Monday, January 8, 2018

A Clear Day in January: Inishmore, Aran Islands, Ireland

The weather has been shivery cold here on Inishmore in early January, but we are intrepid travelers and made our way to this westerly Irish outpost right after the new year. The ferry ride from Galway was a bit bumpy—and for good reason: we got here just in time for a fierce winter storm. Ninety-mile-per-hour winds hit the islands on our first night. But in the evening Cathy took me next door to Kilronen Hostel where there is a wee pub. Inside was a fireplace still decorated for Christmas and radiating warmth and good cheer. “Cozy” is an understatement!

Cathy found out that Bairbre, the bartender, is a knitter and since it was a slow night, she consented to add a few rows of traditional Aran patterns to me: Diamond, Tree of Life, and Moss stitches. 

After that, it took a couple days for Cathy to locate some Aran yarn so she could start knitting a cap. Equally elusive seemed to be the knitters. She asked everyone she met if they knitted, and no one seemed to know how. Even in the local sweater stores, the clerks were not knitters. It was a bit of a disappointment. We were told that at Kilmurvey—about 4½  miles away—there are craft shops where the women demonstrate knitting. But on our second day here the storm was still howling and the shops were closed. So we did not get a chance to walk to Kilmurvey until Sunday—five days after we arrived...but, then we hit the jackpot!

The first store we walked into held a treat. When Cathy introduced me to Bridie in the Teak Péat Pháidí shop to see if she would like to add a few rows, Bridie surprised us with the store’s own scarf to which traveling knitters could add rows! We were so amazed and excited. It must be my long-lost cousin that I did not even know existed! So Bridie added some lavender knit-and-purl rows to me and Cathy added rows of lace to my sweet cousin!

People from all over the world had contributed to that scarf: Finland, South Africa, New York, Tasmania, Dublin, New Jersey, Montreal, Brazil, Argyle (Scotland), Michigan, Embrun (Canada), Japan, Conemara (Ireland), and many, more. Each little tag attached to the scarf represents a different knitter.

Cathy perused the nice selection of Irish yarn the store had for sale alongside locally made sweaters and other apparel. She had planned to purchase only one skein, due to space constraints in her bag. (I do have to say it is getting pretty cramped in there.) But she succumbed to temptation and bought three skeins instead. This was on top of the large hank of natural Aran yarn she had purchased a few days earlier. Back at the hostel (and pub) she has been knitting furiously, but it all still takes up space. She and Bridie chatted a bit and then we said goodbye and Cathy made her way up to visit the nearby Dun Aonghasa (an ancient fort) before returning to Kilronen hostel. 

Near the forts museum, were a couple more sweater shops, and inside Dun Angusa Knitwear, Sarah sat at the counter knitting away. So, she too added some rows of Aran stitches to me while they chatted.  

Contributions from Inishmore

Family photo: Me and my New-found Cousin!
While walking around the fort site, Cathy realized that she had neglected to pay for the yarn she purchased from Bridie! Mortified, she scooted back down the road, but the shop had closed. She left a note on the door and promised to call in her payment the next day. She hopes she does not have to walk the 4½ miles back to the shop!

We arrived back at Kilronen Hostel just after dark. The sun had shone all day and the wind had kept itself abated, so it was good winter walking weather. But by the time we got back, the cold had set in, and another half-pint of Guiness at the wee pub sounded like a good idea. 

And it was there that Cathy completed her own Aran cap. 

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