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
The Lego-block-like structure at the pier on Inishmaan….
Pier on Inishmaan, Aran Islands
The rough rust and glimpses of sunlight inside the Plassey wreck on Inisheer…
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
A bright green shag carpet of moss, growing on the cliffs of Inishmaan,
Yes, Dun Aengus is breathtaking, no question about it, but there’s so much more to see on Inis mor besides visiting the famous fortress.
Here’s a list of hidden gems on the western end of Inis Mor that many people don’t think to visit. Actually, they’re not even that hidden, but they’re more out of the way, or not as clearly signposted.
1. Western Coast, Bungowla (HIKING LEVEL: EASY)
Bungowla Coast, Inis mor, Aran Islands
Bungowla is the village at the westernmost tip of the island. There’s an old pier there, and it seemed that a rainbow of seaweed was being collected on the pier to dry in the sun. A seal was bobbing along in the water past the pier, poking its head up to say hello. This area is also where the storm sequence in the film Man of Aran was shot.
Rainbow of Seaweed, Bungowla, Inis Mor, Aran Islands
To get there: cycle if you’re up for it (it’s a long way from Kilronan), or hire a tour van. If you want to go for a tour, I highly recommend Diane. She’s the only woman tour guide on Inis mor, and was very friendly and helpful, and even remembered me from last year, and remembered what sites I had seen and what I hadn’t gotten to see. Her mobile is 087 7566685.
Diane, Tour Guide on Inis Mor, Aran Islands
2. Clochán na Carraige (HIKING LEVEL: EASY)
Beehive Hut, Inis Mor, Aran Islands
This stone beehive hut just west of the beach of Kilmurvey is really a must-see. It is the best preserved clochán on Aran. The date of this clochán is unknown, but John Waddell in his chapter in The Book of Aran writes that these types of structures may be from the Medieval period or later. The purpose of the hut is unknown, but may have been temporary housing for religious pilgrims. The hut appears oval from the outside, but the inside is rectangular, and very sturdy.
Clochan interior, Inis mor, Aran Islands
To get there: Walk 10 minutes west past the beach of Kilmurvey until you come upon a walking sign on the north side of the road. Follow the path down, and through a few fields (the path is pretty clearly marked here), and you’ll find the clochán. It took about 15-20 minutes to walk there after finding the path. You could fit this in with a trip to Dun Aengus, Bungowla, and the Seven Churches, if you have an obliging tour van driver.
3. The Wormhole – Poll na bPéist (HIKING LEVEL: MEDIUM-DIFFICULT)
This one is more out of the way, and I only recommend going if you feel up for a challenging hike, and I probably wouldn’t bring along small children.
The Wormhole, Poll na bPéist, is a striking natural rock formation in the southern coast, just west of Gort na gCapall, the only village on the southern coast of the island. The “péist” is the reptilian seamonster of Gaelic folklore. The large rectangular hole in the coastline shows the power of the sea to wear away the limestone, and also shows quite clearly how limestone itself is made of joints that form at right angles. The water rushes into the Wormhole through an underground cave, or when the tide is high, spills over and fills it up from above (I’ve never seen this in person, though). Here’s a good video of it I found:
The limestone here is made up of lots of little craters that fill up with bright yellow and green algae. It’s quite alien looking!
Southern coast, near Wormhole, Inis mor, Aran Islands
To get there: It’s best to go with someone who knows the way, because it’s not well sign-posted as of now, and it’s also useful to have a hiking partner to help you over some difficult terrain. Once you get to Gort na gCapall, walk up the road, heading south. You make a right turn past one of the houses on the right (have someone point out which one), and walk through a dirt/stone path lined by stone walls. There will be some trail markers at this point, but past the trail markers you will have to follow the path worn in the grass through openings in the stone walls. Once you are past the fields, there will be two ledges. STAY ON THE TOP ONE. Keep going west until you have to begin to walk over the more crater-like surface, weaving along past the cliffs. You’ll come to the Wormhole in about 30 minutes. Have a seat and take in the awesome view.
The Wormhole, Inis mor, Aran Islands
Do you know of any other hidden gems on Inis mor’s western end? Please comment and share!
Next week: hidden gems on the eastern end of Inis Mor…