July 11, 2016 – The Aran Islands and Galway
Today was our last day in more rural Ireland before heading back to Dublin. Norma, our host, prepared another delicious Irish breakfast and then we were off to the port to catch a ferry over to the Aran Islands. We had about a 45 minute drive to Rossaveal to pick up our tickets and ferry to one of the best places Irelands has to offer. I had heard these were a must but many people short on time over look them as it takes almost a full day with the ferry rides and drive to port. I had decided we had to do it, even if it meant less time in Galway. I was not disappointed!
Now the weather was supposed to be nice, but as in Ireland, rain just appears and disappears at the drop of a hat and it is especially volatile on the islands. So we had planned to rent bikes and ride over to the big fort on the cliff top. Best laid plans. This was the day I had a mini melt-down. We got off the ferry and ventured over to one of the bike rentals, filled out our paperwork and made a bathroom stop. Then it was to actual start riding- I discovered that my bike was terrible. First the gears messed up, then the chain came off, then I couldn’t shift gears, then it started to rain. I lost it- I couldn’t bike up the hill, I was getting soaked [AGAIN] and I just started to cry. This was supposed to be fun! Not miserable. Jon, being the ever patient one, let me have my meltdown, fixed my bike and then switched so he was riding the gimpy bike. After various hills and on and off rain we finally started making progress on our ride. I stopped at various spots for pictures and when we got to the beach area, the chain actually snapped in two on the gimpy bike. We were close to the fort as this point, thankfully, but were also worried how we would get back!?! Luckily, this happens enough that they keep extra bikes at the top and let us take one of those back instead. Phew!
As we had made it to the fort, we parked both bikes and proceeded up the long path and rocky stairs to get to the top. Now, Dun Aonghasa is very old and unlike Cliffs of Moher it has no guide rails. You can walk right off the cliffs if you so choose. It was a little scary but we took some amazing photos and took in some amazing views. It was only misting at this point but the wind was fierce. Still we kept our distance from the edge and walked around the fort, enjoying experiencing this part of history. Coming back down the rocky stairs we were treated to really nice views of the island and could almost make out Galway across the bay.
Back on our bikes we discovered there were two roads to get out there and we had taken the harder High Road on the way- so I was all for taking the Low Road on the way back. We were treated to more amazing views, goats, beaches and bays. The Aran Islands are very rocky- similar to The Burren with limestone. And very undisturbed. It was very remote and very peaceful out there. I enjoyed our bike ride back 1000 times more than the ride up.
After gladly giving back our bikes, we perused some of the little shops and picked up quite a few goods at the Aran Sweater market. Lots of warm wool pieces for family and ourselves AND they would ship back to US so you didn’t have to carry it home. Lifesaver. We also popped into a little cafe and grabbed another craft beer- Kenmare- before it was time to ferry back across the bay. We had a really lovely time and I do highly recommend the Aran Islands- amazing to see!
When we got back to Galway, we were treated to some sunshine! We were able to see across the bay to part of the country that had been hidden in cloudy fog the day prior. We wandered around downtown before stopping for dinner and then gelato! I was also really looking forward to listening to more trad music that evening. Galway is a really fun, artsy city and there musicians were wonderful at Taafes Bar. Irish music just makes my heart happy. And then lastly as a nice farewell- we stepped outside and right into a performance art parade! Barcelona artists and their giant bug creatures were making their way down the street. It was strange and fascinating all at once. A sweet ending to our time in Galway and the west coast of Ireland.