Another early morning and another long day ahead of us, we reluctantly got out of bed at 7:00am for breakfast at 7:30am. Our host, Jimmy, was very accommodating by preparing breakfast for us earlier than usual to facilitate our timely arrival to the ferry port in Rossaveal. The breakfast was delicious and we were disappointed we had to scarf it down, rather than savor it and enjoy more conversation with our host. If I’m being honest, I was also disappointed about having to be awake that early…
Number one on Justin’s list was the Aran Islands – a group of 3 islands off the west coast of Ireland, near the Galway Bay. Our plan was to visit Inis Mór (Inishmore), the largest island of the 3. These islands are known for their ancient ruins, many of which remain mysterious with regard to age, purpose, etc. We would need to get to the ferry port by 10:00am to catch our ferry.
We’ve learned that one benefit of leaving bright and early is the low traffic, and the low clouds and fog waiting to be warmed away by the sun. This combo makes for beautiful views and a less stressful drive so they can actually be enjoyed. It wasn’t long into our drive that we entered a downpour. The road we were traveling was of the narrower types, and for lack of better terms, was one of the squiggliest and hilliest we’d driven. It continued to rain throughout the majority of the drive. We drove past The Burren, a definitive change in landscape. My view out of the window had previously encompassed lush, rolling green hills full of trees and bushes. The Burren, while different, offered beautiful views of it’s own. Flat landscape with a prevalence of rugged, jutting rocks were softened by the presence of beautiful purple wildflowers, and I shamelessly admit – cute, fluffy sheep. Sadly, the rain disabled me from being able to take many photos of The Burren. The drive was beautiful nonetheless, and offered some surprises, like the imposing Dunguaire Castle right off the side of the road. You know, casual morning drive. I’m glad I was able to enjoy the views between windshield wipes.
The rain brought us into Galway City and dropped us off in the middle of rush hour. Thankfully, Justin has become a skilled left-hand-side-of-the-road driver, and my navigating was without fail following that little Lahinche snafu. Rush hour provided no problems other than the potential for making us late to catch our ferry. Our patience (read: my patience) was rewarded with a rainbow over the ocean, and a timely ferry port arrival. In that order.
Bowser parked our little Mariokart in the ferry car park, and we walked to our ferry that would take us to Inishmore. I took the relatively turbulent 45 minute ferry ride as an opportunity for a nap. Before I knew it, I was waking up to us pulling into the ferry port on Inishmore. We wasted no time disembarking as we wanted to be the first ones to the bike rental store (here known as “bike hire”), and we didn’t want to wait in a line (“queue”).
We were one of the first to arrive to Aran Bike Hire. We paid 10€ to rent each bike, with a 20€ deposit. We were free to choose any bike we wished. Justin grabbed a sportier bike, while I went for the daintier bike with a basket. The weather had been chilly and windy, so I was afraid I’d get cold. I dressed appropriately, wearing a sweatshirt, scarf and jacket. Not soon after starting our island bike ride, I was kicking myself for bringing so much!
The bike ride started relatively easily, but soon we found ourselves climbing a few hills and regretting our nightly routine of fish and chips and Guinness and the like. I, for one, am really missing my trips to OneLife. (I’ll be back with a vengeance soon enough)! Down the road we pedaled, brisk wind blowing through my hair, chilling my nose. Up in a bun, we went!
We frequently stopped in search of the perfect Inishmore photos. The small roadway was confined on both sides by seemingly infinite plots of land divided by limestone rock walls. These fields are divisions of property, and generally contain livestock. We passed friendly cows, sheep and horses along the way. To our right, the lush farmland was restricted by the vast ocean.
Past the Seal Colony, where we saw no seals; past Kilmurvey Beach; up to the Dún Aonghusa Visitor Center. We dismounted our bikes and started the steep trek up to the prehistoric fort. Suspected to have been built sometime in the second century, it is believed this fort was erected for religious reasons, rather than militant. The fort is protected by a half circle of four dry stone walls.
On the opposite side of the walls is a cliff with a 300 ft sheer drop. It is believed the fort was once in the shape of a “D”, but parts of the fort walls, and supporting ground have broken off into the ocean.
In the middle of the fort is a rock platform, again believed to have been ceremonial in significance.
After meandering around the fort grounds, we headed back down to grab some lunch. We had really worked up an appetite with all the exercise – a drastic change from our days of sitting in a car. Though the line was long, we didn’t mind waiting and taking in the views of this charming little cafe.
After lunch we started our our ride back to the ferry port. Time was running short and we still wanted to stop by the famous Aran Sweater Market. Taking the same route as before, we approached Kilmurvey Beach once more. This time Justin wanted to take the opportunity to step into the water. Again I was too cold, and stood by for moral support. (I also didn’t want to deal with sand in my shoes)!
Onward we cycled, although we were soon aware the reverse of our route included some good inclines. What a great workout, with amazing views along the way.
We returned our bikes and boarded the ferry. Again I took the opportunity to snooze and upon waking, was pleased to see we were back to Rossaveal. We drove back toward Galway City, but detoured at Salthill to check in to The Frenchville B&B. We were excitedly welcomed inside by our host, Tony, and two energetic little pups, Molly and Lady. He and his wife, Pam, run this great little B&B. Our room was beautiful and the bed, so comfy! We had a cute little balcony with patio furniture. We would use this later to drink wine under the stars as we watched the blinking lights of boats in the bay. Before the sun set, I enjoyed looking over the balcony to watch people running along the promenade, and an apparent rugby practice. Hungry for dinner, we took a short walk into the City Centre of Galway City.
Tony recommended a great little place for dinner called Viña Mara – Irish fare with a Mediterranean twist. (Yes, please)! Every Monday – Wednesday, all main entrees, excluding specials, were 10€. I had the Slow Braised Lamb Shank with herb and mustard crust and Irish stew style broth. This meal in the US would easily cost double to triple what we were paying. It was outstanding, and the accompanying Malbec was a great accessory.
While we were sitting at dinner, my Irish friend, (whom I’d never met – this becomes important later), checked in with me. He’d been following my journey on social media and was checking in regularly to ensure I was having a good time. When I told him I was in Galway, he recommended I go to The King’s Head – an infamously old pub in Galway. Coincidentally, the back entrance to The King’s Head was immediately in my view from the window of the restaurant. Justin and I decided to go over after dinner to get a glimpse of the history and enjoy a post-meal whiskey before taking the 7 minute walk back to our B&B.
There were 14 Tribes of Galway who were prominent families who monopolized political, commercial and social life in Galway from the 13th to 19th centuries. The King’s Head is over 800 years old, dating back to at least the 13th century, and has many ties to these 14 Tribes, in particular the Lynch tribe, as Mayor Thomas Lynch Fitz-Ambrose lived there in 1654. Long historical story short, Galway was taken under siege, and the Mayor Lynch was forced from his home by a dude who beheaded King Charles I… hence, the name.
While sipping a beverage, several items were on display for patrons’ viewing pleasure. Very interestingly, there are 2 medieval fireplaces in the building that were discovered with two recent renovations. Below, the mantle of a 1612 fireplace is pictured. These fireplaces display the marriage stones from the Martin, Bodkin and Lynch Tribe families.
Upon arriving back to Frenchville, Pam provided us with a wine opener and we enjoyed the aforementioned couple of glasses on the balcony before retiring to bed. We would get to sleep in the next day… until 8:00am.