The bright, ready morning held for us another ferry ride, this time to Inishmore, the largest of the three Aran Islands off the coast of County Galway. It was our last day, but that didn’t make it any less adventurous.
The commuter ferry had plenty of seating, so we settled in for the ride, which I think was about 45 minutes. When we arrived, we stepped onto the dock, facing a curved inlet lined with sand and a scattering of quaint buildings.
There would be time to explore the village later, but at that time we boarded a bus that would take us inland. The narrow road curved along rolling, grassy plains on either side, stone walls flanking it in places. The bus stopped to let us off by a little intersection near the start of a path up to Dún Aonghasa, the prehistoric stone fort at the top of the island’s cliffs. This intersection contained a little restaurant, a café, a tiny gift shop, and some public restrooms.
Under unobstructed and unrelenting sun, we hiked the gravely path up to the ruins of stunning ancient stone, over rocks and up stone steps. When you step up into the fort, the walls open up to wide space, the ground patches of grass and stone floor. There’s a wall in the middle, with another doorway; it’s much the same on the other side, but with a large slab of square stone near the edge overlooking the sea. In some ways it reminded me of the Cliffs of Moher, but these cliffs weren’t nearly as high up, so sitting on their edge seemed more intimate.
Our guide had suggested a picnic, so we gathered in a flatter area of ground to eat together, sharing food and chatting. Moments like that are the ones you don’t forget, I think. The simple, the unencumbered.
We took our time walking back down the path, continuing down the road the way we had come, and down some stone steps that lead to a little beach beside the road. Kilmurvey Beach, it’s called, and the sand was white and soft, though covered with seaweed, rocks, and shells.
Comparatively, the water was cold, but it was nice to wade around in on the hot, sunny day. From there I could see homes and cottages tucked into the landscape, facing the sea. We didn’t have much time to spend at the beach, so it wasn’t long before we were back on a bus to the Eastern side of the island.
There was time to poke around then; a group went to the Bayview Restaurant to get something to eat, while others poked into shops. I decided to have a moment to myself outside, just sitting by a stone wall and looking out at the town and sea, reflecting on the trip. Then I decided to do some poking into shops, too; I browsed the Aran Sweater Market, but didn’t get anything (because it’s expensive…), and another shop next to it that had various trinkets.
I ended up getting a tiger’s eye necklace; I liked it because it’s a stone known for inspiring strength and courage, things I felt I’d gained on the trip. Though I’d collected many other delightful souvenirs throughout, this my last souvenir was rather fitting.
All in all, it didn’t feel like we were there that long, but we were there all day—we got back to Galway around 6:00 p.m. Our farewell dinner was at 7:00.
Our guide walked us to a local favorite of hers, a pub called Harry’s. We all sat around a long table, eating, talking, trying to enjoy our last evening together. Along with our tips, we gave our guide a card signed by all of us; before leaving Harry’s we got a group photo outside the pub.
I went back to our hostel with my friends; we just wanted to hang out in the lounge and spend as much time together as possible. The sadness of leaving was starting to get to me, but despite that, after a while it was hard to be gloomy surrounded by friends old and new.
Overall, my only disappointment with Galway was that we didn’t get to see more of it; the surrounding areas we visited were wonderful, but I wish we'd had more time to enjoy the town we were in. By mid-morning, we were all either at the airport, or already on a plane. It was odd to pack up and accept my travels were over. Odder yet to find I actually understood how to navigate airports.
It was bittersweet and surreal, to leave the adventure, and the friends I’d come to love, but to return home to start the next chapter of my life. I’m a firm believer travel opens us up, in every possible way, and at a time in my life when so much change was happening, it made me feel real again. And as for my new friends, well, I’ll undoubtedly see them again.
And with that I think the best way to wrap up these journals is to share an Irish sentiment, shared with me in my own notebook by an amiable stranger who made an evening memorable for me and my friends:
Go n-eírí an bóthar leat.
May the road rise up to meet you.