In total, we took 6 different forms of transportation during our trip: plane, car, bus, ferry, tram, and bike. Well, 7 if you count our feet. The only time we had an issue was on the Aran Islands, when Tim’s bike tire had a blow out!
We started the day on a bus to Rossaveel, a coastal town about 45 minutes from Galway, where we boarded the ferry to Inishmore. Inishmore is the biggest of the Aran Islands, a sparsely populated group of islands off the western coast of Ireland. There are only a few hundred residents on Inishmore, many of whom speak Gaelic instead of English. All the road signs in Ireland were in both English and Gaelic, but a lot of the places along the western coast were only in Gaelic! It was interesting to see throughout the trip where Gaelic was more common-and conversely, where it was absent. More about that later!
The main attraction on Inishmore is the fort on the northern end of the island, Dun Aonghasa. When we got to Inishmore, we rented bicyles and made a quick stop at the grocery store to pick up provisions for lunch. Then we started up the island to Dun Aonghasa! The weather was beautiful, sunny and warm, and the island was crowded with other tourists and high school travel groups. We passed a giant group of high school students from Spain (I think) and hurried up to the fort so we could enjoy our picnic lunch in relative peace and quiet before they got there.
The views from the top were stunning-sparkling dark blue Atlantic ocean, massive limestone cliffs,and an ancient fort. We wandered around Dun Aonghasa for awhile (and took about a million pictures) before heading back to the southern end of the island to the blow holes. Instead of biking along the main road, we decided to follow a trail through the island. This was really fun, because we got to see all the houses, farms, and sheep, but also incredibly bumpy and hilly! We made it all the way to the opposite end of the island before realizing that Tim’s bike tire was flat. We hung out at the blow holes for awhile and enjoyed the view, then walked our bikes back on the main road into town (fortunately a short walk). A few people, including one of the local Garda (police), gave us strange looks for walking our bikes! We walked around in some of the shops for a few minutes, then boarded the ferry to go back to the mainland.
When we got back to shore, several ferries had docked at once, so there were tons of people milling around, waiting to get the bus back to Galway. This was one of the times when not having cell phones was kind of scary! The bus that we were supposed to catch was late and when it got there, it filled up immediately. They told us another bus would come soon but it took a lot longer than soon for one to come. We (well, mainly me) definitely had one of those panicked “are we going to be stranded here in this ferry terminal with no way to call a cab, bus, or uber” moments. We made friends with a girl from Germany who was also waiting for the same bus and collectively rejoiced when our bus finally showed up.
The Aran Islands were one of my favorite stops on our trip. I loved biking around in the sunshine (amazingly, I managed to get a sunburn)-I think we biked over 20 miles total! The islands are definitely a tourist attraction now but it was fascinating to see glimpses of what life in Ireland used to be like. Small, modest houses with sheep everywhere. So different from my hectic life in Houston. Back in Galway, we had fish and chips for dinner. Funny story-when we ordered our meal, we forgot to ask for tartar sauce. As soon as we sat down, the line got really long, so we didn’t want to go wait in line just for a little cup of tartar sauce. Also, tartar sauce cost 60 cents and we did not have any cash or coins and definitely did not want to use our credit cards for a 60 cent charge. Soooo we had bland fish and chips! Lesson learned: carry cash. Or just remember to ask for tartar sauce when ordering.
After dinner, it was time for one more pint, and then off to plan our trip to Connemara!