On Saturday, I took a completely solo adventure to the Aran Islands. I went to Galway by train, took a bus to Ros a’ Mhíl, a ferry to Inis Oírr, and another ferry to Inis Mór where I stayed the night.
It just happened that I’m on another Brontë kick and started reading “Wuthering Heights” on the train that morning. As I climbed hill after solitary hill, her words “a misanthropist’s heaven” struck me as particularly apt. I went five hours without seeing above three people.
Inis Oírr was stunning. I had perfect weather for the trip – clouds, but some sun and no rain, so I was able to enjoy the island in all it’s splendor. The ferry was greeted on its arrival by Mara, the resident dolphin along with many offers of horse and buggy tours and bike rentals. I passed over these for walking and set off for the graveyard on the hill which a man had told me contained a sunken church. I wandered around the cemetery until more people arrived then set off over the hills. After a while, I made it back to the village for lunch at the pub, and then sat on the rocks until it was time for my ferry. I had forgotten how much I loved the ocean.
Inis Mór was much more tourist oriented than Inis Oírr. I quickly left Kilronan, the village, to look at some of the sites of the island. For the craic of it, I followed spray painted signs that pointed to a “wormhole” in a cliff at the edge of the island. In the process, I completely lost the path I was on. Thankfully, islands are very easy to navigate. Just keep the water on your left and you’ll eventually make it back around. It was a very long eventually, but it ended with great seafood chowder and Bailey’s coffee at a pub and a hot shower in the hostel.
The next morning, I was up early to escape the snoring of my roommates and spend some time writing in my journal. I breakfasted on the hostel patio with a friendly collie and met a lad from Dublin who was also staying at the hostel. We talked on the ferry and bus ride back to Galway about art, meditation, and Irish. He is an artist moving to Inis Oírr to spend time focusing on his art before starting art school in Galway. When we parted ways at the bus station, he said he was sure he’d see me again some summer when I’d “come breezing into [his] life with that beautiful smile”. “I’ll be the crazy guy with the even crazier beard”, he joked.
One of my favorite parts of the trip was using Irish. The Aran Islands are a Gaeltacht region which means that Irish is used in everyday life. It was interesting to see the response I got from people when I greeted them in Irish or switched from English to Irish in the middle of a conversation. While everyone I met was very friendly, they were even more enthusiastic when I tried to carry on conversations in Irish. This was especially obvious when I was in less touristy areas of the islands. As for me, I had no idea how terrifying it would be to voluntarily start a conversation in a second language, but even one day of use had me unconsciously saying “go raibh maith agat” instead of “thank you” to the Americans in my hostel room.