Off the Beaten Track: Inis Mor and the Worm Hole
If I happened upon a fork in the road, I wouldn’t take the road less traveled, nor would I pocket the fork. Who cares about roads? I’d walk straight into the forest and do some trailblazing!
That’s how I found myself in the presence of the Wormhole. Having hiked through boulders and a few cliffs, it was an especially rewarding moment when the Wormhole came into view, peaking out from an alcove in the cliff face. The natural phenomenon is a pool, rectangular in shape, directly cut from the limestone, into which water ebbs and flows.
I must have sat there, just staring at this wondrously cyclical scene, for ages. First, the ocean waves are too weak to overcome the limestone walls, then they slowly gather strength until finally the water spills over the edge and trickles into the limestone walls. The waves immediately following those are even more powerful, crashing directly into the pool. The Wormhole fills up, overflows, and starts to drain. The process starts over again. It is mesmerizing. It is peaceful. The repetition is like the beating of a heart. Nature’s heart.
Last Saturday, I made a weekend trip to Galway. Galway is most definitely what everyone says it is. Quaint. Friendly. Lovely. Etc. In this post, I’d like to highlight one specific part of the weekend: my trip to Inis Mor, one of the Aran Islands.
When I first arrived in Galway, I knew I wanted to take a day to journey out to one of the three main tourist destinations near Galway. I made sure to quiz everyone I met about the merits of each destination. The Cliffs of Moher is the most well-known and seemed liked the most widely visited. Connemara was highly recommended as well. And to my dismay – because it made my decision extremely difficult – the Aran Islands had its share of vocal evangelists as well. So there I was squirming on the hostel couches – I wasn’t really, but I might as well have been – struggling to decide where to go that Saturday.
In the end, I decided to go to the Aran Islands. As an active individual, the Aran Island trip was appealing because it seemed to allow the most freedom out of the three choices. The Connemara and Cliffs of Moher tours involved a few hours of just sitting on a bus and I was in a Bilbo-embarking-on-an-epic-quest-to-slay-a-dragon mode. I decided to leave Connemara and the Cliffs of Moher/The Burren for a later trip when I could explore those destinations more thoroughly.
The Aran Islands are a chain of three islands with the largest one being Inis Mor. The island is about 14 km long and 3.8 km wide. Judging by the map of attractions, it would be impossible to see all the attractions in one afternoon. The tour gave us a total of approximately 5 hours on the island. The commute to the island from Galway consisted of a bus ride (45 min) to the port and the boat ride to the island (45 min). On the island, you can opt to take a bus tour or a bike tour. Guess which one I chose.
Biking through the island was an experience that could only be trumped, perhaps, by riding a horse through the same landscape. It felt freeing to zoom – or dally, if that’s your style – through the village and out into the expanse of the island. I wasn’t sure how much time it would take to travel around the island so I decided to bike as far as I could for half an hour to get the measure of the land.
I knew my ultimate goal of the afternoon was to find the Wormhole, a natural phenomenon that proves the existence of a higher power, a portal into another dimension, and a marvelous spectacle only the most brave and daring may lay their eyes on. Okay, maybe that’s going a bit far but it is certainly glorious – as far as I could tell from the pictures.
After biking for half an hour next to the lovely seascape along the northern coast, I came to a sign indicating that Dun Aonghasa was close. Following the sign, I arrived at a little tourist center, complete with shops and a visitor’s center. It cost 3 euro to gain entry to Dun Aonghasa.
Dun Aonghasa is a prehistoric fort situated at the edge of a 100 meter high cliff. Built in 1100 BC, it is often referred to as the “most magnificent barbaric monument in Europe.” And magnificent it is! The fort is a leisurely half hour hike from the visitor’s center. Made up of four concentric walls, the stone walls stand 6 meters tall. Upon entering the fort, the area opens up facing towards the cliffs; there are no fences or railing along the cliff so be cautious! The more daring individuals take a seat right at the edge of the cliffs. As I value my life, I took a spot a good five feet away from the cliff to take in the scene. Accidents can happen!
I left Dun Aonghasa at about two in the afternoon. Time was running out and I knew I had to devote the rest of my time to finding the Wormhole. So I started biking in that direction. I had two things working against me. There was no 3G service on the island so I was left to discover the site the old fashioned way. Secondly, there weren’t huge neon signs pointing me towards the Wormhole. I was on my own.
Things didn’t look so good when I made a turn onto a dirt road that seemed to be the only road that cut across the island to the opposite coast. My bike and I skidded along the muddy path for fifteen minutes – I really hoped the road wasn’t a dead end – until finally I reached a small village. That was a good sign. My map indicated that the village was the closest settlement to the Wormhole. I tried biking further down the road towards the cliff and came upon a dead end, surrounded by a few gated fields, some with cows.
I knew the Wormhole was off the beaten track but I didn’t know it was THAT tucked away. Usually, if something is featured in a tourist map, there would be some sort of trail that led to it, right? So I decided this must be the wrong way and turned back to find the right path.
Luckily, I encountered a family in the village, asked for directions, and was pointed in the direction I came from. Thank you, nice family! This time, when I hit the dead end, I ditched my bike and stepped into the wild. It was quite the trek. I hiked – or hopped, rather – through a field of rocks. After that I climbed and walked along a cliff. After walking towards the left for awhile, I decided the Wormhole must be in the other direction. So I hiked back down through the field of rocks, towards the other direction. All this time, I was enjoying my surroundings. It felt like I was on a different planet. There was nothing remotely man-made to be found nor a soul in sight. It felt good to be so far away from civilization. Although, it would’ve royally sucked if I sprained an ankle while traversing the rocky terrain.
After hopping through the field of boulders, I was met by a cliff face. I was given a choice to travel over the cliff or walk along the lower level. I chose the higher level as the lower level was a bit wet and slippery. After walking for a few minutes, I was finally there… to sit on my throne, the prince of…