Tag Archives: ireland

The Art of Aran Writing

I loved reading all of the poetry submissions for the Joe Wattie’s limerick competition. The variety of voices and images was truly a pleasure to read. Everyone who submitted a poem should be proud of their work, even if they didn’t win the competition, because in writing about Aran you have contributed to the literary history of the Aran Islands! (Which is already quite rich, indeed!)

Aran has inspired many writers and artists over the years. Notable Irish writers Liam O’Flaherty and Mairtin O’Direain grew up on Inishmore, and in Gort na gCapall there is a lovely memorial for Liam O’Flaherty. I only wish I knew Irish so I could read their work untranslated. (I’m thinking of taking beginner Irish at the New York Irish Arts Center this fall, in fact.)

Liam O'Flaherty Memorial, Inishmore, Aran Islands

Liam O'Flaherty Memorial, Inishmore, Aran Islands

And, of course, the object of my obsession, the writer that drew me to Aran, J.M. Synge, was also greatly inspired by the Aran Islands. Mairtin O’Direain even wrote a poem about Synge. I was able to find an English translation online – I hope it is accurate.

HOMAGE TO JOHN MILLINGTON SYNGE

The thing that brought you among my people
from rich distance to rough rock
was something in the vital clay,
a trace escaping of woe and loss.

It was not from stone you took your stories,
but the wonders in stories by the fire;
not care for the stony cell or flag
— there are no groans out of dead ground.

Deirdre met you there on the road;
Naoise’s currach turned Ceann Gainnimh.
Deirdre and Naoise took their way
— and Pegeen was nagging at Shauneen.

Always in your fist, that book …
You cast your words from it in a spell:
Deirdre, Naoise, Pegeen took shape
and gave a hero-leap from its pages.

My people’s way is failing fast,
the wave no longer a guarding wall.
But till Cuan Wood comes to Inis Mean
the words you gathered here will be
alive still in a foreign tongue.

I love this poem. I think it really captures Synge’s fascination with the islands, and the way Aran seeped into his work.

Aran still inspires writing, and art in all its forms. One of my favorite acquisitions from my trip this summer is the book Island Writings. (Also available on Amazon, here). I bought it from the Internet Cafe in Kilronan.

Island Writings
Island Writings

The book is a collection of poetry and short stories written by women from 14 different islands off the coast of Ireland. The Aran Islands feature prominently, with stories by Stephanie Brennan, Mary Burke, Rachel Burke, Katherine Conneely, Olwen Gill, Thomond Gill, Maire Ui Iarnain, Noilin Ni Iarnain, and Nonie O’Neill. Some of the writing is in Irish, but most of it is in English. Fiction, nonfiction, and poetry are all represented.

If you’re traveling to Aran, I recommend taking more than just a digital camera with you. Bring a small notebook and leave some time – whether it’s fifteen minutes or three hours – to sit somewhere and write. Record the colors and sounds around you, recall a conversation you had in a pub, or simply listen to whatever feeling comes out of you, and write from that. In doing so, you’ll become part of a tradition of those who were moved by the islands to put pen to paper.

Synge used to sit and write here:

Synge's Chair, Inishmaan, Aran Islands

Synge's Chair, Inishmaan, Aran Islands

Where would you sit and write on Aran?

 

-Emily Herzlin,

LettersToAran.Blogspot.com. @EmilyHerzlin (twitter).

Off the Beaten Track – Hidden Gems on Inishmore’s Eastern End

Ready for the final installment? Hidden Gems of Inishmore’s Eastern end.

1) The Black Fort – Dun Duchathair. HIKING LEVEL: MEDIUM (but extra caution needed)

The Black Fort at Sunset, Inis Mor, Aran Islands

The Black Fort at Sunset, Inis Mor, Aran Islands

This is, personally, my favorite spot on the island. Definitely off the beaten track. This promontory cliff fort has not been excavated, and I’ve read and heard different things about it. Some say it’s older than Dun Aengus. Some say it’s not. Some say it was at one time circular. Nobody knows for sure. Its name, Duchathair (pronounced doo-CAH-her), mean something like “Black City,” named for the darker color of the limestone on this part of the island. It’s made of one tall, thick stone wall that cuts off a peninsula of land at the neck. There’s a bit of the remains of a chevaux-de-frise around the exterior. Inside are remains of stone huts. There are two fantastic caverns on either side of the peninsula where you can watch and hear the waves hitting the cliffs. The cliffs here aren’t as high as Dun Aengus, so you feel a bit closer to the sea. The views here are magnificent.

Caverns near the Black Fort, Inis Mor, Aran Islands

Caverns near the Black Fort, Inis Mor, Aran Islands

HOW TO GET THERE: Walk on the main road, east out of Kilronan, past the beach. You’ll see a road that curves steeply up the hillside to the right. (There’s also a small lake there). Take the road up, and follow the dirt road to the right, which will snake up the hillside. The dirt road turns into a stone path. Once you reach the end of the path and the top of the hillside and can see the cliffs and the ocean, walk east (left), staying close (but not too close!) to the cliffs. You’ll see the fort come into view. The best way to enter the fort is through a small opening on the very far left side of the wall (it’s literally a couple of feet from the cliff, so be extremely cautious). Best to walk back the same way you came, otherwise you might find yourself in a maze of stone-walled fields.

Approaching the Black Fort, Inis mor, Aran Islands

Approaching the Black Fort, Inis mor, Aran Islands

2) Iarairne – Eastern Coastline – HIKING LEVEL – EASY

A truly beautiful location. Here you have rabbit fields, a hidden beach, a view of Gregory’s Sound and Inishmaan, and the waves crashing against the rocks. This is a great place to have a picnic, or to sit and read or a while. Very peaceful.

Rabbit fields in Iarairne, Inis mor, Aran Islands

Rabbit fields in Iarairne, Inis mor, Aran Islands

Iarairne coast on a windy day

Iarairne coast on a windy day

Iarairne coast on a calm day, Inishmaan in the distance

Iarairne coast on a calm day, Inishmaan in the distance

HOW TO GET THERE: Cycle east out of Kilronan, through Killeany, past the graveyard, until you get to a stone wall at the end of the road with a walking sign next to it. To go the beach from here, take the sharp left in the road and continue to cycle until you get to the beach. Or, if you prefer, lock up your bikes here and walk through the rabbit fields until you get to the coast line. If you look around you, you’ll probably see some rabbits hopping around. Be careful not to trip into a rabbit hole!

3) Puffing Holes – HIKING LEVEL – MEDIUM-DIFFICULT, (extra caution needed!)

There are three mapped puffing holes on the south eastern coast of Inis mor. To be totally honest, I was not able to find them on my own. They are very difficult to locate, and at the moment they are not marked. It’s best to go with someone who knows where there are, or who has super navigational skills. They will also only be active on a stormy or very windy day, so if it’s a nice, calm day, you won’t find them if you’re looking for water spraying up into the air!

Puffing Hole, Inis mor, Aran Islands

Puffing Hole, Inis mor, Aran Islands

Here’s a video I found:

PUFFING HOLE on INISHMORE

To get there: The hike itself isn’t difficult except that it’s not marked well, but once you’re near the puffing holes you need to be very careful.

Once you’ve reached the eastern coastline, walk up the path in the grass up the hillside, until you get to the round tower. Behind the round tower, there will be another grassy path heading down the hillside towards the south. Follow it all the way down, and begin to walk west (to the right). You’ll be stepping over grass and limestone. The first, and largest puffing hole is a large rectangular hole in the stone. Just watch where you’re going! All these puffing holes appear out of nowhere.

Path up the eastern coast, Round Tower in the distance, Inis mor, Aran Islands

Path up the eastern coast, Round Tower in the distance, Inis mor, Aran Islands

The other two puffing holes are very close by, but are more difficult to find.

Here’s how my boyfriend says he was able to find the second one, which is a smaller hole, a rocky sort of pit, in the rocky area closer to the southern coast: “I followed the ring of the coastline until I heard a curious pounding sound coming from the fields. I went closer and closer to what looked like a pit and saw at the bottom a tiny hole that led to the magnificent cavern-like hole.” Maybe not the most reliable to find something, but it worked for him!

The third is to the right of the rectangular puffing hole in a field to the east. Before you enter the field, depending where you enter you may see a sign painted onto a rock that says “danger.” This grassy puffing hole is especially perilous because you don’t really see it until you almost walk into it, so proceed with EXTREME CAUTION. If it is a stormy day, be extra careful, since the rocks and grass around these areas will be slippery.

**If you have better directions to any of the puffing holes, please share!

And after you’ve been hiking all day, you can take a little nap in a field of flowers on your way back!

Flower field, Inis mor, Aran Islands

Flower field, Inis mor, Aran Islands

What are some more hidden gems of Inis mor? Or special places on any of the islands you’d like to share? Leave a comment here, and share your photos on the facebook page.

Thanks for reading! Let me know what other Aran-related topics you’d like to learn more about. – Emily

Aran Adventure 2011: Emily’s Update from Inis Mor

I am on Aran and I am bursting with excitement! This trip has been a year in the making and so far it is fantastic. A brief recap of my time here thus far…

I arrived on Monday afternoon. I took the 1pm ferry from Rossaveal – the new docks there look fantastic – and stood on the upper deck of the ferry on the ride here. The weather was clear and gorgeous. A little bit chilly for this time of year, but I’m so happy to be away from the 90 degree Fahrenheit heat in New York City that I wouldn’t mind what temperature it was here. Well, maybe if it was snowing, that might be a problem…

I had a bit of a mix-up with the place I was meant to stay at – turns out there was no internet there. Too bad, because this was my view (to the right of the house is Dun Eochla, the ringfort at the highest point on the island).

View of Dun Eochla, Inis Mor, Aran Islands

View of Dun Eochla, Inis Mor, Aran Islands

I had to weigh my options, given the beautiful view, and decided I would rather have internet and be closer to Kilronan and Killeany, because I particularly love the eastern end of the island. I was easily able to switch to a new place with wifi. The women who own the B&Bs here are extremely accommodating. Alice at the Dormer House and Geraldine at Seacreast collaborated to find me a place to stay.

Here is the view from the front of my B&B now. Isn’t it idyllic? I’ll let you know how the breakfast is tomorrow morning. Can’t wait!

Beach view from Seacrest B&B, Inis Mor, Aran Islands

View of the beach, Inis Mor, Aran Islands

Last night we dined at the Aran Fisherman. My boyfriend ordered the catch of the day and curry chips, and I had a lamb stew. The rain was pattering against the windows outside, and it was just the right dinner to warm us up.

Lamb Stew, Aran Fisherman, Inis Mor, Aran Islands

Lamb Stew, Aran Fisherman, Inis Mor, Aran Islands

Today for lunch we grabbed sandwiches at the counter at the Spar (the grocery store) and rented bikes and cycled all the way to the east end of the island. I haven’t seen the entire island, but I think Killeany and Iarairne may be the most beautiful parts of Inis mor. So much green grass, and you’re bordered by the beach and the blue watery coastline, and watching the waves beating against the coast is thrilling. We left our bikes at the end of the road and walked through three fields full of rabbit burrows to get to the coast where we could see Inishmaan across Gregory’s Sound.

Eastern End of Inis Mor, Aran Islands

Eastern End of Inis Mor, looking over Gregory's Sound at Inis Meain, Aran Islands

My boyfriend and I used our impressive navigational skills to hike up the eastern coast to try to find the mysterious puffing holes. After an hour of searching we finally came upon one, but the sea wasn’t strong enough today to power the seaspray through the cavern. Still, it was no small feat that we found it in the first place! I was proud of us.

Puffing hole, Inis mor, Aran Islands

Puffing hole, Inis mor, Aran Islands

We biked back and had dinner of supermarket goodies (bread, pate, cheese, and wine) on the porch of the B&B, and tonight we’ll go to a pub and have a pint to celebrate our first two days on the island, and having finally overcome our jet lag.

I can’t wait to see what tomorrow has in store!

Me, walking towards the coast, Inis Mor, Aran Islands

Me, walking towards the coast, Inis Mor, Aran Islands