Thursday we traveled to Inis Mor, the largest of the Aran Islands, a group of three islands off the western coast of Ireland, in County Galway.
A large double-decker coach picked us up at 8:45 am. By 10:30 am, we were on the ferry and at 11:30 we arrived at the dock in Kilronan.
One exciting component of our day was the fact that one of our students was returning to his family homeland. His father grew up on the island, in Kilronan, and had left as a young adult. This was Declan’s first visit to the island, and we all shared in his anticipation. Later in the day Declan met up with some extended family, and he plans to return over the weekend for a longer visit.
Our first stop of the day was at the bottom of a hill leading up to Teampall Bheanain, the smallest church in Europe, which dates to the 11th century.
A hike up through the fields, negotiating our way around family of cattle (we were told most of the cattle on the island are raised for their beef), rocks, and thistles, and we reached the church and great breezes and sweeping views of Kilronan Bay.
After hiking down, we were driven to the other side of the island to the base of Dun Angus, a 3000-year-old Celtic fort, set on the edge of 300-foot cliffs. Another hike along a stony path led us to the fort and more spectacular views. Nearby, preparations were being made for this weekend’s Red Bull Challenge, an extreme diving event that draws hundreds of spectators.
We still had time for some browsing and shopping at the local knitwear shops, filled with colorful and intricately crafted Irish wool sweaters, before we caught the last ferry of the day off the island, and back to Galway.