This week’s travel dream: Ireland’s most traditional islands
A few short hours from Dublin, you can wander a land that feels like “an outdoor Celtic museum.”
Nowhere are Celtic traditions as well preserved as on Ireland’s Aran Islands, said Thomas Breathnach in The Boston Globe. Around the country, there is renewed interest in that cultural inheritance: “Traditional music is spreading its roots, Irish cuisine has newfound flair, and a wave of Gaelic-language high schools is on the cusp of producing a generation of fluent Irish speakers.” But Ireland’s “roughest seas” plus “1,000 miles of ancient stone walls” seem to have insulated the old customs of the Aran archipelago from the usual erosions of time. A few short hours from Dublin, you can wander a land that feels like “an outdoor Celtic museum.”
An hourlong ferry deposited me on Inishmore, the largest of the three inhabited Aran Islands, with a population of 900. After checking in to my bed-and-breakfast, I enjoyed a plate of delicious whiting at Tí Joe Watty’s pub “while a button accordionist was drawing step dancers onto the floor next to me.” The next morning, I awoke to “sunshine glistening over the morning dew” and decided to rent a bicycle. I passed “donkeys peering over stone-walled pastures” and “fishing trawlers tacking across the bay” before making a stop at the ruins of Teampall Bheanáin, believed to be the smallest chapel in Europe. Later, from the limestone remnants of Dún Duchathair, an ancient fort, I watched the sunset “cast a peachy hue over the Atlantic.”
The “desolately silent” island of Inishmaan, which I visited the next day, “instantly made its larger neighbor appear relatively urbane.” I caught a ride to my new B&B with one of the island’s 169 residents, and the absence of police or strict road regulations gave the drive “an air of benign lawlessness.” The serenity of Inishmaan “has long made it a refuge for old souls,” so I’m drawn to a thatched cottage that belonged to one of them—the playwright John Millington Synge. As rain started to fall, I followed a rocky path to his favorite lookout. Standing on “a colossal limestone bluff” high above the roaring surf, “I found it easy to lose myself in scenery so spectacularly bleak.”
Doubles at Inishmore’s Claí Bán B&B, (011-353) 99-61111, start at $80 a night.