It Was a Very Good Christmas

inis oirr_boat

Inis Oírr (Inisheer), the smallest of the three Aran Islands is about 3km (1.8miles) long and 2km (1.2miles) wide and has an approximate population of 250 people. Our travel to Inis Oírr involved a grand time vaulting the raucous troughs of the wild Atlantic. Many passengers crawled toward the tweendeck to sit in silent, stiff huddles; hands covering mouths. Our taking motion sickness prevention beforehand was a wise decision. 😉 Upon departing from the Doolin Pier, we sat topside enjoying the salt spray and wild 30-minute bronco ride. As the captain stated, “A good splash of holy water so be sure to bless yourself.”

Doolin Ferry fare from March to November: Free/Age 0-5, €10/Age 5-15, €18/Student & Seniors, €20/Adults. One can also sail from Galway Bay and there is a small airstrip.

inis oirr_horse buggy

Guided tours & Caisleán Uí Bhríain (O’Brien’s Castle) in distance

One of the first things you’ll see is 14th century Caisleán Uí Bhríain (O’Brien’s Castle),  located on one of the island’s highest points. Different clans battled to rule this castle, a prestigious key to controlling medieval shipping routes of Galway Bay.

Townsfolk line up at the dock to offer for-pay guided island tours by pony cart, tractor and wagon, or in our case, a beat up van. Stíofán (SHTEE fawn), a truly friendly and happy Inis Oírr fellow translated much of his island’s Gaelic for us, stating that the islanders only speak English for the tourists.  We hadn’t much time, so we bargained a €60 tour for seven people.

stephan_inis oirr

Friendly Stíofán of Inis Oirr

The ever-present miles of low mortar-less limestone walls were extracted from the soil as a common medieval building material of forts, castles, monasteries and fencing.  Today, the fields need to be cleared of stone in order to farm the land or raise livestock.

inis oirr_fenceb

fence

Cnoc Raithní, an unassuming prehistoric stone mound that confirms occupation during the Bronze Age lies just ahead of the pier.  An 1885 storm uncovered the mound and ancient burial ground with remains dating to 1500BCE.

inis oirr_mound

Cnoc Raithní Mound

To the left of the pier is a campground area bordering beaches with very blue and clear water. A few steps past the campground is Teampall Chaomhán, a 10th century church located in the St. Caomhán (Patron Saint of Inisheer) graveyard. The church was nearly buried by drifting sands pushed by the Atlantic winds, but is now kept excavated.  Still used as the island’s main burial site, the grave of St. Caomhán  is located to the northeast of the church amidst Celtic crosses.

IMG_4137

Teampall Chaomhán

inis oirr_st kevin grave

St. Caomhán Grave

Stíofán regaled us with island history, the sad demise of the fishing trade (“The fish are all gone now”), the exodus of the island’s youth (“But they come back to raise their bairn”), and tales of his youth. He fondly recalled a wonderful Christmas of biscuits, cookies, yarn and modern day toilets – salvage from the MV Plassy which washed ashore on the eastern side of Inis Oírr onto Finnis Rock and then two weeks later, pushed above the high tide mark by a hurricane in 1960. The Plassy is a 45-minute walk from the pier. Beware! The shoreline is very rocky and slippery.

inis oirr_plassy

MV Plassy

Waiting for the ferry back to County Claire, the pier offers entertainment.

inis oirr_piera

inis oirr_pierb

As of Summer 2017, accommodations ranged from the Lathair Campála (campsites), to B&Bs, to the Radharc Na Mara (Seaview hostel) and island hotel. By far, Inis Oírr was one of my favorite places to visit. The people are unassuming and very welcoming, food and drink reasonable and you can visit the sites at no cost. 

Have a good week – – Joanne

Advertisements

My Happy Place

I just realized that I’ve been quilting for three years.  I am currently working on two and have just completed quilt #31. I’ve educated myself by joining a modern quilt guild, attending conferences and sew-in days with friends. This from a woman who swore that she would NEVER try to quilt again after the very first fiasco. My schooling continues.

quilt-underside

First Quilt, 9-Patch

Back in February, my friends and I flew to QuiltCon East 2017 , held in Savannah, Georgia for an opportunity to network, try out new tools, attend seminars and classes, purchase directly from vendors and to view award-winning modern quilts.  Our hotel overlooked the historic section which is quite lively at night; reminding me of a mini New Orleans with street musicians, alfresco dining, and people of all walks of life strolling (or dancing) with drinks in hand. 

Continue reading

What is it About the Game of Thrones?

My family and I recently visited a few Game of Thrones film locations in Northern Ireland. Three members had never indulged in the series; however, we all still had a great time! There may even be a few converts.  We had great fun visiting the different locations.  A humble photo log of the GOT film locations:

GOT_FieldsofWesteros_CairnCastle_Belfast

Cairn Castle as fields of Westeros

This beech tree hedgerow (below), planted in the 18th century, is the setting for the haunted Dark Hedges of the Kingsroad; where Arya Stark, Gendry and Hot Pie escape King’s Landing and head north. 

GOT_Kings Road_Dark Hedges_BallymoneyCoAntrim

The King’s Road, The Dark Hedges, Ballymoney, County Antrim

Continue reading

Doorway to the Land of 100,000 Welcomes

There is nothing lovelier than the pride and welcoming spirit of Ireland’s people. Hospitality abounds in the pubs, restaurants, on the streets. As we traveled throughout Ireland, we received numerous invitations in every county to join the lads in the pubs, to on-street inquiries asking whether we were lost, to colloquial instructions on how to act like an Irish. 🙂 Céad Míle Fáilte: truly, Ireland is the land of 100,00 welcomes! Friendly and full of pride – never more evident than the colorful entryways of Ireland’s homes. 

ireland-door1

ireland-door111

ireland-door333

ireland-door444

ireland-door555

Seemingly always freshly painted and adorned with a bit of greenery or flowers; every entry a welcome. 

May you have warm words on a cold evening,
A full moon on a dark night,
And the road downhill all the way to your door.
                                                                             —Irish proverb

Have a good week – – Joanne

More Travel Tips for Ireland

Prior to departure from the United States for Ireland, our preparatory plan included tips for airfare, luggage, and moneyPlanning and budgeting in advance has allowed my family to experience the land of 100,000 welcomes without sacrifice. Once in Ireland, we had a focused itinerary with pre-paid tours, meals, accommodations and built-in down time. Here are a few more tips from our trip to Ireland…

PREPPING   Planning for our trip began eight months in advance by pouring over the internet, purchasing travel books, maps and questioning friends who had traveled to Ireland. We each decided upon a “must see” which, in turn, helped us plan an itinerary and determine transportation needs. We visited a travel agent once we knew what we wanted. We saved by purchasing tours online, giving us a focused itinerary at a discount.  Of course our tours included tourist hot spots:

giantscauseway_kids1

Giant’s Causeway (& my reckless kids)

Continue reading

Travel Tips for Ireland

Ourselves, daughters, son-in-law and grandson are off to Ireland, the Land of 100,000 Welcomes! We’re celebrating life, family and our 37th anniversary; just to name a few. We did our homework on budgeting and travel tips…

AIRFARE  I truly despise flying international “economy” – but we are a party of seven ($$$). Since Ireland is not as far a distance from the United States east coast as some destinations, it was bearable. We saved quite a bit with airfare purchased with Wednesday departures.

LUGGAGE  We are traveling light.  Our daughters were slightly taken aback upon learning that we’d be traveling light with one carry-on and a backpack, each. No hairdryer? (Audible gasp). 😄This allowed us a quick Customs Check as we were able to skip the sleepy wait at baggage claim, avoid long taxi lines and (with Day 3 now upon us), happy that we’re not lugging around suitcases. We’ll need to visit a laundromat at the half point.

F2672CF3-87C1-4885-9FD2-96C50C606E2A

Continue reading