The west Irish coast heading south from Galway is renowned for its scenic beauty. We head off expecting to see rugged coastline, majestic cliffs, and, well you know, scenic stuff. We have booked ourselves on the 10:00am ferry from a little place called Doolin to the Aran Islands. Doolin is less than 50 kms from Galway and we congratulate ourselves for getting packed and on the road before 9:00am. Have I mentioned Irish roads? We are heading down another of the big numbered roads, but it gets smaller and smaller until we find ourselves getting held up whenever Fergus Murphy decides to drive to the local village to call on the widow Kelly. The particular problem is that Fergus might be wearing his best shirt, but he’s still driving the 5 kms to town on his old farm tractor. Fortunately for us, our friend Frank at the ferry terminal, told us yesterday “If yer miss te 10 o’clock ferry dere’s anootter wun at eleven.” We roll into the terminal around 10:30, find Frank, get the tickets, and then look eagerly at the large sleek boat beside the pier. Ah, no, our boat is the slightly smaller one rocking ominously in the waves a bit further out in the bay. No problem, the sun is shining, sort of.
We join an eager throng of happy holiday makers and board the boat with anticipation. Our view of the island which is to be our home for the next few hours is now obscured by “a little shower” that we are assured will pass soon. By the time we reach the island, the little shower has indeed passed, so we decide that it would be lovely to take the open horse drawn wagon tour of the sights. I have heard that the islanders speak Gaelic Irish as their first language, and reckon it’s time to show off what I have learned from reading the bilingual signs along the highways. I can see that our man Eaina is quite proud of his horse and decide I should tell him what a fine animal it is. “Do deirfiur is mian liom prata.” At this point he is supposed to nod his thanks, but he just gives a quizzical look. Maybe I mispronounced one of the words, but no, apparently what I actually said was “I wish your sister was a potato.” So much for trying to blend in – again.
Our trip goes more or less as planned, except it buckets down rain the whole way and we are all soaked to the skin. Our umbrellas helped for a short while, until the wind decided to blow them all inside out. We don’t get to see much of the island, and Eaina is man enough to admit at last “I didn’t tink dat renn would last quite sa long”. We make a bee-line for the local eatery and grab some hot soup before heading back to the pier for the next part of our combo-tour, a trip under the renowned Cliffs of Mohr. The ladies are a little disappointed by the relative lack of tourist shops on this very small island, but you just have to suffer sometimes for the sake of the scenery.
We reboard our little boat and head back into the bay. It’s showering on and off and we learn about something called Atlantic rollers. These are the waves that have travelled all the way from the east coast of Canada looking for unsuspecting tour boats. The swell is huge and everyone on the boat develops a very Irish looking green colour.
The famous cliffs are as spectacular as promised, and we are surrounded by thousands of seabirds diving and swooping from their nesting places high above. Everyone tries to snap that special photo for their next status update, but the constant rise and fall of the boat means most will be copying pictures from the Internet instead.
We finally head back to Doolin, and dry land. A short stop to let the tummies settle, and we are on the way to Tralee. The road varies from single lane to wide freeway and back to single lane again. We get held up a few times by Fergus Murphy’s twelve cousins, each driving their respective tractors along single lane roads, but at last Tralee is in sight at around 8:00pm. My companions have once again sworn that “ we won’t do as much tomorrow.” I’ve heard this before, but this time we are staying at Ballyseede Castle. It’s an amazing place, and it’s on dry land, so maybe this time they really mean it.