Right after breakfast, we loaded into our coach and headed for the ferry to the Aran Islands. The road along the coast is full of scenery, beautiful small communities, and glimpses of the sea. The weather looks good; no worries about rain today.
The crossing was a bit rough, but the crew opened up companionway doors and there was lots of fresh air, so no worries. We regrouped and checked the timeline once on the dock, and headed off. Rich and Melinda decided to explore town; we had some shopping to do. Besides a gift for Karen, who looked after the house and fish and houseplants and garden for us, we both hoped to find Aran Islands sweaters to take home.
Dave liked a sweater in the first shop, and we also found the perfect gift for Karen. In the second store, I looked at every style of sweater, and when I saw this one, knew it was exactly my style. It comes to my hipbones, the perfect length for my shape. It's the classic ivory and showcases a lot of the traditional Aran Islands stitches. But it was the buttons at the lower back that clinched it for me. Just that extra bit of style is so cute. I can hardly wait for a cold winter day, so I can wear it.
We met our group at the local grocery store, then set off on a mini-bus tour of the island. This is a beautiful place. I loved the rocky shelves jutting out into the ocean, the stone walls, the impossibly green pastures.
The site of the seven churches and cemetery underscores the long history and far reach of the Catholic church. Saints and scholars lived here in the 7th and 8th centuries. Our driver let us out here to walk among the ancient graves of saints. The cemetery was incredible, the dressed stone walls, the ruined church, the sheer age of the place.
We walked a narrow lane up to the ancient, cliff-hanging Celtic fortress, Dun Aengus, and spent a couple of hours there. Outside the fortress walls, in an open area bounded by stone walls, you could walk right to the edge of the cliff. Not me. Some people lay down and inched forward on their stomachs, to look straight down to the sea. Not this girl. I was happy to climb up a few levels of rock ledge, and photograph the more reckless people, on their perch above the sea.
This photograph is Dave's. He took it of me, to show how close I came to the big ol' crack between me and the huge block of stone just waiting to fall off the cliff. I knew it was there, but his first question when we linked up again was "Did you know how close..."
Before we made the long, long walk back down the hill to the village, we took time to photograph the wildflowers. I especially loved these small vibrantly blue flowers, Germander Speedwell (Veronica chamaedrys L.), that grew up against the stone walls.
Outside the fortress, I found a whole carpet of the tiny orchids I spotted yesterday at the Burren. It took a bit of searching to find that they're called Western Marsh orchids. I spent a half hour on my stomach, photographing them.
When we got back to the small pub where we'll meet our mini-bus to finish the island tour, there was a row of horses and carriages waiting for customers. I just loved this big guy, his pinto coloring, Roman nose, and all that hair. Just look at the feathers on his legs!
I only had one regret about the day. When you're out on a road trip, or hiking, or on vacation, is there ever a moment you missed, because you just couldn't get the camera focused fast enough, or couldn't find a place to stop? Every day in Ireland there have been moments like that. I expected there would be, and I was OK with it.
The one I regret today? There's a small church beside the road, about a half mile out of town. The church sits behind a small graveyard, enclosed by a stone wall. I just glanced that way, then saw the bay horse snoozing between two headstones, taking a nap. It would have made a great photograph.