Sunday, 11 March 2012

Jaunting around Inis Mor with Johnny

Again we were sad to leave another fabulous B&B however, say Good bye to Frank & Joan at Petra House B&B we must, but not before they gave us a lovely box of chocolates as a parting gift, after hearing I’d won this trip to Ireland.

It was a straight drive out of Galway to Rossaveel to catch the Aran Island Ferry to  Inis Mór, the larger of the the Aran Islands.  We parked the car in the nearby carpark which is fenced & locked at night, so leaving any luggage you don't want to take across to the Islands in the boot of your car is pretty safe.
The Aran Island Ferry
The sea was a bit squawly which caused the boat to roll from side to side a bit but thankfully, not enough to make me sick.

Kilronan, Inis Mór, Aran Islands

Getting a ride to our B&B with Thomas & Johnny, Inis Mor

Seacrest B&B, Kilronan, Inis Mór & Johnny

We'd rung through to Geraldine & Thomas Faherty  at the Seacrest B&B on Inis Mór last night to let them know we were coming to stay.  Thomas  runs a Pony & Trap business  while Geraldine looks after the B&B side of things.  As we wanted to see the island on this traditional means of transport, we thought a combination of B&B & Pony & Trap would be very convenient.
When we arrived, Thomas was there at Kilronan pier to pick us up as we stepped off the boat.  There were about 50 on the boat, but Thomas seemed to have picked us out and walked right up to me and asked if I was Paddy.  We weren’t expecting to be picked up but there he was with his covered Jaunting Car [horse & trap].  Once we’d settled into the Seacrest & had a lovely cuppa & some  of Geraldine's homemade brown bread & jam, we headed off again with Thomas in his jaunting car.  This time he had unhitched the covered trap & hitched up a smaller open one.  His trusty steed is Johnny, named after Johnny Cash apparently & affectionately referred to as ‘Big John’ or 'Johnny Boy' and he's a 7 year old black & white Clydesdale.

Johnny & Thomas
Our first mission I'm embarrassed to say, was to get ourselves up into this much smaller buggy!!  There was just one small step to assist you & then it was up to you to lift your foot up into the buggy.  For those with 'rusty' hip joints, it is near on impossible to do.  Not only did my weight nearly lifted poor Johnny off his hooves when I put my foot onto the step, I had to then suffer the indignity of having to crawl into the cart on my hands and knees, by which stage I was in a fit of giggles which I just couldn't manage to stop.  Thomas was extremely professional & did his best to keep a straight face & soothe Johnny as he tried to keep his hooves on the ground!.  I'm almost certain I heard Johnny groan a little when we got ourselves seated.
Inis Mór farm land, Aran Islands
Inis Mór was once little more than a lifeless rock on the edge of the Atlantic. Its inhabitants have, over the years, created life where there previously was none, making things grow in their fields using dirt dug from cracks in the rock, combined with composted seaweed. Now all the fields are green, with low stone walls both dividing the fields and keeping the thin layer of soil from blowing away.
Old Cottages, Inis Mor

Grazing Cattle, Inis Mór

Gaeilge [Irish] is the primary language of the islands population; but all are bi-lingual.
Inis Mór is one of the last strong- holds for the Irish language and each year hundreds of students travel to the Irish schools on the Island to help improve their Gaeilge. During the Cromwellian occupation in the 17th - 19th Century, Gaelic was forbidden and English was the official language.  [The English repeated this obliteration of native tongues in my country of birth also, with the NZ Maori also being forced to speak English at school, despite it being their first language].   Even with the threat of persecution, Aran Islanders continued to speak Irish in private [as did the NZ Maori] and the language survived [as did Te Reo Maori].

Very few signs are in English, so it's best to know the Irish name of your destination!  However, there are only two main roads across the island, with the 9 mile scenic route being the longest & both lead out of the harbour settlement of Kilronan or Cill Rónáin as it appears on the signs.

An alternative means of transport around Inis Mór
Thomas & Johnny had quite a day planned for us, the first stop of which was the famous Dun Aonghasa Fort.  I say first stop, but actually, you're dropped off at the visitors centre, then have to hike the remaining 1.5km up the hill to the fort over uneven terrain!  But don't let this put you off, no matter how unfit you are, for it will be one of the most memorable places you'll ever visit.  While Thomas hunkered down in the back of the cart & Johnny munched on his bag of chaff, I huffed & puffed my way up to the fort, taking many stops along the way, under the pretence that I was stopping to admire the view or take photos.  If anyone walking past me got too close, I had to hold my breath so they couldn't hear me wheezing!

First stop on the 1.5km climb to the top!
The entrance to Dun Aengus Fort, Inis Mor
Finally at the top, I was surprised to find that there were no guard rails at the cliffs edge.  You can literally go right to the edge & sit down with your legs daggling over the side, which is exactly what one young fool was doing when I got there.  I couldn't actually watch her as I felt a wave of nausea wash over me every time I did.  It was madness to the extreme.  I can only assume she had a death wish.

Dun Aonghasa Cliffs
How lucky we are to be touring around Ireland in Spring.  While the weather can be cold & windy in parts. as it was today, the main draw card is that there are few tourists at any of the popular attractions that we've visited so far.  Today there would have been less than a dozen of us up at the fort at any one time. 

The Cliffs of Dun Aonghasa, Inis Mór

The lone sentinel, Dun Aengus Fort, Inis Mor

Close to the Edge, Dun Aengus Cliffs, Inis Mor

Dun Aonghasa Fort, Inis Mór
Dún Aonghasa (Dun Aengus), a prehistoric fortress dating back to 1000 BC, stands at the cliff edge nearly 300ft above the Atlantic Ocean.   Perhaps having a bit of a death wish myself, I did eventually pluck up the courage to crawl on my belly to the edge of the cliff for the obligatory photo.   Like the Cliffs of Moher over on the mainland, it was very hard to drag ourselves away from this magical place.

The edge of Cliffs, Dun Aengus, Inis Mor
Dun Aengus Shops, Inis Mor
I have to say the going down was easier than the going up but you still had to take care of your footing as the track was very uneven & very likely to twist ankles if you didn't watch where you placed each step.   Back on flat ground we caught up with Johnny & Thomas who were having a wee siesta while they waited for us.  They happily waited some more while we called into the cafe with the yellow door for a bowl of hot soup & a slice of apple pie.

The Yellow Door Cafe [not it's real name] , Inis Mór
After walking off the calories from our Irish breakfast which Geraldine had scrumptiously cooked for us, we had promptly stacked them all back on with apple pie!  Getting back up into Thomas's jaunting car wasn't any easier second time round but it did provide us with more uncontrollable giggles.

This way to Teampall Mac Duach, Inis Mor, Aran Islands

Na Seacht dTeampaill [The Seven Churches], Inis Mór
Next stop was Na Seacht dTeampaill [The Seven Churches], the ruins of 5th century ancient monastic site, with two churches and several out buildings which were possibly used to house the monks. 

Seven Churches Cemetery, Inis Mor

Historic site, Na Seacht d'Teampall (Seven Churches), Inis Mor
By this stage it was getting pretty cold although it wasn't raining.  Thomas had a couple of blankets in the Trap for us to wrap around our knees which were sufficient to keep us warm.

A Currach - the traditional fishing boat of the islanders, Inis Mor, Aran Islands
The Cottage used built for the movie 'The Man of Aran', Kilmurvey, Inis Mor
Down by the sea, Inis Mór
We meandered down around the coast past the seal colony, more old ruins & many more stone fences.  Now that we were down at sea level with no more hills to climb, Johnny was getting his second wind & once or twice broke into a trot which really freshened things up.    Our Johnny it seemed, had a girlfriend or two around the island who with ears prinked, raced to the fence line when they saw him clip clopping towards them. 

Johnny's girlfriends, Inis Mór
Thomas stopped at a couple of scenic spots to take photos of us in the Trap, pretending to actually be steering it ourselves.... however, Johnny wasn't quite that silly and promptly stopped when he realised Thomas had disembarked!

Near Joe Watty's Bar, Inis Mor
The whole experience of seeing the island on the Pony & Trap was something we wouldn't have missed for the world.   Thomas was so thoughtful & ensured we were well looked after.    We were pleased to have decided to stay the night on the island as this would give us a chance to go out with Thomas & Johnny again in the morning.

Ti Joe Watty's Pub. Inis Mór
Later in the evening we walked up to Ti Joe Watty's Pub for a meal & to listen to the sole musician there belting out some great old irish ballads..  The fire was stoked up with peat blocks giving off a warm glow & a earthy smell, so we wiled away a few hours  here before heading down the dark narrow lane back to the Seacrest.  Street lights are few and far between, so if you have a distance to walk at night, you'd be wise to carry a torch with you, so you can be seen by passing vehicles.


  1. Great read. Posted your shared photo and link on the Aran Islands facebook page.

  2. Many Thanks John. I do follow your FB page & especially love the photos everyone shares. Brings back such wonderful memories of Inis Mor.

  3. I was there at the end of February and had the same difficulty getting into the legs aren't long enough to step up! But it was worth it. the day we went was as clear as I've ever seen and the sky was deep blue. i really enjoyed this.

  4. You know Jackie, our efforts trying to get into that trap is one of the things we still laugh about one year on. And I agree, a Pony & Trap ride around Inis Mor is an experience you'll never forget. Of course there were alot of tourists who preferred the cycling option & other's who went on the van tours.

  5. What a beautiful blog post! Thank you for sharing your trip to Inis Mor with us. :) The Aran Islands are truly one of the most magical places in the world. :)

  6. Thanks for dropping by Sophie. I can't wait to read your Seal Island trilogy [Selkie Spell, Selkie Enchantress, Selkie Sorceress] which you were inspired to write after visiting the Aran Islands. The islands are a magical place & I'm looking forward to being transported back there through your books.