Earlier this year, I lived my life-long dream of island hopping on the west coast of Scotland. Before we’d embarked on the trip, I’d discovered our dates coincided with the Whisky Festival in Islay, Homecoming in Tiree, and the Accordian and Fiddle Festival in Skye. This time round, I was less clued up about current events but as it turned out, we ended up in Galway for the finale of the Galway Races. Whilst we’d missed the action of the races themselves, our initial wanders around the city centre on Sunday night led us to stumble across the post-race-weekend celebrations. Galway is known for its colourful pubs that line the Latin Quarter and our initial impressions were enhanced by the live musical performances that were taking place outside many of the pubs.
This was the Ireland I’d hoped for.
Galway city centre is tiny and not quite as exciting when there are no public celebrations taking place, as we discovered the following evening. However, it is the perfect base if you’re in the market for some island-hopping. Our Airbnb host in Dublin had recommended visiting the Aran Islands, a cluster of three islands located in the mouth of Galway Bay. ‘You’ll see the traditional ways of Irish life there’, he had said, ‘And on a sunny day, it’s one of the most beautiful places in Ireland!’ Unfortunately, the forecast for most of our week in Ireland was rain and on the one day we could go to the Aran Islands, the rain forecast fluctuated between 70 and 100 percent. But sure, we’re British: rain never hurt anyone, right?
We booked our tickets with Aran Island Ferries and the following day set off from Ros a’Mhil, a port 23 miles west of Galway city centre (there is a connecting bus from the city centre if you don’t have a car). For our wee day trip, we decided to go to the biggest Aran Island, Inis Mor (Inishmore), and rent bicycles to explore the island. I should have learned from my jaunt to Tiree in the summer that my fitness levels haven’t peaked at exploring-by-bike levels yet. As a result, there were many photo-taking rest breaks.
Aw, pretty horsie.
It remained relatively dry as we cycled up to Dún Aonghasa, a clifftop, prehistoric stone fort at the north end of the island. Ah, look how happy we were.
I remember arriving at the stone fort, feeling like I’d arrived on the edge of the earth, and thinking how crazy it was that (a) people had once been based on the edge of this wild, wilderness cliff, and (b) that it was actually necessary for them to be there. The fort was abandoned in the 10th century and centuries later, the once-important stronghold base is now simply a scenic spot on the tourist trail.
Of course, there was time for some blog publicity shots (/I-need-another-cycling-break).
As we cycled back towards the ferry port, the torrential rain started. This was probably the lowest point of the entire trip, as we had no choice but to continue cycling, even though as I already mentioned, I needed lots of cycling breaks! According to the internet, the journey from one point to the other only takes 30 minutes. It felt like a lifetime. Anyway, I survived to tell the tale and figured it was fair that one of my island-hopping excursions had involved rain as I’d been basking in sunshine for almost the entirety of my island-hopping trip in Scotland. At some point, the weather had to live up to its reputation! After a relaxed evening basking in warmth and Guinness (I’ve decided I quite like it now), we continued on our road trip round Ireland. Next stop: County Clare and the Cliffs of Moher.
Return tickets from Ros a’Mhil to Inis Mor cost €25. There are a number of bike-hire companies at the ferry port where you can rent bicycles. We paid €10 each for the daily rate. Entry into Dún Aonghasa is €4.