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Trip Report Ireland Trip Report

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I started posting under a Galway thread but I realized this has turned into more than Galway..We have been in Galway for several weeks, taking some side trips.....I will post all the text here but please visit my blog for photos/links/etc:

Aran Islands:

When I noticed at the end of last week that the weather forecast for the weekend was surprisingly quite nice, I thought we should seize the day and go out to the Aran islands on Sunday. So I booked us the ferry trip (and bus from Galway to get to the port) with Aran Island Ferries. Some people say that one should stay overnight, but we decided to just do a day trip, and to go to Inis Mor - the biggest of the three islands.

The Aran islands are a throwback to an earlier time. Because they were isolated from the mainland until recently, they maintained traditional Irish language and culture. There is also very interesting history on the islands from when they were an important military outpost - and there are several old forts to see - along with interesting rocky topography (quite like the Burren). While Inis Mor has sprouted a small tourist industry, the islands still seem very remote and quaint. Perhaps this is because the ferrys don't bring cars over, and most tourists choose to bike or use horse and cart to get around the island.


The islands can be reached by ferry from both Rosh a Mhil, the port 40 minutes from Glaway, or from Doolin, but the ferries from Doolin are often on quite rough seas, so going from Galway might be a better bet if you can swing it. The ferry company provides a bus service from their office in Galway to the port, which leaves an hour before the scheduled ferry departure. The ferry then takes about an hour. (The whole thing costs 39E per person.) So it's a relatively long journey overall, but well worth it, with one caveat - go on a nice day! I really can't imagine it being much fun in bad weather.

When we got off the ferry there were lots of people trying to get you to join their mini-van tours, which we ignored. We thought about the horse and cart because we wanted to be outside, but by the time we visited the tourist office and got a snack, they were all snatched up. This turned out to be a blessing in disguise, as we rented bikes, and I'm really glad we did. We rented from Aran bike hire, which I recommend - the bikes worked well and the seats were comfortable.

Our first stop was the Dun Aengus fort, about a 30-40 minute bike ride if you don't stop much. There are some hills, but you can always get off and walk your bike, and you are rewarded with some exhilarating downhills for the last 10-15 minutes. Along the way we saw large brown cows, some skinny goats with beards, and some regal horses - but I didn't stop my bike every time to take pictures, unfortunately. I did take some of the landscape though....


We went by a lovely sandy beach, with some brave souls wading in the water, before turning left to go to the fort.

At the fort we left our bikes, had a snack at the cafe, paid 3E, walked through the tiny museum, and then climbed for 15 minutes to get to the fort. The climb's not too tough but it is a bit rocky/steep for those who are not physically fit.

The fort is amazing. It's always a wonder to see something like this built so long ago and to think how difficult it must have been to build it without any modern conveniences. It wasn't too windy so we were able to get up pretty close to the edge, which kind of looks like the Cliffs of Mohr, but without a guardrail or many tourists. Its just you and the cliffs and the water out here.

After the fort, we got back on our bikes and headed the other way at the beach this time, to take the coastal road back to town. We stopped at a seal colony on the way. It was just getting to be low tide so we were able to see some of them, sunbathing on rocks, but I imagine it would be even more spectacular when it's really low tide. The coastal road was also not too difficult of a bike ride, although I was sweating by the end.

And then, just when we really wanted food and drink, what appeared in front of us? Ti Joe Watty's pub! (The only pub on the island, I think.) Apparently they have live music in the evening, but we were too early for that, so we settled instead for fish n'chips, which we had outside on a picnic table, in the company of a loud rooster. For once I didn't feel guilty eating the food, as I felt we'd earned it with the bike ride and hike!

Then it was back into town to return the bikes, and take the ferry/coach home. We had that satisfied feeling that only comes with hard work, beautiful weather, amazing scenery, and full stomaches.

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