Walls, walls. This place is all walls. Row after row of walls, running to the cliff edge, running along it, in line after line, parallel, perpendicular, everywhere. Even the ground is walls, cracked stacks and slabs of rigid grey stone; and the cliff itself, a great smooth wall falling straight into the sea, huge broken chunks at the foot of it.
The walls are in all shapes – stones slatted horizontally, vertically, on a diagonal – sloping or straight but all sharp. This stone does not weather kindly. Even the name for this landscape is harsh: karst – limestone eroded by acidic water into breaking flaking pavements, as far as the eye can see. Walls, and fields of stone, and slabs of rock jammed upright into the crevices like tombstones. It’s like walking in a graveyard: an epic plateau of a cemetery, held up against the flat wall of the blank Atlantic, falling into the hollow booms of the sea.
It’s a relief to finally reach the Black Fort, Dún Dúchathair. The outer wall is several feet thick, a rampart which closes off its own private finger of cliff, but it is curved – curved up to meet the sky and curved out to cup the small eroding point. And behind it, hidden beside the high horizon, are more curves – looped walls of stone folding back on themselves, almost sinuously. It’s profoundly welcoming after all the relentless linearity. Even the floor is covered in downy green grass.
I settle myself down to sit for a while but – boom! – the ground echoes beneath me as the sea slams into the undercut cliffs, and the sky turns grey as a wall of rain approaches. Time to escape, but only as far as the harbour because the stiff bulwarks of wind which surround us mean there’s no easy sail away.
Inishmore, Aran Islands, Ireland / Inis Mór, Oileáin Árann, Éire
17th September 2015