Okay, we need you to look at the first photo…do you see the top of that thar yonder hill, with a little “cut” or break in the very middle? Starting at the path at the very bottom of the photo, we hiked to that very spot! Honest! As we started walking, we (Jan) thought, “This is going to take hours! We can’t walk that far!” We walked a bunch, walked a bunch, walked a bunch, and…we were no closer – at all! It just didn’t seem doable. We were hiking uphill! That is too difficult! Then, we started taking photos, resting here and there, talking about how hard it was, saying we would never get there….and lo and behold, we were at the top! Even with all the stops for resting, it took less than 30 minutes. We were very surprised. The views at the top were amazing, with cliff faces reaching heights of 330 feet.
We were at Dun Aonghasa, a prehistoric stone fort on the island of Inis Mor, one of the Aran Islands that guard the mouth of Galway Bay. Dun Aonghasa has been called the most magnificent barbaric monument in Europe, although very little is left of it.
The ferry from the mainland was about 25 miles west of Galway on Ireland’s west coast. Once on the ferry, it was another 45 minutes to reach Inis Mor. We first took a minibus tour around the island, and the other two passengers were taxi drivers from London, who of course have heard accents from every corner of the world, but they confessed to us that they couldn’t understand the bus driver’s guided tour descriptions any more than we could. The whole island is proud of having kept the Irish language alive, and their English was thick with the Gaelic Irish brogue.
The Aran Islands are mainly pastoral, with grazing and some farming. In addition, of course, fishing has been its primary livelihood. Before we left on this trip, we watched a 1934 fictional documentary titled Man of Aran about life on the islands. The film is known for its stunning scenery, but in it is shown the villagers hunting basking sharks to get liver oil for lamps. Although hunting basking sharks was a tradition in the area, it hadn’t been practiced in over 50 years at the time the movie was filmed. So the locals had to be instructed how to do it prior to demonstrating their “tradition.” Inis Mor, the largest of the three Aran Islands, is sprinkled with B&Bs, tour companies, and restaurants, and tourism is very important to its income. Thatched cottages are everywhere, and overall the homes we saw are very sturdy to withstand the cold winds and rain. We were there on May 3, 2017, and the weather was wintry, even though spring had sprung six weeks prior.
The third through seventh photos depict the treasures at the top of the mountain, showing some of the old fort’s walls, but mostly showing good views from the island. We liked the sign, with the small warnings depicting people slipping and falling from the top…so many ways to hurt yourself that we never even thought of! And the last symbol on the sign, with no line strike-out, ostensibly indicates that one should expect sheep and cows! Such an informative sign.
The last photos are of houses and life around the island. It was very calm and quiet. The pace, like that of many islands, was slow and unhurried. The last two photos were taken from the ferry, as we neared Inis Mor. Picture-perfect!