On his first day in Inishmore, John Millington Synge, author of “The Playboy of the Western World,” recalls sitting in front of a peat fire with “a murmur of Gaelic” in the background. Like Synge, the lilt of Irish was with me on my first day in Inishmore. An older couple who sat behind me on the ferry used Irish the whole trip, their sentences spilling softly over each other’s. A good beginning. Synge wrote in 1898 that he had to leave commerical Inishmore for the more authentic Inishman. Over 100 years later, and I haven’t had that experience. I had been warned that staying two weeks would be too much, that I wouldn’t last more than a few days. During my first dinner at the Man of Aran B&B, I mentioned this warning to several lodgers. Two American women were sure I had made the right decision. An Irish couple envied me. And right they were.
A treasured fantasy of mine is to live on a sparsely inhabited island small enough to navigate by foot. So far, I think I’m on to something. I take long walks, read in my room or write, and, sometimes, talk to people at breakfast or dinner. Some ask me why I don’t bicycle. For example, the three hour trek to Kilronan yesterday would have taken 20 minutes. I prefer being a flaneur, walking, pausing, looking, talking to the animals I pass, walking…
Using the low road to Kilronan, I met two horses, a donkey, two billy goats, a teenage goat, and some kids. All moved as slowly as I did. Most meandered to the stone walls that separated us, in hopes I would give them food or set them free. One old horse was adamant. After he licked my hand, he pushed insistently into my bag searching for a treat. The two billy goats were tied to one another and it took them awhile to reach me. Their plight saddened me, my empty pockets disappointed them. The teenage goat just wanted petting, nudging his head against my hand, following me along the fence in hopes for more. The kids enjoyed the simple pleasure of running and jumping.
The Ti Joe Watty’s Bar sits at the end of the low road and the beginning of Kilronan. I was going to head directly to the tourist office as planned, but the bar called to me. I sing the praises of Inishmore’s natural beauty, but the Guinness I drank was a little bit of heaven as well, the black/brown liquid with its tan head, its sweetness.