Feature

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.

Recommended

European Union grants Ukraine candidate status
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.
the first step

European Union grants Ukraine candidate status

Latin America's leftward swing
Gustavo Petro
Briefing

Latin America's leftward swing

What's next for France?
Macron
Grayson Quay

What's next for France?

Aid workers say children in Somalia are dying of starvation 'before our eyes'
A mother in Mogadishu holds her malnourished baby.
humanitarian crisis

Aid workers say children in Somalia are dying of starvation 'before our eyes'

Most Popular

Thomas: Court should 'reconsider' rulings on contraceptives, same-sex marriage
Clarence Thomas
next to go?

Thomas: Court should 'reconsider' rulings on contraceptives, same-sex marriage

Fake Trump electors scheme ensnares Sen. Ron Johnson, several fake electors
Ron Johnson
'some staff intern'

Fake Trump electors scheme ensnares Sen. Ron Johnson, several fake electors

Is America abandoning religion — or just remixing it?
The Sistine Chapel.
Briefing

Is America abandoning religion — or just remixing it?