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  • HI, I'M RICK STEVES, AND THIS TIME WE'RE EXPLORING

  • THE BEST OF WESTERN IRELAND.

  • AND WE'RE STARTING ABOUT AS WEST AS YOU CAN GET,

  • ON THE ARAN ISLANDS, WHERE, AS THE PEOPLE HERE SAY,

  • "THE NEXT PARISH OVER IS BOSTON," RIGHT?

  • THAT'S RIGHT.

  • IRELAND, ESPECIALLY ITS WEST, HAS A UNIQUE CHARM

  • WHERE ITS RUGGED NATURAL BEAUTY AND ITS VIBRANT TRADITIONS

  • CAN BE SEEN AND ACTUALLY FELT.

  • WE'LL DELVE INTO THE BEST OF THE WEST,

  • NOT POLISHED AND ON A MUSEUM SHELF

  • BUT WONDERFULLY RAW AND UNREFINED.

  • AFTER IMAGINING THIS ISLAND'S MISTY PAST,

  • OLD AS THE PYRAMIDS,

  • WE ENJOY PLENTY OF TRADITIONAL IRISH MUSIC,

  • FROM A FOOT-STOMPING SMALL-TOWN DANCE SHOW

  • TO LOCAL PUBS WHERE EVERY NIGHT'S A MUSIC FEST.

  • WE EXPLORE THE BIGGEST CITY OF WITH THE WEST COAST,

  • HANG FROM A DRAMATIC CLIFF,

  • AND EAT REALLY WELL,

  • ALL WITH MY FAVORITE TRAVEL PARTNERS,

  • MY KIDS, ANDY AND JACKIE,

  • AND MY WIFE, ANNE.

  • IRELAND LIES AT THE FAR WEST OF EUROPE,

  • AND WE'RE EXPLORING THE FAR WEST OF IRELAND.

  • STARTING ON THE REMOTE ARAN ISLANDS, WE CRUISE TO GALWAY,

  • HIKE THE RUGGED BURREN AND MARVEL AT THE CLIFFS OF MOHER,

  • BEFORE VENTURING TO DINGLE,

  • AND FINISHING ON GREAT BLASKET ISLAND.

  • WE'RE BEGINNING HERE ON INISHMORE.

  • AT EIGHT MILES LONG AND TWO MILES WIDE,

  • IT'S THE LARGEST OF THE THREE ARAN ISLANDS.

  • IT'S ALSO THE MOST POPULATED, INTERESTING AND VISITED.

  • INISHMORE'S MAIN ATTRACTION

  • IS THE 2,000-YEAR-OLD FORTRESS OF DUN AENGUS,

  • WHICH HANGS PRECARIOUSLY ON THE EDGE OF A CLIFF

  • 300 FEET ABOVE THE ATLANTIC.

  • THE CONCENTRIC WALLS OF THIS MYSTERIOUS CELTIC FORT

  • ARE 13 FEET THICK AND 10 FEET HIGH.

  • AS AN ADDED DEFENSE, EFFECTIVE EVEN TODAY,

  • THE FORT IS RINGED WITH A COMMOTION OF SPIKY STONES

  • CALLED FRISIAN SOLDIERS.

  • STICKING UP LIKE LANCES,

  • THEY'RE NAMED AFTER ANCIENT LDIERS

  • WHO USED A WALL OF SPEARS TO STOP A CHARGING CAVALRY.

  • LITTLE BY LITTLE, AS THE CLIFF ERODES,

  • THE WALLS OF THIS CIRCULAR FORT FALL INTO THE SEA BELOW.

  • DUN AENGUS CAN BE MOBBED BY DAY-TRIPPERS.

  • BUT SINCE WE SPENT THE NIGHT, WE'RE HERE EARLY,

  • AND THE PLACE IS ALL OURS.

  • I MAKE A POINT TO BE ALL ALONE HERE,

  • WHERE THE CRASHING WAVES BELOW SEEM TO SAY,

  • "YOU'VE COME TO THE VERY EDGE OF EUROPE."

  • KILRONAN IS THE ONLY REAL TOWN ON THE ARAN ISLANDS,

  • BUT IT'S STILL JUST A VILLAGE

  • WITH A HANDFUL OF SHOPS, PUBS, RESTAURANTS AND B&Bs.

  • KILRONAN HUDDLES AROUND ITS PIER

  • WHERE GROUPS OF BACKPACKERS

  • WASH ASHORE WITH THE LANDING OF EACH FERRY.

  • BRING CASH.

  • THERE ARE NO ATMs ON THE ISLAND.

  • THE ISLANDS ARE A GAELTACHT -- OR GAELIC-SPEAKING AREA --

  • A KIND OF NATIONAL PARK FOR IRELAND'S TRADITIONAL CULTURE.

  • WHILE THE ISLANDERS SPEAK ENGLISH FOR VISITORS,

  • THEY CHAT AMONG THEMSELVES IN THIS OLD IRISH LANGUAGE.

  • [ speaking in Irish ]

  • LIKE ALL GAELTACHTS,

  • KILRONAN HAS AN ABUNDANCE OF FOLK TRADITIONS AND MUSIC.

  • THE RAGUS DANCE SHOW GIVES VISITORS AN INTIMATE LOOK

  • AT IRISH HARD SHOE, OR STEP DANCING,

  • ACCOMPANIED BY TRADITIONAL IRISH INSTRUMENTS.

  • IF YOU WERE HERE IN EARLIER GENERATIONS,

  • YOU'D SEE STEP DANCES LIKE THESE AT A COUNTRY CROSSROADS,

  • WITH NEIGHBORS DANCING AROUND A FIRE

  • TO WHATEVER INSTRUMENTS SHOWED UP.

  • [ cheers and applause ]

  • KILRONAN IS A SPRINGBOARD FOR ISLAND EXPLORATION.

  • RENTING BIKES IS SAFE, INEXPENSIVE AND SCENIC.

  • PONY CARTS, WHILE PRICEY, ARE MORE ROMANTIC.

  • AND SHARED MINIBUSES,

  • WHICH AWAIT THE ARRIVAL OF EACH FERRY,

  • PROVIDE CHEAP GUIDED TOURS FOR A QUICK AND EFFICIENT LOOK

  • AT THE ISLAND'S SIGHTS AND A CHANCE TO GET TO KNOW

  • AND LEARN FROM A COLORFUL LOCAL GUIDE.

  • WE'VE SNARED A MINIBUS FOR OUR FAMILY.

  • ANNE, ANDY AND JACKIE ARE JOINING ME

  • FOR A TOUR WITH THOMAS O'NEIL,

  • WHO'S LIVED ON THE ISLAND ALL HIS LIFE.

  • [ speaking in Irish ]

  • THAT'S IN IRISH NOW.

  • odh lá. IT'S A NICE DAY.

  • WE'RE TAKING THE COAST ROAD ON THE WAY TO THE --

  • UP TO THE END OF THE ISLAND.

  • IT'S A NICE DAY, HUH? COULDN'T BE ANY BETTER, HUH?

  • 800 ISLANDERS LIVE IN 14 HAMLETS

  • WITH THREE ELEMENTARY SCHOOLS AND THREE CHURCHES.

  • MANY FAMILIES OWN SMALL DETACHED FIELDS

  • WHERE THEY KEEP A FEW COWS.

  • SHEEP ARE TOO MUCH TROUBLE.

  • THERE'S A STARK BEAUTY ABOUT THESE ISLANDS

  • AND THE SIMPLE LIVES ITS INHABITANTS EKE OUT

  • OF SIX INCHES OF TOPSOIL AND A MEAN SEA.

  • PRECIOUS LITTLE OF THE LAND IS PRODUCTIVE.

  • UNTIL THE ADVENT OF TOURISM, PEOPLE MADE A PRECARIOUS LIVING

  • FROM FISHING AND FARMING.

  • THEY'RE SHIFTING THEM NOW FROM FIELD TO FIELD.

  • HE'S GOING HALF A MILE WITH THEM MAYBE TO ANOTHER FIELD.

  • THE FIELDS ARE SO SCATTERED HERE.

  • THE ROCKY FIELDS ARE SMALL,

  • DIVIDED BY HUNDREDS OF MILES OF DRY, STONE WALL.

  • THESE WALLS ARE BUILT IN A WAY

  • THAT ALLOWS GATES TO BE MADE IN THEM

  • WHEREVER THE FARMER WANTS.

  • WHEN A FARMER NEEDS TO MOVE HIS LIVESTOCK,

  • HE CAN DISMANTLE AND REBUILD THE WALLS EASILY.

  • I'M GOING TO KNOCK THIS WALL DOWN NOW.

  • THIS IS THE WAY THEY DO IT.

  • IF I HAD CATTLE NOW, WHEN IT'S DOWN TO THE GROUND,

  • THE CATTLE WOULD WALK IN AND, WHEN THEY'RE INSIDE,

  • WE BUILD IT UP AGAIN.

  • WE'RE NOT TRESPASSING HERE.

  • THIS IS THOMAS'S FIELD

  • AND THERE'S PLENTY OF WORK TO BE DONE WHILE THE SUN'S OUT.

  • THAT'S MY HAY THERE NOW.

  • THAT'S OKAY.

  • JACKIE, COME ON, HELP ME WITH... ANDY, CAN YOU HELP ME?

  • SO, YOU STACKED IT UP ANTICIPATING RAIN. RIGHT?

  • THAT'S RIGHT. IT'S WET.

  • AND I WILL HAVE TO SCATTER IT AROUND TO DRY,

  • TO DRY IT BEFORE I PUT IT IN THE SHED.

  • Rick: OKAY, SO TONIGHT THIS WILL BE DRY?

  • Thomas: YES, TONIGHT THIS WILL BE DRY.

  • Rick: AND TOMORROW, IT'S WEETABIX FOR THE COWS.

  • TOMORROW? NO, I WON'T USE IT UNTIL WINTER.

  • WELL, THOMAS MANAGED TO TRICK MY ENTIRE FAMILY

  • INTO AN AFTERNOON OF LABOR.

  • BUT, IN RETURN, WE MADE A FRIEND

  • AND LEARNED ABOUT THE HAY AND GATES OF INISHMORE.

  • A COUPLE OF CENTURIES AGO

  • WHEN THE ENGLISH TOOK THE BEST PARTS OF IRELAND IN THE EAST,

  • THEY TOLD THE CATHOLIC LOCALS TO GO TO HELL

  • OR GO TO CONNEMARRA, POOR LAND OUT HERE IN THE WEST.

  • OVER TIME, THE ENGLISH EVEN TOOK MOST OF THE WEST,

  • BUT THEY NEVER REACHED THESE REMOTE ARAN ISLANDS.

  • TODAY THOSE DESPERATE DAYS ARE LONG GONE

  • AS IRELAND ENJOYS ONE OF EUROPE'S HOTTEST ECONOMIES.

  • TO FEEL THE PULSE OF TODAY'S IRELAND,

  • WE'RE HEADING FOR THE MAINLAND

  • AND THE BIGGEST CITY OF THE WEST, GALWAY.

  • FOR THE FIRST TIME

  • THE IRISH ARE MAKING AS MUCH MONEY AS THE ENGLISH.

  • AND YOU FEEL THE BOOM TIME IN GALWAY.

  • WITH 60,000 PEOPLE, IT'S A LIVELY UNIVERSITY TOWN

  • WITH ONE OF THE YOUNGEST POPULATIONS IN ALL OF EUROPE.

  • ACCORDING TO LOCAL TRADITION, GALWAY'S NAME TELLS ITS STORY.

  • Gal IS AN OLD IRISH WORD FOR FOREIGNER.

  • THAT WOULD MAKE GALWAY "TOWN OF THE FOREIGNERS."

  • IT WAS JUST A MEDIEVAL FISHING VILLAGE

  • UNTIL THE 12OOs WHEN THE ENGLISH CAME.

  • THESE FOREIGNERS TOSSED OUT THE IRISH

  • AND BUILT A WALL TO FORTIFY THEIR TOWN.

  • THE DISPOSSESSED IRISH, NOW OUTSIDE THE WALL,

  • CALLED THE TOWN GALWAY, TOWN OF FOREIGNERS.

  • THE SPANISH ARCH, WHERE SPANISH SHIPS

  • WOULD UNLOAD THEIR CARGO 400 YEARS AGO,

  • IS A REMINDER OF THE TRADING IMPORTANCE GALWAY ONCE ENJOYED.

  • THE TOWN'S TINY MUSEUM IS HUMBLE.

  • BUT IF IT'S FRAGMENTS OF OLD GALWAY YOU'RE LOOKING FOR,

  • THIS IS WHERE THEY'RE KEPT.

  • WHILE THE TOWN HAS A LONG AND INTERESTING HISTORY,

  • ITS BRITISH OVERLORDS, WHO RULED HERE UNTIL 1922,

  • HAD LITTLE INTEREST IN PRESERVING ITS HERITAGE.

  • CONSEQUENTLY, LITTLE FROM OLD GALWAY SURVIVES.

  • THIS RARE REMAINING BIT OF ITS ONCE FORMIDABLE WALL

  • IS NOW ENGULFED IN A MODERN SHOPPING MALL.