To be honest, after the Achill Island debacle I’m a little surprised to be sitting here in Escape Velocity waiting, on a blustery day, for a ferry to another Irish island. The plan is to hire bicycles to explore the small island. We can feel the motion of the ferry change, rising to the ocean swell as we leave the protected bay, or lough, as the Irish seem to call anything with water in it. It’s so familiar, like coming home for this old sailor.
I’ve never felt so popular walking down the long pier toward Inishmore Island.
It seemed that the whole island turned out to welcome and pitch their wares to their new best friends, like a pop-up carnival of balloons, bus tours, cotton candy, horse drawn buggy tours, hotdogs, and guided bike tours with every permutation imaginable.
By the time we reached land our sales resistance was at a dangerously low ebb and a bemused but whimsical older gent smiled and said, “Would you like to sit down in my shiny new Mercedes minibus?” Why yes, we would. It was far too windy for bike riding. That’s our story and we’re sticking to it.
Soon we were on our way, just one happy minibus load of adventurous funseekers. It didn’t take long before it became obvious that the impossibly narrow roads were choked with tourists, backpackers, and optimistic bike riders, pushing their bikes in the fresh breeze. If there weren’t any serious injuries that day I would call it an act of divine serendipity. I confess that our whimsical driver seemed to take all this madness in stride. I was impressed with his wheel prowess. Turns out we were slowly weaving our way between the high tight stone walls, pinching in on both sides of the road, toward Fort Dun Alonghasa, built in the 1,100s BC on top of a high promontory sea cliff.
Like all high value venues the path starts out easy enough but as soon as you’re not paying attention bam, you’re crawling up over rocks at a ridiculous angle.
I’m sure that 3,500 years ago the road up to the fort made sense but let’s just agree that in the last 3,500 years some deterioration may have occurred.
The queue, laboring slowly up the long hill began to take on the feel of a deep breathing religious procession or pilgrimage of penance.
It’s funny but I never had that thrilling feeling of standing where ancient man has stood. I don’t know, it might just be oxygen deprivation.
The original dry stone defensive ring is D-shaped and contains quite a large area.
Spectacular views from the fort.
Well we don’t want to turn Mr. Whimsy’s smile into a frown now do we? We have very little time for lunch so it’s time for our descent.
Don’t know how I missed this explosive cairn creation on the way to the fort.
This tin whistle busker was good enough that for a moment I could forget about my sore feet
You know how there’s aways someone on a tour bus that can’t seem to get back to the bus on time? Well this time it was Yours Truly but I have to admit the shepherd’s pie I had for lunch was well worth the dirty looks our fellow happy passengers gave us as we clambered aboard a few minutes tardy.
Soon we found ourselves again squeezing between the impossibly tight stone walls in search of a venue called “The Abbey.” This is Ireland, there’s always an abbey. Driving around the island it’s easy to imagine a tough rocky life.
There were small plots of land, mostly rocks and the odd patch of grass, delineated by dry stone walls with random gaps to, they claim, bleed off wind pressure.
It’s a popular stop and Mr. Whimsy had a spot of bother weaseling the big van into what passes as a proper parking spot here on Inishmore Island. Down below us was, more or less, a beautiful 15th century abbey.
By this point our driver’s wry smile was missing and all we got was “Gotta go, let’s get in the van.”
We passed a supposedly typical Inishmore homestead built for “Man of Aran,” a 1934 film by Robert Flaherty about pre-modern life on the island. It was a landmark (and somewhat controversial) film, and if you’ve got the time it’s well worth watching here.
Back in town we joined the throngs admiring the classic fisherman’s sweaters and resisted the temptation to buy. Where in a campervan would we fit one, let alone two?
We spent our last moments on Inishmore with coffee and cake and wondered about the changes a place as beautiful and as tough as this island would make in your life.
On the way back to the ferry the harbor was at low tide and that changes everything.