Blog by Gifts of Ireland

The Aran Islands: An American Tourist Experience

The Aran Islands: An American Tourist Experience

I heard that the Cliffs of Moher were the ultimate eye captivating moment of the 'Wild Atlantic Way' of Ireland. But then there was Aran. My parents gave me the heads up. I was an educated Irish tourist, so I thought. Three Islands off the coast of Galway. We chose Inismore. And that's when we jumped in our rental car and headed off, without excess insurance cover.

The best part was that to get there, we had to drive through a surrounding of stone walls through Connemara, the far side of Galway. I've never been so content to get caught behind a slow moving tractor. And who needs insurance at 30MPH.


What we saw each side of the road triggered a mixed bag of emotions and assumptions. The old ruins of homes dotted around us in Connemara scattered between so many more new ones. The contrast of the dark grey stone ruins and the white walls and slatted rooves of the new. When we parked up the car at the Aran ferry, I was so keen on asking some burning questions. So I did and I'm not going to bore you with all the answers. Because I certainly bored that poor Irish passenger with my too many questions. I was no educated tourist afterall. But I loved how welcoming that these absolute strangers were to me. It definitely helped distract me from the wild atlantic waves...yes folks be prepared for a rocky boat trip.

Some of what we did learn was that the old houses were evidence of how the old West of Ireland once lived. During the Irish famine many died in their homes because without potatoes, they were without food. And some parents before they died of hunger or perhaps lucky to die of old age waved goodbye to their children who departed to the USA, my home country. It started to resonate with me that the romantic story of the Irish American connection, is not so simplistic. There was no post arrival Facetime for Irish emmigrants. In fact, it was said that there were some who never made it to Ellis Island, and some of those who did perished on the streets of American cities. But enough of the sad stuff.


Our arrival to the Island after hopping off the ferry (it took about one hour) was greeted with relative quiet, if that's the best word to describe it? It was just, not noisy, at all. I'm not much good at explaining these things. But onwards we went and rented bikes, whipped out the tourist map, and set off on the few miles trip around the island. Immediately my handlebars started to waddle side to side. A symptom of looking around too much trying to take photos with one hand - I couldn't help it. The landscape was just so beautiful. The peace - it was just simple to the eyes. 


We eventually rocked up to the cliff edge of Dun Aonghasa. This fort is apparently from from 600AD! It was genius - a wall built up along the cliff edge, so that the front door was the cliff edge. Nobody could get in, unless they climbed up the cliff. And I never figured out how they themselves could get in - but let's just say it was certainly an effective break-in deterrent. Nowadays you'd never get planning permission for a house on a cliff edge. Of course when we were there we had to copy the other tourists; crawl up to the cliff edge with a stone and throw it over, just so we could be sure to tell our Cliffs of Moher friends that we definitely couldn't see any stone reach the water, that our cliffs were more amazing. 


Sorry but I have to repeat this again; the abolute peace of this few miles trip, was the most touching experience I've had in Ireland. But maybe that's just me. I needed this. I'm just the type that uses meditation apps.

We didn't stay the night in Inishmore but we were tempted to after the Islanders told us about the Irish music plan for the night, but then, there was Temple Bar in Dublin. Onwards we made the trip back to the Capital. A one day round trip.

After returning home to the States and settling back into work I had to get my meditations going again. That was a daily opportunity to re-live my experience of Ireland. The sound of the waves in the distance, crashing against the bottom of the cliffs, the feeling of walking on the spongy moss at Dun Aonghusa, and the pale blue atlantic where I could visualise my home the other side. 

I will leave you with this lovely tune that I was told about by that nice ferry passenger. The 'Parting Glass' which was a tune that was sang in Irish homes on the night before the parting of a loved one emmigrating from Ireland. Enjoy! 

Jordan, PA.

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