Aran Isles...

Inishmore, the largest island in the Aran Islands triptych, appears on the horizon as a faded flick of a brush stroke in the haze beyond the bay of Galway. The scape behind viewed leaving and looking back onto the mainland as I escape in the ferry is devastating - rugged and wild, savage, brutally beautiful. Boulders bristle, cast about as ancient dice once tossed, now moss frosted, sit stewed in messy fits of grasses, ignoring the incessant tickle of wind-blown fish-bone bracken in all its browns and tans and tangerine...

Ferry heaves her hulk up, over and through the peaking feathers - quick to be licked from the tops of the swells ambling their way along their journey across the yawning bay mouth. In the curl of a cold rail, slick and slippery with saline film, my thumb hooks for grip - not clenched, but a calm comfort for a swaying frame with a mind wandering elsewhere... I'm the dipping wing-tips of a sea bird winding out its whipping arcs on invisible pockets of air sucked betwixt the gullies of the stiff little peaks at incredible speeds - I am this Jonathon Livingston top gun, top speed with eyes shut to ride these gusts by feel.

The isle approaches or I motion toward, I'm unsure - upon this ship, riding the morning, it seems the world is revolving beneath these shifting feet.

Pulling up to the pier, they turn us loose and a Polish boy threatens me with exercise, brandishing bicycle hire fliers - it's not a big island and not a bad idea. I inquire also after the locus of the coming evening's offers of craic agus ceol. 'Watties Bar' is underlined and I amble on. The backed pack, stuffed, is stashed behind the island's two-garda strong HQ - the last place they'll look while I ponder the peddle-paths and digs for tents up to come later on.

The hired cycles (reasonable prices) soon have a path picked north - borne up on the cross-shore head-wind, winding road arcing away - recently tarred for tourists.
Again I'm drifting and my mind begins to ride the same path but one pounded flat by the footfall of unnumbered generations past. The island's exposed flesh is a delicate weave of greens and walls of stone; themselves relics of artful architecture, web of frames for lanes and corridors for sheep and ass and cow and horse. Yet, still within the knitted weave of walls there stretches great skins, barren and bare, expanses of rock sitting up high to punctuate the pastures which undulate unfolding before these thirsty eyes so new to knowing.

I pedal faster fueled by greedy lust to feed these my starving sense. I still try to take it all in - fish-eyed and stupid grin - I'm a side-show clown, swivel necked with gaping maw.
Dips and twists lead up to a herring bone crossroad, split three way to choose your own adventure - this is local day to day but myself today... wild possibilities await in each direction.

Afternoon through evening, with backhand navigation I trawl about the island's maze hunting icons and relics. Ditch the bike to pace a path up to loosen themind within the confines of a ring fort, prehistoric, cliff-top and jaw drops at the well intact remains, majestic; again I'm away into the past - animal skinned, fierce, proud, wild haired and brandishing blades...

The next desire is to play hunt the peist that lies in wait in a bottomless pool (bicycle map displays). I traverse again the lanes west which terminate to test my goat-foot dance-steps across more cliff-tops, see-saw rocks agus sharp drops enticing ankle shocks; but I get lost and barely make it back to where the bike's abandoned.

Darkness soon swings in and a little scouting locates an off track trail which bends through trees, thickening foliage - perfect cover. Dome tent thrown and tin-pot stove-top meal enflamed and ingested - now it's off to the pub where the mighty craic and music were suggested. Hoots and hollers amix the canter of strings and squeeze-box coax rythyms from shifty feet - animated wedding well-to-dos mixed well with locals and hen-night stew. The little place pulsates but tastes tart for lack of local flavour forgone for tourist favour.

Dawn is overtook by day - I'm risen late to the clatter of shoed hooves - castinettes and rolling creak of wooden wagon wheels. Nice to waken smiling to such a soundtrack - the Architect seeing fit to hurl bucket-fulls of birdsong to further flesh out the body of an awakening Inishmore.

Later, passing lunch, I'm again trading weight from toe to toe with ferry underfoot. Instead of silver railing grip this trip it's blue tarpaulin curled into salty fist. A local island artist is mainland bound for an up-and-coming Wexford exhibition. His forty frames, some larger than my own, are stacked tight and precarious against the rails while the bay wind exhalations gust and buffet, teasing the top-heavy. He spreads his weight across the stack and we chit for chat, chew the fat - oils and acrylics, this island life, and that. He's of Aran Island stock, art therapist and teacher, his pieces are dynamic evocative mixed media, whatever sticks, stays.

His eyes are wide and clear and shine as I tickle him for insight, try to scratch for deeper details, motivations. I'd love to come back. Look me up, he says.

Leave a comment

Please note, comments must be approved before they are published