During my college years I had the opportunity to visit Inishmann Island, which is part of the Aran Islands off the west coast of Ireland. Surrounded by the sea with a rocky coast line, Inishmann is often battered by the strong winds. Chalk full of history and still stuck in the past, it is the perfect island for those needing inspiration, time to them self, and time with nature.
I dug out my old travel journal one day and found this entry; “I am glad I won’t be on this island for long. It’s kinda of depressing.” This is what I wrote the first day on the island. It was overcast and I was soaked to the bone. I had just been on a 40 minute boat ride, and just for kicks had spent most of the trip on the top deck letting the rain and waves hit me. When the boat docked, there was nothing to see other than a few small cottages. Going from the very busy Dublin to the time standing still island was a bit of a shock.
I stayed in a nice B&B, which name eludes me now, but it did have pleasant rooms with a nice pub attached. If I’m not mistaken, it was the only B&B on the island. When I stepped outside, I could see the island stretched out before me. The landscape reminded me of a quilt there were Small square sections of sparse grass enclosed in stone fences. From what I was told, the first people here had used seaweed and dung to grow grass. The stone fences kept the grass from blowing away. Everywhere you turned there was nothing but stone.
Most afternoons, I would take a walk around the island. It is so small one could walk from one end of the island to the other in less than a day. Often times while walking the rocky road, the locals would peek out of their windows and stare at me. With a population around 160, visitors are definitely noticed. One famous visitor to this island was John Millington Synge, an Irish writer who collected folklore throughout his travels. He would stay at the Teach Synge, which is a small cottage that folks can still see today. I had the pleasure of meeting an American professor there who was studying Synge’s life. She loved the island and the people, and was immersing herself in their culture.
There are many historical sites to see including the Dún Chonchúir, a stone fort built in the 4th century A.D. The oval shape fort faces the sea, and it was a thrill to touch the stones that prehistoric hands built. I also remember my allergies picking up about that time, and I was stuffing myself full of Benydril. For many of the walks, I was in a haze with Kleenex stuffed in my coat.
Despite the amazing history, my most vivid and precious memory was my last night there. I had ditched the B&B Pub and headed to the only other pub that the locals used. This pub was old with walls bent with age. The windows were small, and the tiny tables and chairs have no doubt been there since the cottage was built. I hung back with my pint of beer (can’t remember what I had) and spent the evening listening to the local gossip and music. Someone had brought their fiddle and everyone was having a good time singing. That is something I will never forget.
In the end, I completely changed my mind about the island. I was cut off from technology and surrounded by nature. I was in a place so quiet that I had to listen to myself. I think we all need that to unglue ourselves from our iphones, and just take a moment to think. I hope to return soon to this fascinating island, find some inspiration and have another pint at the pub. Being older now, I can appreciate peace and solidarity much more so than in my 20s.
“A week of sweeping fogs has passed over and given me a strange sense of exile and desolation. I walk round the island nearly every day, yet I can see nothing anywhere but a mass of wet rock, a strip of surf, and then a tumult of waves.” – John Millington Synge
Written By: Kristy Trowbridge