It was a windy night when I first stepped foot in Doolin, a small village next to the Cliffs of Moher in Ireland. As I warmed up next to the fire of the Aille River Hostel lounge, I befriended a Canadian guy named Stephen. The night was still young and Stephen and I decided to go for a walk around the village (which was two streets long), and stop by a pub for a pint of beer. The atmosphere inside the pub was warm, loud and cosy. Live Irish Folk music was playing and locals were tiptoeing on the squeaky floorboards to the rhythm of the violins. As I watched a girl performing a traditional Irish folk dance with her dad, I wondered... are they dancing every night? Could Doolin possibly be more lively than trendy Dublin? It wasn't long before Stephen and I joined the crazy circle of musicians and dancers, clapping loudly in our hands while doing silly jumps.
A bit further into the night, two happy strangers joined our table for some more beers. Ronan and Brad were in Doolin for the week-end and told us about their trip to Galway and the Cliffs of Moher. Both were Irish and musicians, and both were born and raised on Inisheer, the smallest island of the Aran Islands. Ronan and Brad were going home to Inisheer in the morning and asked if we wanted to join for a day and night on the island. We both screamed "Yes!", eager to discover the home of our new friends. Feeling tired I called it a night while the boys ordered another round of Guinness.
In the morning, I walked with Stephen to the port of Doolin. We were way too early, anxious our new friends would have swum away without us. Brad and Ronan greeted us with warm hugs. We boarded the ferry, leaving the cuteness of Doolin and the main land behind.
The journey from Doolin to Inisheer was very rough and offered dramatic views on the Cliffs of Moher. We were sailing through wild oceans and poetry, I loved it.
Inisheer looked like a tiny village from the 18th century, frozen in time and remote enough from the main lands of Ireland to be forgotten. The island has a population of 260 permanent residents (including Ronan and Brad) and is as small as 8km2. The island counted a few houses, one bar, no hotel. Sleeping over on the island was difficult during low season, as the few available rooms and homestay were often booked well in advance or way over budget. Lucky us, we were invited to stay home with Brad and Ronan and their family.
Inisheer felt like a holy place where time stood still. Engines are rare on the island and a horse carriage is the most common form of transportation (at least for us tourists anyway). Carriages wait at the ferry and outside each pub, eager to transport freshly arrived visitors. We took a carriage to make a tour of the island, and although just as large as x football fields, Inisheer had plenty of hidden treasures. Ronan showed us the island's heritage and major sights, including the Plassey Wreck (a stranded ship ravaged by rus), the O'brien Castle (an old castle built in 1585 on the island's highest point), the Lighthouse and St. Caomhan’s Church (Caomhan is the patron of saints of Inisheer).
Some horse ride and sightseeing later, we found our way back to the most cosy pub of Inisheer, Tigh Ned, and warmed up to a pint of Guinness (and some hot tea). The night went on as we blended in with the locals. We were the only guests on the island and everyone was curious about Ronan and Brad's weekend on the other side. As it turns out, it's quiet rare for those lucky islanders to cross the ocean over to the rest of Ireland. I laughed joyfully throughout the evening, I didn't understand most of what was going on and kept asking my friend Stephen to translate Irish english to english. Half the island came to the bar that night and listened to the young duo's travel to the other side. The evening ended in music and dances on Irish Folk music. It was simple, yet magical.
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