This was one of the days that we were all awaiting with great anticipation, the Aran Islands being the birthplace of traditional Irish knitting patterns. But it really must be said that the Aran knitting tradition must be one of the most myth surrounded types of knitting ever. We really weren't sure what to expect on Inis-Mor, the largest of the 3 islands steeped in Gaelic tradition.
A few interesting details that we learned from our local guides:
-It isn't too difficult to buy land on the Island but in order to receive a permit to build on the island, you have to have lived there for 7 years and be a fluent Gaelic speaker.
- Unlike many of the areas of Ireland, they recycle and reprocess almost everything that can possibly be recycled right there on the island. The small amount of waste that doesn't fall in to that category has to be transported to the "mainland", which of course is the island of Ireland.
- Dun Aengus is the largest of the prehistoric stone forts left on the Islands. Our guide helped us situate it in time by saying that it predated the "Braveheart" area.
And there can be no question that stone is their most plentiful resource. Here are pictures of the countryside with uncountable kilometers of "dry stone walls", incredible feats of engineering whereby rocks from a field are piled strategically to create a freestanding division of fields to keep animals enclosed to protect the adjacent grazing lands.
As we drove by that former pub, we were told that it was now the local KFC outlet.
This picture shows what appears to be a palm tree in the front "garden", as they call it here, but it's actually a form of Australian Yucca tree which flourishes in this weather but does make a rather odd sight
As for the shopping part of the journey, there were a few sweater outlets, including An Tuirne, where we met Rose (how I wish I had had the presence of mind to take a picture of her) who is one of the youngest traditional knitters left on the Island. We may have left our mark on the Aran tradition of knitting by introducing Rose to Ravelry and showing her a few of our Canadian interpretations of the Aran traditional knitting. It might be a portal through which young Aran residents can be enticed to become knitters.
Down by the ferry docks there are a series of shops, including the Aran Sweater Store where Jen displays what appears to be a replica of our Block Afghan back at WOOL-TYME Kingston. We were amazed!
There is no question that one has to be very careful when choosing a sweater to buy. Like in any other tourist centre, there are different levels of authenticity and quality offered in some of the shops, but without question, the real McCoy is easily available on the Island.
Anyway, all in all it was a "grand day", as they would say, and we had a "good crack", mixing with folks from all over the world on the ferry and on the walk up to the fort, then lunching with the locals at Ti Joe Watty's pub , with the best seafood chowder that I have ever had.