We took a bus for a short drive to the hostel which was about ten minutes from the docks. Driving up to the hostel, I noticed the darkness and lack of streetlights. Use of flashlight is a must in the island. We checked into the hostel and luckily borrowed a touch from Joel the hostel owner.

Tired and hungry, we headed out looking for something to eat in the lonely island. The only place that serves food past 9pm is a little but cosy traditional pub café called Joe Watties Pub and Café. I ordered burger and chips which at €12.90, will become the most expensive I have had to ever pay for burger and chips but I must admit it was the best ever eaten.

Dinner done with a few pints of beer, we walked back to the hostel, the town was quiet, windy and cold. The hostel was run down with little or no maintenance, but at €20 a night, we couldn’t complain. Sleeping that night was uncomfortable, though the heating was on, the room was very cold.

I opened the curtain on Saturday night to the most beautiful view, the landscape and stone built fences married the sea brilliantly. Shower and breakfast was done quickly and we had a debriefing from Joel our host before we went off on our adventure.

There are three options to getting around the island. The first is to walk which is not a good idea, as the island though appear very small is really big and most of the most see attractions are further inland. The second option is to rent a bicycle from Burke’s Bike Hire which usually cost about €10 for the day. They usually deliver the bikes in the morning if you let your lodger know you will need one. The third and last option is to travel on one of the tour buses and/ or companies in the Island. At €8 per person for the day, this seems the best option as it keeps you warm and away from the cold and most raining weather. Guess it will be different during the summer. And oh yes!! …Rain Jacket is a most in the island.

The weather was nice, cold and sunny with no rain…yes no rain…so we decided to walk the island. The island is filled with miles and miles of small thin roads criss crossing each other. The island isn’t well sign posted and those that are, are mostly in Irish so you need a tourist map which you can pick up from the Tourist information office in Kilronan.

The walk started from the South of the Island, half way from Kilronan closer to the hostel following the Ring of Aran route. The walk can only be described as a walk of majestic isolation that completely intrigues you  as the landscape of Inis, Mór starts to unravels itself, with sights of cliffs, paddocks and  giant  boulders and idiosyncratic stone fences. The first major sight along this route is the Seal Colony which is part of the Island Lake that has swam in it. Legend has it that Seals come out during the warm weather but we didn’t see any.

The Kilmurvery beach comes into view about 20 minutes from the Seal Colony and two hours from the start of our walk. At this point we were tired and confused with the lack of street sign post and direction to Dun Aonghasa. Luckily we meet up with a tour bus driver Petr who was kind enough to offer us the rest of the tour for €5 which was brilliant and was good to get into a warm car after two hours of walking in the cold and heavy sea breeze.

Spectacular stone fort of Dun Aonghasa is a World Heritage Site that is perched on the cliff edge of Aran Island it dates back to over two and a half thousand years, beaten by the constant swell of the Atlantic Ocean. The 300ft cliff drop is as spectacular as it is scary to look down the waves. This for me was the highlight of our trip.

We had lunch at the Tigh Nan Phaidi Café where we met the most beautiful and kind heart people. We ordered lunch only to discover that the pay machine wasn’t working. We were forced to eat the food and leave the money with the driver when he drops us off at the village to collect money from the only ATM in the Island which is in the Spar.

The rest of the trip round the island was with Petr and two other lovely Japanese students doing exchange programme in Galway. The next stop was the Seven Churches, an ancient pilgrimage centre dating back to the 6th century, the graveyard is still in use today. The village of Bungabhla, which is the last village on the Western side of the Island, with spectacular views of the Atlantic Ocean and Eeragh Light House, was the next stop. We headed back the ring road which we walked earlier on back to the hostel to pick up our bags stopping off at the Man of Aran cottages, built as a set for the world acclaimed 1942 movie “The Man of Aran.”

We stopped off at the village about 4.30pm, said farewell the bus driver and of course left the money for our lunch earlier. With about an hour to spare before the 5.30pm boat departs, we took the opportunity to walk around the village of Kilronan which we didn’t see the night before.

We departed the Island of InisMór filled with the warm friendliness and gratitude of the Island people, which we never experienced in Ireland before,  and enriched with knowledge and culture of the real Irish people and of course with the pictures and images of a beautiful island. The journey back wasn’t as traumatising as the inwards journey…..haha

We sure did have fun and I hope that you do enjoy your own dream escape to InisMór!!!


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