As Local As It Gets – Inis Mór, Aran Islands, Ireland

I’ll set the scene: Arrive on ferry boat, a green landscape that would inspire Crayola, huts with thatched roofs and smoking chimneys, a man named Thomas and a horse named Johnny, another shade of green, fences made of rock and the smell of peat in the air. You’re at the edge of Ireland. Not the Cliffs of Moher – you’re on the Aran Islands and you own the islands.

While designing programs, it’s important to experience life as a local would. While I know a local wouldn’t hire a horse and carriage to cart them around; locals do have horses and they do have carriages – and what better way to see the island than to have Thomas Faherty and one of his horses (Johnny) show us around?

Hiking to the Worm Hole requires one to have a keen eye and and strong ankles. Thomas dropped my wife and I off at a starting point and said, “Follow the red arrows. Make sure not to get sucked under by the tide. I’ll meet you in a couple hours for some tea.” As I looked out among the field of rough terrain, trying to locate even one red arrow, I noticed that, all of a sudden, the rock stopped. There was a cliff  and then there was a limestone pool carved perfectly into the earth. The magnitude of the cliffs and pool was staggering. This pool was completely out of place; yet in August of 2012, Red Bull held its diving world series here. Diving into this Wormhole is a big ol’ bag of “nopes!”

Onward to Dun Aengus as we skirted past the rising tide, we hiked another 30 minutes following the red arrows. to a cliff side, prehistoric fort on the edge of a 100-foot high cliff. Nothing quite sums up a local experience of being the only ones on the hike, standing on the site and touching a fort built in 1100 BCE. Where in the US can you walk up to a structure and touch anything built in 1100 BCE – or 1700 AD for that matter?

Heading to the tea house at the bottom of the hill was clearly on top of our list. We just hiked 5 hours, on the western-most edge of Europe, in 45° F (7° C) weather and we were aching for some conversation and some tea. We grabbed some warmth at the Kilmurvey House and met Thomas there to head back to the dock.

On our way back to the dock, we rolled past an 8th century church in someone’s backyard, an old manure farm, a dog chasing our carriage and a mesmerizing sunset that seemed to lull us to sleep. If this is what life is like as a local of Inis Mór, we’ll be more than happy to enjoy some craic and a pint upon our return. Inis Mór – we will return!