If you have compiled a little list of things you’d like to do before you die you might like to add; 'take an Aer Arann plane to the island Inis Meáin’...It only takes six or seven minutes but it’s a memorable flight in a tiny Cessna plane. Check in at the friendliest little airport (Connemara Airport) where you’ll be weighed in with all your bags and handbags. Travel light because if you and your baggage are too heavy you’ll have to wait for the next flight or take a ferry from Doolin. Once airborne you’ll be out over the sea in minutes and then a glimpse of the tiny fields of Inis Meáin surrounded by dry stone walls, ancient and hauntingly beautiful, a few cattle here and there and fields full of wild flowers.
You’ll wish the flight would last longer as you taxi along the runway at Inishmann Aerodrome, towards the bungalow with the control tower on top. The fire-engines all standby but fortunately no need. A warm welcome to Inis Meáin, the least visited of the Aran Islands and for me the most enchanting. It comes as a shock to hear Irish so clearly and beautifully spoken and to realise that English is the second language on this island. Padraig Pearce came here to improve his Irish and so did Synge whose thatched cottage one can still visit.
No ‘hurdy gurdies’ here just one shop and one pub and miles of tiny boreens to walk or cycle through, some of the boreens still have a rough surface and a strip of grass growing along the middle, here and there edged with harebells and ladys tresses and ox eye daisies. When I cycled my bike along I was on my way to Cromall at the south end of the island to watch a couple of traditional currachs (albeit with motors attached) pulling up lobster pots.
The profusion of wild flowers in the fields reminded me of the meadows of Transylvania. I’m sure it rains occasionally in Inis Meáin but somehow the sun always shines when I’m there. We stayed at the lovely Inis Meáin Suites, two blissfully relaxing days being cherished by Marie-Therese and nourished by Ruairi’s pure and delicious elemental food – a taste of that place, of the island, of the produce from their garden and the surrounding sea, a very special place – you’ll need to plan a year ahead – bookings are open for 2018 sometime in November.
When you get there make time for a visit to Inis Meáin knitwear, beautiful, beautiful knitwear. Some utterly simple, others incorporating the traditional island patterns and the changing colours of the sea and landscape.
Visit Synge’s Cottage too and Dun Chonchuir or “Conor's Fort”. Pop into the church to see the Harry Clarke stained glass window and try to take in a ceilidh in the village hall where everyone from 9 to 90 taps their toes, swings and joins in for a Siege of Ennis and The Walls of Limerick...aahh that’s what memories are made of.