There’s nothing more romantic than a horse and cart ride through a snowy mountain forest. If the Aran Islands were a snowy mountain forest and I was on a romantic ride instead of a Contiki bus tour.
However, if you do get a chance to visit and explore the rugged islands, make sure its by horse and cart and not by bike. Also, your body will thank me later.
Originally, on the recommendation of of tour leader, people were going to hire bikes and ride around the island. As we were getting off the boat, we spotted horse and carts. It turns out that they were for hire for tours of the island.
For €80, four of us got a private tour of the island with our horse Amber and guide Martin. Martin did warn us that Amber was young and still learning so she might be a bit slow and cautious of cars.
During the tour, Martin told a few story’s about the island and its future including his own family and specifically his son’s travel to Dublin for sport. Even pointing out a few houses that we could buy. We were thinking and to be fair, I’m still thinking!
The only problem at the wharf was we had no money, Martin was fantastic and took us anyway. Myself and Maddy also wanted coffee and so Martin stopped at the shops so we could grab coffee and money. Amber even slowed down so we could drink.
Half way through, Martin dropped us at a couple of buildings and said he’ll pick us up in an hour. Sophie and I looked at each other with a confused ‘what the hell’ face. There were two buildings in the middle of nowhere. Turns out there’s an old fort called Dún Aonghasa at the top.
The walk each way was 20 minutes and on the way was a man selling flax baskets. They were pretty incredible and his sales pitch was going great until he asked where we came from. Once he found two of the group were Australian, he said “Oh, you can’t buy these because you can’t take them home”. That ended that shopping trip and we continued to the fort.
The old fort sits high on the cliff with amazing views of the Atlantic Ocean.
This place was fascinating, if only because the fences seemed to be in the wrong place. They stopped people getting into the fort without paying but not from falling off the side of the cliff to the water 100 metres below. Amazingly, no one has intentionally died there.
So after spending time enjoying the views and causing my parent stress by sitting on the cliff edge, we returned to Martin who then showed us an old stone church.
The final part of the tour took us back down towards the town around more of the island. We passed the only beach on the island that’s patrolled by surf life savers during summer. We also spotted some seals which Martin seemed far more happy about than us.
The tour lasted about four hours from memory and Martin dropped us back in the centre of town. One of the best things about the horse & cart tour was the blankets. Unlike the bike riders who had to ride up steep hills and got caught in the Atlantic weather changes. Amber did all the work putting in the horse power and Martin was well prepared and had blankets for us to keep warm and reasonably dry.
After the tour
Once Martin had dropped us off, we had a wander though the Aran Sweater Market which the Aran Islands are famous for. Although none of us brought anything and instead we grabbed lunch and sat in the sun until it was time to head home.