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      10.10.2001 06:36
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      Innismaan was never on my agenda when I visited Ireland. In fact, I never knew it existed. Although I had heard of the Irish Aran Islands off the west coast, I knew very little about them. I had been busy visiting sights and shopping hard, and was lookin forward to a restful afternoon of doing nothing for a change! So it was completely on impulse, as I strolled along the harbour at Galway Bay around midday, that I saw a crowd of people streaming off a small ferry, and asked the Captain where they had come from. "Aran Islands, leaving again in ten minutes. We stop off at Innismaan, but the place most people visit is the biggest Island, Innismore." On the spur of the moment I bought my ticket and climbed aboard. Three islands make up Aran: Innisheer, the smallest Island, Innismore, the largest, and Innismaan, in the middle. I decided to head for Innismore, as the Captain had advised. A short journey westwards, and the boat stopped off at Innismaan to let a couple of residents off, as well as some supplies. "we'll be leaving again in half an hour". I jumped out, and decided to have a short look around, before getting back on the boat. The Island has a small community of people, who were all very friendly, and smiled at me as I strolled past. There were no cars that I could see. A couple of bikes flew past me, in a rush to catch the boat. There was only one path, and I followed it up to a pub, apparently the only pub on the Island, and one with a fine tradition of Irish folk music-making. I wandered past a couple of B&B's, offering the finest Clam Chowder and similar fishy dishes - I had a feeling there wasn't many vegetarians on this island. As I continued wandering, my curiosity go the better of me, and I never made it back to the boat in half an hour, nor to Innismore at all. I was completely enraptured by the beauty of the island. Eventually the path spl it, and I followed it left, up to a high-ish vantage point on the island, where I could look around and see what else there was. On looking back from where I had come I saw a large pinkish factory at the island's end. This is a knitwear factory, which has an outlet shop and is one of the island's "tourist attractions." Beyond the factory lay the sea, one of the most western points of Europe. The island is completely unspoiled, and the land is rich and fertile. Sheep roam and graze around the island, and the views are those that have inspired authors, playwrights and poets for hundreds of years. For what seemed like miles on either side of me, there were mazes of high stone walls, monuments and pathways. Ahead of me, the path sloped down to a rocky beach, with miles stetching coastline. I made a decision that I would return and explore that beach, but in the meantime, I wandered into the stony mazes. At first, there were gaps in the stone walls, to move through what seemed like very small fields, about fifteen square feet. I felt free as a bird, and didn't think to look back and check the route I had taken. Once or twice I lay down on on the rich green grass and daydreamed in the gorgeous sun. There was not a sound to suggest that there was another single person on this Island. For about three hours, it was just me and the birds, as I meandered through the rambling maze. Eventually I realised I'd have to make a move if I wanted to get back to Galway by evening. I started walking back the way I had come. Soon enough, I realised I was completely lost. These stone walls really do create a maze, and my heart began to thump as I wondered if I would ever get out. I was aware that I was on a hill, and, remembering I had come uphill in the first place, I tried to head downwards. But this was not easy either! The stone walls seemed to have closed up - there were no more gaps to walk through, and I had to climb over them, carefully replacing any stones which fell as I clambered over them. Eventually I made it back to the main town, covered in bramble scratches and mud. To be honest, I could have stayed up there all day for a week, it was so utterly beautiful. And I had barely even seen the beaches. I spent the last part of my short stay climbing along the rocks on the main beach, as I waited for the ferry to arrive. The passengers from Innismore had obviously had a great time, and one asked me what I had found to do on such a small place as Innismaan. Had I visited the museum? This is "the other" tourist attraction on Innismaan, and is reportedly a worthwhile visit. I smiled and said nothing. Because I had spent a most perfect afternoon, not speaking to a single person, not visiting a single museum or attraction, and not knowing where I had come from, or where I was going. I will go back to Innismaan one day. Next time I will take a tent, and if I never return, you'll know that I will be lost somewhere in that stone wall maze, or happily roaming the endless beaches, without a care in the world. Pack your sandwiches and catch a ferry from Galway or Doolin, or fly to Innismore from Connemara and sail from there.

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