All posts by emilyherzlin

http://emilyherzlin.com I'm a freelance writer, teacher, and theatre enthusiast. Currently I'm working on a nonfiction book manuscript about the Aran Islands. Publications include 35 Under 35, Crescendo City, The Women's International Perspective, Newsday, and the Blog of the Interdependence Project. Bachelor of Arts from NYU, Master of Fine Arts from Columbia.

Aran in the Wintertime

Summer is the most popular time of year to visit the Aran Islands, but you shouldn’t let the cold keep you away. In fact, there are a number of advantages to visiting the islands in the winter.

LESS CROWDED

Peaceful Dun Aengus, Inishmore Aran Islands

Peaceful Dun Aengus, Inishmore Aran Islands

Because of the colder weather and fewer events going on, there will be less tourists visiting. This means less people in your photos (if nature photograpy is your thing), a more serene atmosphere up at Dun Aengus or any of the sites on the island (if you’d like to have some alone time to quietly reflect or write), and sometimes you’ll get more individual attention from business owners simply because they actually have the time.

During my first trip to Inishmore, one of the owners of the hostel I stayed at offered to guide me to a few of his favorite spots on the island. He had a little more free time (and this was only November!) because the hostel was nearly empty.  This guided walk was one of the best experiences I’ve had on the Aran Islands in all my visits, and I may not have had the opportunity if I hadn’t gone to Aran in the off season.

Hanging with the locals, Inishmore, Aran Islands

Hanging with the locals, Inishmore, Aran Islands

LOWER RATES

Who doesn’t like to save a little money on vacation? Often many of the hostels and B&Bs have lower rates during the off season. Contact specific businesses for their policies.

Aran Fireplace in Winter, Inishmore, Aran Islands

Aran Fireplace in Winter, Inishmore, Aran Islands

GREAT FOR EXPLORING

A local Aran archaeology enthusiast told me that winter is the ideal time to go exploring the ancient sites. With less vegetation growing, the stone forts are naturally more prominent, so you can really appreciate the enormity of these structures. The unending stone walls will stand out more, too.

Bare stone walls, Inishmore Aran Islands

Bare stone walls, Inishmore Aran Islands

An already gorgeous landscape will prove even more awe-inspiring. And as you can see from the photos on Joe Watty’s facebook page, the waves are really alive and kicking this time of year!

So what are you waiting for? Go enjoy Aran in the wintertime! There’s a few more days left to enter the Aran Islands Christmas Competition, but even if you don’t win, go anyway! For me, it was a great adventure I’ll not soon forget.

-Emily Herzlin

emilyherzlin.com

It’s all in the details

One of the most important things about traveling, for me, is to remind myself to slow down, be more mindful of where I am, why I’m traveling, what I hope to get out of traveling. Sometimes I get caught up trying to cram in seeing as many sites as possible, since I know I only have a limited amount of time. But I think it’s so important to really stop and take a moment to observe where you are, to appreciate the details, to take a closer look. Aran is an extraordinarily complex place, both in landscape and in culture, and in order to fully appreciate it, it’s good if you can take your time. Whether this means staying for longer than a day, or if that’s not possible, to pause along your walk or bike ride to notice more about your surroundings, you’ll thank yourself.

Things I might have missed:

The yellow, finger-like seaweed on the beach in Kilronan…

Seaweed on Inishmore, Aran Islands

Seaweed on Inishmore, Aran Islands

 

The Lego-block-like structure at the pier on Inishmaan….

Pier on Inishmaan, Aran Islands

Pier on Inishmaan, Aran Islands

 

The rough rust and glimpses of sunlight inside the Plassey wreck on Inisheer…

Inside the Plassey, Inisheer, Aran Islands

Inside the Plassey, Inisheer, Aran Islands

 

All the moist and buttery nooks and crannies in the home-baked brown bread that Alice made at the Dormer House…

Brown Bread, Inishmore, Aran Islands

Brown Bread, Inishmore, Aran Islands

 

A bright green shag carpet of moss, growing on the cliffs of Inishmaan,

Life on the cliffs, Inishmaan, Aran Islands

Life on the cliffs, Inishmaan, Aran Islands

 

A clump of shells growing on yet another shell…

Shells on shells, Inishmaan, Aran Islands

Shells on shells, Inishmaan, Aran Islands

And so much more.

Finding all these details filled me with an even greater sense of appreciation for all the little things that go into creating this:

View of Inishmore from Dun Aengus, Aran Islands

View of Inishmore from Dun Aengus, Aran Islands

 -Emily Herzlin – emilyherzlin.com

Winter’s Coming

Winter’s coming, and the crisp chill in the air, the freaky snowstorm that hit New York in October, and the resurgence of pumpkin-flavored coffees/cookies/cakes etc (is this just an American thing, I wonder?) made me nostalgic for warmer times.

Bonfire, Inishmore, Aran Islands

Bonfire, Inishmore, Aran Islands

Or rather, HOTTER times.

The Bonfire night on St. John’s Eve, which occurred the same week as the Summer Solstice, was a beautiful celebration on Inishmore that I was lucky enough to attend this past summer. We gathered with friends around the bonfires, first in Mainistir then in Iarairne, being warmed by the heat emanating from the flames. It was a total, full-body kind of warmth, comforting and energizing.

Bonfire, Inishmore, Aran Islands

Bonfire, Inishmore, Aran Islands

I watched the fire grow over the course of the night. What began as a few crackling embers fast became an inferno. Sparks flew up into the deep blue sky, like falling stars in reverse.

Sparks flying! Inishmore, Aran Islands

Sparks flying! Inishmore, Aran Islands

As dusk fell and the sky turned dark, the fire really started roaring, eating up every piece of wood in its way.

Bonfire, Inishmore, Aran Islands

Bonfire, Inishmore, Aran Islands

The fires burned late into the night, with crowds coming and going, people bringing food and drinks, singing in Irish, or in English, or sometimes being quiet and reflective. A group of young men and women came by the Iarairne fire with a small guitar and serenaded the group with “Hallelujah.” I was asked to sing a song, and so I sang an old ballad I remembered from my high school chorus days. The song ends with the verse: “And I will come again my love, though it were ten thousand miles.” Fitting, since I was leaving Inishmore the very next day.

Over the summer, the weather on the Aran Islands may not have reached what I consider a warm climate (NYC can be over 100 degrees F during the summer) but I could always count on being warmed somewhere, somehow, by the light of a fire.

At the Hearth, Inishmaan, Aran Islands
Elisabeth’s house over the summer, Inishmaan, Aran Islands

 

-Emily Herzlin: EmilyHerzlin.com