A few weeks ago I traveled to Inishmore on Michael Faherty's tour of the island. One of the highlights of the tour was the time spent in the area of and atop Dún Aonghasa, or Dun Aengus in its anglicized version. This ancient fortress dates back to 1100 BC and is mightily impressive, as much for where it sits as for its defenses. Perched on a cliffside it commands views that would have enabled its inhabitants to spot enemies on the approach from land or sea. Certainly it was used as a fortress, but also, from archeological explorations, by a pre-Christian, probably Druidic religion for ceremonies.
To get to the actual site involves paying a fee at its Visitor Centre, then climbing gently, for the most part along a path, towards the end stepping on stones. It is not terribly difficult, but can be tricky in the sun, slippery in the rain.
I experienced both on my climb. I was among the first off the tour bus as the mere view of it in the distance set my heart pounding. When I began the ascent it was intermittently cloudy and sunny, and windy (be prepared for winds on Inishmore, as you're almost never without them). But weather changes rapidly here, and just as I was about to gain access to the fortress itself it began to rain, then rain hard, with the aid of the wind pelting me with what I felt could have been sleet or tiny bits of hail. In hindsight I believe it was simply rain, but what a rain!
So come prepared. I had a poncho handy in my day bag, but even so I was soaked everywhere not explicitly covered by the poncho. I suppose I could have given up and headed back down immediately, but it was my only chance to see it, and to see FROM it, so I plunged on to different sections of the fort, observing and attempting to photograph the site and the cliffs on either side of it. I was fortunate that my little point-and-shoot survived, but several of my photos were spotted with raindrops.
Still, it was exhilarating, and the sudden storm said as much to me as anything else that day of the hardy nature of the inhabitants (about 800) of Inishmore. I'm glad I made the climb, glad that I endured the rain and wind, very glad to have seen this fascinating ancient site.
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