This past weekend in the West did not disappoint. Although the weather was not as good as it should have been in March, that didn’t distract me from the beauty all around. My favorite part was taking the ferry to Inishmore. The tidbits of information I accumulated while on the island was that it was only 9 miles wide, had 900 people living on it and one grocery store. That definitely got my wheels turning. Only 900 people? Nine miles? Why would anyone want to stay on this tiny island with so few people? that’s smaller than the people who live in my college town and I thought that was a small number of people. On top of that, this is the biggest of the three islands. There has got to be something about this place that attracts or magnetizes the people to it.
Upon further investigation because I was skeptical of some of the facts I had heard, I got everything figured out about the Aran Islands:
Island one: Inis Mór. Population 900. Roughly 14 km long and 3.8 km wide.
Island two: Inis Meáin. Population over 180. Roughly about 4 km long and 2.5 km wide.
Island three: Inis Oírr. Population over 260. Roughly about 3 km long and 2 km wide.
These figures helped me in understanding the islands better. We were only in Inishmore for half a day, but I loved it and wanted to find out more of what this island had to offer, so here it goes!
Our hike up to Dún Aonghusa (Dun Aengus) was peculiar. The open fields were covered with rock fences or rock “tables” as I referred to them as, but really it was limestone rock. This limestone concrete that covered the ground is not something you see in the Midwest. I found myself stopping multiple times to just look at these rocks. As we got closer to the fort, one still couldn’t really see where we were eventually going to end up; I just knew it was going to be a fort, but what kind of fort I wasn’t prepared for. This semi-circular stone fort is around 2,000 years old. Before bits and pieces of the cliffs began to break away, it was probably in the shape of an oval. Its rock walls surrounding it are not too high themselves, but are a series of four concentric walls or dry stone construction. However, this extremely cool fort certainly cannot compare to the cliffs it sits on. Discover Ireland’s description is my favorite, “This semi-circular stone fort clings to the island’s 300-foot cliffs as the Atlantic pounds below.” Being terrified of heights, it was difficult to stand by the edge and look out, but I am so glad I did. There aren’t many places in this world (at least where I have visited or seen pictures for) that compare to the beauty of this view. That is my personal opinion, but that is what I believe. There was just something about being right by the edge with no bar or fence forcing me to stay back. It seemed as if it was untouched by manmade objects. There, this crumbling fort, right on the edge of the island existed.
The next thing for me to consider is why there was a fort up there. From what I had heard, no one really understands its purpose; however, it may have been used for some type of ritual activity. With all that being said, I go back to my point about its beauty. People aren’t flocking from all over the world to enter the fort and partake of some spiritual activity or to kiss a stone or to touch every other red brick in the wall. People may begin the journey up to this really old fort to be able to see just that—ancient architecture and ruins—but by the time they get there, they stay for much longer at the top because of the breathtaking view they get to experience. It’s not just something you see and take a picture of and continue on your way. Not at all. You hike to the top, get blown all around by the crazy wind, you hear the waves crashing against the cliffs, you see the endless ocean blending in to the sky, you look out over the village, and you feel your stomach knot as you get closer to the 300 foot drop. I didn’t want to go back down. If I was forced to stay at the fort all day, I could have easily done that because it was so surreal and peaceful.
We ventured to other parts of the island, stopping in shops and talking with locals. They were friendly and open about their lives. Some people said they go to the main island—Ireland—weekly, but then others said they only go once a month if they go at all. Many were born and raised on this island. They may have left at some point, but they eventually came back. I never got a direct answer from them as to why they stay on such a tiny island, so I guess it will always be a mystery to me. However, if they stuck around for merely the serenity and beauty of it, I would completely understand.