Brillo Goes to Sea – The Aran Islands Trip

We woke up at the crack of early, packed our bags, and headed out into the morning light of Doolin, Ireland. To call Doolin a sleepy town is like calling Newt Gingrich’s jowls a negligible facial component. Doolin is a narcoleptic town in a NyQuil-induced coma. And that’s just how I like it.

Pictured: Roughly 80% of the Greater Doolin area's population.

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Pictured: Roughly 80% of the Greater Doolin area’s population.

I’ll show you more of Doolin later. Today’s trip is to the Aran Islands, a small chain of three major landmasses off the west coast of Ireland. Specifically, we set off to Inis Oírr (Inisheer), the smallest and easternmost of the islands. With the exception of an emergency airstrip or two, the islands are only accessible by boat. I mean, you could probably swim if you wanted to, but why swim when you can ride a Happy Hooker?

I've waited to make that joke for longer than I care to admit.

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I’ve waited to make that joke for longer than I care to admit.

The road down to the ferry landing is on par with the Irish standard of beauty, particularly in the early morning sun.

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I don't have any witty comments. Just admire the view.

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I don’t have any witty comments. Just admire the view.

When we arrived at the ferry landing, we realized that we could not have asked for a better day.

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We also noticed how many ferry companies served the same route. Clearly there was enough demand to keep them all in business, instead of feuding over territory.

Doolin ferry companies.

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Doolin’ ferry companies.

The boats were running late, so my 6’10” friend started giving piggyback rides.

He could probably have walked to the island without getting his shirt wet.

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He could probably have walked to the island without getting his shirt wet.

Our boat got crowded pretty quickly.

"Next person to make a Jaws reference gets fed to the sheep."

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“Next person to make a Jaws reference gets fed to the sheep.”

We had a great view of the Cliffs of Moher.

Those cliffs are 600-700 feet high. Food for thought.

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Those cliffs are 600-700 feet high. Food for thought.

Brillo met a real-life pirate.

The Dread Pirate Pricklebeard.

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The Dread Hedgehog Pricklebeard.

Despite my objections, he was promptly placed in charge of safety.

"You don't get one."

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“You don’t get one.”

The seats were a bit stiff, so they transferred him to a more comfortable location.

"You still don't get one."

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“You still don’t get one.”

Always the social creature, Brillo left his post to make some friends.

"Hey there, new friend. Touch me and I'll bite your fucking finger off."

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“Well hey there, new friend. Touch me and I’ll bite your finger off.”

Against my better judgement, I let Brillo sit on the rail.

"That's why they call me a hEDGEhog. On the edge. The edge. I'm... I'm on the edge. That went right over your heads, didn't it?"

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“That’s why they call me a hEDGEhog. On the edge. The edge. I’m… I’m on the edge. That went right over your heads, didn’t it?”

Fortunately, we made it to Inis Oírr without incident.

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The first thing we noticed was the water color. For the North Atlantic, it was surprisingly turquoise.

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Without context, a lot of my photos look like they were taken in the Caribbean. If not for the temperature, much of the island would have felt decidedly more tropical.

Not this part.

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Not this part.

I grew up on an island, and something that has always fascinated me is how, even in completely separate parts of the world, island life can be so damn similar. From the cottages to the roads to the tight-knit community, small islands always seem to have something in common.

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And then there are comforting differences.

I can almost guarantee none of our horses have mustaches.

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Where I’m from, horse mustaches are uncommon at best.

One of the biggest differences is the language. The Aran Islands are one of the last bastions of the Irish tongue. Most signs in Ireland are written in both Irish and English. On the Aran Islands, though, many signs are written solely in Irish. Restaurants and public spaces bubble with the unique sound of the traditional language. Most if not all islanders also speak English, albeit heavily accented, but personal names, locations, and culture all reflect pre-British Ireland.

I could barely understand a word these two said.

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I could barely understand a word these two said.

Stay tuned for Part Two.

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