I will go where my heart is lighter.
I will go soon for I’ve found a place
lying beyond in the wild Atlantic…
– From Inis Meáin by Matt Mooney
A lot of places are called “inspiring” but Inis Meáin truly is. I was approached by Chill Insurance to write about one of my favourite places in Ireland for photography as part of their Travel In Style with Chill e-magazine, which celebrates breathtakingly beautiful destinations in Ireland and further afield. And while there were no shortage of contenders for inspiring places to shoot, this tiny island off the coast of Galway was top of my list.
I fell in love with the rugged, unspoilt, starkly beautiful landscape the first time I visited. The middle Aran island still remains the least visited, despite being a rich source of inspiration to artists throughout history – from WB Yeats and James Joyce to painter Sean Scully, writer Colm Tóibín and filmmaker Martin McDonagh.
It’s somewhere any photo-lover should go when travelling around the west of Ireland and is an absolutely joy to capture, the view constantly shifting and changing before your lens.
Shooting here is a study in contrasts. There’s the wide, open landscapes and the delicately balanced stone walls criss-crossing the craggy terrain as well as teeny tiny details, like resilient colourful wildflowers that bloom among the rocks. There are postcard perfect shots – roads with grass down the middle, cottages with thatched roofs, and, of course, the odd encounter with a curious cow or pony.
Ben and I first visited way back in 2014. We stayed at Inis Meáin Suites – themselves an Instagrammer’s dream to capture, the clean modern lines juxtaposing gorgeously with the rough and ready landscape. We spent our days exploring the island, stopping to tuck into hearty soup, straight from the flask, drinking in the lush views.
JM Synge, who wrote The Playboy of the Western World, visited Inis Meáin in 1898 on the advice of Pádraig Pearse, and, according to this Irish Times piece, he was “so captivated that he returned for five summers and found a wellspring of inspiration for his finest plays”. I 100% relate to the pull it has, and only wish I could return to it year after year.
Synge’s Chair shot by Ben. Written in collaboration with Chill.