08 Sept 2006 Friday - Doolin to Castleisland

This morning we got up as usual, but we were even more tired than before. I think we’re burning the candle at both ends because going to bed at midnight or later and we’re getting up at 7:00am or earlier.

Today we took a ferry out to the Aran Islands. It was definitely a good change of pace because there was no driving for me. The ferry ride took a little more than an hour to get from Doolin to the big island, Innish Moore.

The ferry advertisement said something about being “the only non-stop ferry to Innish Moore,” so when we got to the booking desk I told the woman, “I want two tickets for ‘the only non-stop ferry to Innish Moore.’” Regardless, the ferry

did, in fact, stop at the first island before proceeding on to Innish Moore, and I suspect that’s due to the time of year. After the ferry departed the dock, it stopped and sat in the water for about twenty minutes for some unknown reason. Afterward, we found out that there was a small group of passengers that didn’t make the boat, so the boat waited for them and they were ushered onto the ferry by another small boat. So we were waiting for a few inconsiderate people. The ferry was pushed out to the island by a very strong wind. We could see three large modern windmills for generating electricity on the second island, and now we know that was an effective way to go.

Immediately after getting onto the island, we got in a small tour bus and took a tour of the island. We went to the Bronze Age fort called Dun Aengus,

which was built on the edge of the cliff

and where the kings of Ireland were normally crowned. It was cool and we took lots of photos. As with the cliffs of Moher, there were stupid people getting dangerously close to the cliff.

Kathy had a more sensible approach: on her belly.

For the most part, she and I were content to keep two or so feet away from the edge.

The tour bus had lots of interesting information about the islands, such as this: when the people first started to explore the island, it was pretty much barren. It had millions of medium-sized rocks about the size of a shoe box.

So the people took the rocks and used them to build stone fences. They said there were thousands of miles of fences on that tiny island, and I believe it; they were everywhere.

The next problem was that the soil was unsuitable to grow almost anything, so the people would take seaweed and use it like mulch, mixing it with bits of rock and previous dirt until they had a layer of topsoil. The whole island is covered in this man-made topsoil about four to six inches deep. Apparently, in the 1920's a Hollywood film director spent two years on the island, learning about how the people lived, and he made a movie about making dirt from rocks (and life on the island and its hardships), and it apparently won an Oscar.

After Dun Aengus, we drove a bit around the island and saw some other sites, like a sandy beach

and a set of seven ruined churches. The graveyard had the grave sites of seven Roman soldiers from the ninth century.

The scenery nearby was beautiful, but I've come to expect that from Ireland.

After the bus tour, we did a little shopping–we found t-shirts with the ancient Celtic symbols for the elements on them–Earth, Water and Fire, and we bought them for my nieces and nephew, who by coincidence had told us a few months ago about each of the children identifying with their favorite Celtic element. So these T-shirts are the perfect gift. There are three girls, one for each element, and for my nephew, Karl, we got a t-shirt with a druid on it, in the same style.

After that, Kathy and I hired a horse and buggy to take us for a half-hour ride before we got on the ferry to return to Doolin. I was paranoid about taking too much time and missing the ferry back to the mainland, but we managed to make it back in time.

At 4:00pm, we took the ferry back to Doolin, but the trip took an hour and a half because we were bucking against strong headwinds, the same headwinds that helped push us to the islands in the morning.

After changing some travelers’ checks for Euros back in Doolin, we drove through Limerick all the way down south to the town of Castleisland where we are staying tonight. The drive from Doolin wasn’t that bad, mostly because the roads were more spacious. We’ve heard some horror stories about driving in Ireland, but only in the past few days since we’ve been here.

One family of six that was traveling took out full insurance on their car when they started less than a week ago. Since that time, they have been side-swiped on two different occasions, taking off both side-view mirrors of their car. I didn’t take out full insurance; I’ve got partial coverage that only covers damage over 800 euros. Perhaps I’ve got a better sense of their driving methods, or perhaps I’m just a better judge of relative distance between the cars. Anyway, so far so good. Just to be safe, I have taken to pulling in the side-view mirrors when I’m driving on the more narrow country roads here. I think the roads in Northern Ireland were a bit wider than the Southwest where we are now.

So far we’ve been pretty lucky that the B&Bs have all taken our travel vouchers and we haven’t needed to pay for a B&B without them.

I vowed that I would get to bed earlier tonight, so I’m going to end it here.