Ireland Travel and Culture

Ireland's Mythical History: A Trip to Inishmore

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Close your eyes and, for those far from her, imagine yourself in Ireland. Your day begins like the the one before. Light mist blankets the countryside. But this day is going to be different. Today you will step back in time, to a place like no other you've seen yet.

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A windy, noisy ferry ride begins the adventure. If you're the adventurous type, you'll stand at the railing of the tiny vessel, feel the wind blow in your hair, and smell the salty sea air. Suddenly someone shouts, "Over there!" A splash. Has someone fallen overboard? You see a sleek, brown head bobbing a safe distance away...a seal...or could it be a selkie?

You finally get your attention back to the island of Inishmore looming ahead of you and the ferry docks. As soon as you set foot on dry land, you are bombarded with tour offers. Tour van drivers, bicycles for hire. You can choose to go it on foot, but then you see the horse drawn buggy and native Inishmore driver. Your mind is made up and you opt to pay the slightly higher price for the quaint buggy. The driver, you find, is more than just someone to guide the horse. He serves as tour guide and master story teller. And if you're fortunate, as I was, he'll patiently answer all your many questions.

With a slight jerk, you're off on your journey. The narrow roads that carve through the island are roughly paved, and an occasional car forces the buggies to the side, but if not for that, you would believe you've stepped into an era of the past. Your driver greets a passerby in a language you don't understand, (unless you speak Gaelic, of course). Green but rocky hills roll on either side, each field separated by low stone walls held together with...nothing. Your tour guide explains.

For centuries, all over Ireland, the stone dividers have been stacked the same way. It's an art, a precise science, taught at a young age for very practical reasons. When leading flocks of sheep or herds of cattle from one pasture to another, farmers would take down a part of the wall, lead their animals through, then stack it up again, no harm done.

A mournful cry draws your attention past the pastures, and stone divider walls, to the beach. Frolicking on the sandy shore, or just enjoying the brief showing of the sun's face, are a bunch of seals. But they slide quickly back into the water when a human visitor gets too close.

The midway point of your journey is a stop at a cozy café at the foot of a hill. Inside, you treat yourself to Irish tea and a scone with a generous dollop of cream, or any other Irish delight you choose. Then it's time for the treck up the stoney hill to the remains of the hill fort, Dun Aengus.

As with all things Irish, there's a mystical, ghostly feel to Dun Aengus. Not a lot is known about it or the people who built it. Made of a half ring of carefully piled slate walls, the fort backs up to 300 feet high cliffs. Visitors are allowed to roam through the ruins. The more adventurous even dare to go to the edge to look over the cliff to the pounding surf below.

Back at the foot of the Dun Aengus hill, the carriage awaits to take you once again to the tiny port. On the way, wind in your face, the smell of the sea about you, you observe blooming fuschia hedges, thatched roof cottages, and of course, the rolling stone studded hills.

You say good-bye to your new found Irish friend, but then it's time to do some shopping. The Aran islands are famous for the hand knitted wool sweaters. A number of stores offer all different colors, styles, and sizes, as well as scarfs, and other accessories and mementos.

Too soon it's time to board the ferry and head back to the main land. But there's still plenty of sights left to see in Ireland, so you head back to your accommodations, satisfied with this day's journey.

Now it's time to end the day, maybe with another cup of tea by a turf fire before going off to bed. After all, tomorrow will be filled with new wonders and marvelous sights.