Hwy 10, West of Mandan

Hwy 10, West of Mandan

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

A Day on Inis Mór

My wife and I are enjoying an extended vacation while visiting our daughter in Galway, Ireland.  I didn’t prepare to bike while visiting, expecting wet conditions from rain typical this time of year.  However, we seemed to have hit the ‘sweet spot’ with the weather, as temperatures have been mild under mostly sunny skies.  In fact, the weather conditions have been nearly identical to those in Bismarck.  I guess this is one instance where bringing North Dakota weather on vacation has been a good thing.

The first of our three tours outside Galway was a visit to Aran islands.  After a short bus transfer from downtown Galway to Rossaveel, we boarded a ferry to Inis Mór, the largest of the three Aran islands.  Exploring Inis Mór can be done by bus tour, horse drawn carriage, bike, or foot beginning from Kilronan.  Recognizing our visit would be brief (about six hours), I opted to rent a bike while my wife and daughter chose the bus.  Before going our different ways, we plotted out a plan to meet atop Dún Aonghasa, a prehistoric stone fort that’s a must-see attraction (and under consideration as a future World Heritage site).

I chose a ‘city bike’ with decent tires, functional brakes, and (mostly) functional derailleurs.  After a slight seat adjustment, I headed out of town on the main road west with the wind to my back.

(The ‘bike hire’ establishment of choice…   …they were closest to the dock)

(Not my Koga-Miyata, but for 10€ I didn’t complain)

(Heading away from the pier…)

(...past the Aran Sweater Market…)

(…and up a gentle hill along roads lined with stone walls)

The scenery was most impressive, with wide expanses pasture land interspersed with small settlements of well-kept houses.  I found the network of stone fences particularly amazing, partitioning out sections of land as far as I could see.  Simply put, the surroundings were nothing like I had encountered in previous travels.

(No easy chore building those fences!)

(A unique ‘Share the Road’ sign)

(Evidence of small-scale agriculture; goats and a garden)

(Friendly mule takes a nibble from my handlebar grip)

The visit to Dún Aonghasa was excellent, despite my aversion to heights.  As planned, I met up with my travel companions at the top of the fort, which made for memorable time together.  We soaked in the surroundings for a half hour before returning to the visitor’s center.

(The bike corral at the visitor’s center)

(The hike up to Dún Aonghasa)

(Dún Aonghasa)

(Inside the fort)

(View of the cliffs east of the fort)

Once at the visitor’s center, the bus schedule provided just enough time to enjoy tea, apple pie, and carrot cake at the best café on the island.  We were fortunate to have a table next to the fireplace.  Lucky!

(The best café on the island has a grass roof)

(Enjoying our time together before venturing back to Kilronan)

From the café, I attempted to ride further west to the Seven Churches.  On the way I encountered two herdsman (one on a bike) and a small group of cattle heading in the same direction.  Not wanting to bother the cattle (or the herdsman), I turned back and retraced my route, stopping once at Dún Eochla, another fort a short distance from the main road.

(Aran Island cattle drive)

(Buildings seemed older on the western half of the island)

(Stone cistern for cattle)

(A steep 500 m climb to Dún Eochla…)

(…but well worth the view)

My return to Kilronan was uneventful, though the weather took a turn with increased winds and light rain.  Though I would have enjoyed exploring the Inis Mór more thoroughly by bike, I was glad to get back.  A nasty head cold was settling in my ears and throat, and I was feeling physically exhausted despite the short distance traveled.  No regrets for not doing more, though.  It was a good day, and I’m glad I had a chance to see much of the island by bike.

(Welcome relief at the end of the ride)