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Ireland Day 11: Adventures on Inishmaan

rain 70 °F

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Our ferry to Inishmaan, or Inis Meáin in Irish. The ferry is Banríon na Farraige, which means "Queen of the Sea." Daniel thought we were safe from any kind of ferry accident, as reporters all over the world wouldn't be able to pronounce the boat's name.
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The journey from Rossaveel to Inishmaan was beautiful, but a little bit rough. We were both extremely tired, and we had some coffee to try to wake up.
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When we got to the pier on the island, there was no evidence of a village and no transportation to the sites we wanted to tour. There were only about five people who got off of the ferry with us, as the rest of the people on board were heading to Inisheer. Daniel had been to Inisheer and Inishmore before, and wanted to tour Inishmaan as he had not seen it. It is said to be the least populous and the least touristy of the islands, and thus far it was meeting both expectations. Soon, a man in a red van sped onto the pier and rolled down his window. "I'm the taxi to the village. Five euro each."
At that moment, a woman in a smaller car also sped to the pier, jumped from her car, and began speaking in Irish to the man. She then told us that she would take us to the village. We got in her car, as did an older man and an older woman. Indicating the other woman, our driver said "This lady will tell you all about the history of the islands. She's Dutch. I can drop you at her tea house if you want."
We were dropped off at the tea house and had a nice conversation with the Dutch woman. She lives on Inishmaan, having studied Irish in college and fallen in love with the island on her first visit. We purchased some tea and pastries, and a map to show us other things to see on the island. It was one of those surreal experiences where you are not quite sure if it is real, hence our confused expressions.
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A donkey outside a house on the island as we walked away from the tea house.
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Small fields, houses, and religious shrines: common sights around the village as we walked.
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Some of the island's scenery.
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Us on the island. It was absolutely beautiful, and we were glad that we came to this island as it was incredibly quiet and peaceful.
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The ruins of the Church of the Seven Sons of the King. The information plaque explains what it is. It was an interesting ruin that we would have missed or assumed was just part of the stone wall work if it hadn't been signposted.
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A green water pump, similar to the one in Mountcharles but without any plaque about its history.
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The Church of the Immaculate Conception, which is the current Catholic Church on the island. It has Harry Clarke Studio stained glass windows, and an altar made by Patrick Pearse's father (which was originally installed in the old church then moved to this one when it was built). The church is beautiful.
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Some of the Harry Clarke windows. They really look different from other stained glass windows.
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The Pearse altar, some more of the windows, and the crucifix above the altar. This church is quite arresting: every part of it seems to draw your attention and make you think. It's amazing that such a beautiful church with such great artistry exists on such a remote and unpopulated island.
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Some pictures near Teach Synge, a small house where John Millington Synge and other authors and notable people went to learn Irish. We had an excellent tour with the owner of the house, a woman whose family owned the house and hosted Synge and the others. It was where the Gaelic Revival began, in some sense, and from that house spread new interest in the language and culture of Ireland before the English conquest.
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Us about to climb to the fortress.
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Dún Chonchúir, the fortress in the background, is a huge ring fort and very similar to Dún Aonghasa on Inishmore. It has extraordinarily thick walls, and is almost perfectly circular. The huge mound of stone in the background of these pictures is the fortress.
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Our first attempt to reach the fortress. We followed signs towards it and then cut through fields and pastures to the wall. We reached the wall, but there was no entrance. Daniel climbed the side of the wall, and saw how thick the walls were. It is an incredible fortress: reaching it is difficult, and once you reach it the walls are extremely difficult to get over. In an actual battle, we imagine that it would be nearly impossible to conquer if defended: it would be impossible to reach if there were archers or javelin throwers on the walls.
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Of course, the fortress does still have some fierce defenders: this mother cow and her calf! We found the correct path: there were small yellow arrows that are easy to miss pointing the way. The path cut through one pasture where a mother cow was with her calf. Daniel thought there must be another path: they wouldn't advise people to get that close to a mother-and-baby animal. Catherine thought that it would be fine: after all, cows are domesticated animals. We started through the pasture, and Daniel reached the next style before Catherine. He saw from there that the calf was chasing Catherine, and told her to hurry. She ran, and the calf continued to chase her. Unfortunately, now we were closer to the fortress. The vicious creature was between us and the village!
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Information and a close-up of the fortress.
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Inside the fortress! It is a huge area within, and feels very protected from the outside. The design almost makes it so that the outside world seems far away: it is quiet and sheltered. It was getting late and our taxi back to the pier was going to meet us at the pub in the village at exactly four, so we had to head down sooner than we would have liked.
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Views from outside the fort.
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Teach Synge, photographed as we walked back to the village. The owner didn't want pictures taken inside, and she explained that people are often disrespectful in their picture-taking on the islands, acting as if everything is so intriguing and quaint and different and photographing people who are just going about their lives. She said it was okay to photograph the plaque and the outside of the house, so we did.
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Journeying back to the village.
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The pub. We arrived here a little earlier than expected, and were able to order a lunch and a couple drinks before the taxi arrived. Everyone in the pub seemed to be facing the same way, having quiet conversations in Irish while eating or drinking. We sat near two men who engaged us in conversation, though it was quiet and somewhat halting. We learned some interesting facts about the island and its history. Eventually the taxi arrived: it was a different person we hadn't seen before, but he said that the cost was still five euro per person. We got to the pier and waited in a small enclosure as it was starting to rain. We struck up a conversation with a woman who was keeping a blog and walking the Wild Atlantic Way, and waited while several other ferries came before Banríon na Farraige arrived. Finally, our ferry came and we got on our way back to Rossaveel.
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The Claddagh, where we started our Galway Pub Crawl for the evening.
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Dinner, including margaritas, at Seven in Galway's Latin Quarter.
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This street performer stood on a board balanced on a cyllander, juggled axes and machetes, and put a tennis racket all the way over his body.
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Walking around Galway after dinner, we come upon this large square which is well appointed and nice looking. It is Eyre Square, but Daniel doesn't recognize it because last time he was here it was completely under construction, and a chain-link fence surrounded the entire square area. Only the streets were open. Now it has several small kiosks within the square, and banners of the "tribes" (Anglo-Norman families) of Galway. It was wonderful to be here together.
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Some drinks at John Keogh's-The Lock Keeper pub. The bartender was an expert on Irish beers and whiskies, and the drinking habits of the Irish people. It was an interesting place and a nice conversation about social trends. And also, some good drinks.
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We ended our night at The Crane Bar. Daniel went here as well on his 21st birthday, so it seemed like we should go there. They have traditional music every night. When we went in, there was no music, but there was a persistent thumping coming from above. We went upstairs, and there was a woman doing Irish dance while the band played a song. We found a place to sit with an Irish couple and two Danish men who were touring the country. We listened to the music and had a nice conversation: the Danes were quite interested in drinking, and were planning to go to a beer festival in America later this year. The band played a mixture of Irish, American, and British songs, and we had a wonderful time.

Posted by danielcatherine 11:57 Archived in Ireland Tagged taxi cow tea pub ferry fortress dutch pub_crawl calf inishmaan aran_islands irish_language synge

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