At the foggy fringe of the Atlantic Ocean, Ireland captivates with its infectious spirit and fairy-tale landscapes, but it’s not just what’s on the mainland that conjures up feelings of wanderlust; the surrounding islands have their own piece of undiscovered magic waiting to be explored.
You’d be forgiven for having not heard of the Aran Islands. The moody skies and lack of white-sand, blue-water beaches don’t exactly meet the typical prerequisites of an ‘island getaway’. What they do offer, however, is an escape. An escape from the unpleasant realities of daily life and in turn, a soul-stirring journey through untouched landscapes and topographical wonders.
Comprising three rocky isles towering out of the ocean off the coast of Galway, their history remains relatively unknown but remnants of Christian roots and Celtic settlers are evident throughout. But it’s the centre island, aptly named Inishmaan (Inis Meáin in Irish), which translates to middle island, that has really captured our attention.
The least visited and developed of the three, and home to fewer than 200 people, the island plays host to one of the more unique travel experiences we’ve encountered. Cue Inis Meáin Restaurant & Suites. Set right at the centre of the 3km by 5km island, the luxury accommodation and world-class cuisine beckons those with a sensibility for the unique, indulgent, and peaceful.
The brainchild of visionary husband-and-wife duo Marie-Thérèse and Ruairí de Blacam, the retreat was created in 2007 as a curation and expert display of the pair’s past and skills; Marie-Therese wears the hat of host, designer, gardener and marketer; Ruairí is an island native who spent 15 years working as a professional chef around the world before returning to his homeland to establish the restaurant-hotel hybrid. Together, they created the intimate Inis Meáin Restaurant and Suites to welcome and expose guests to the natural splendour of the small corner of the world, and do that it does.
Award-winning for both its cuisine, hospitality, and overall experience, the inspiration behind every inch of the destination’s fabric stems from the unique environment on which it’s set. The five contemporary suites provide a space that’s familiar and comfortable, and one that equips guests with everything they might need to best discover the island; TVs and DVDs are replaced with bicycles, walking sticks, wildlife binoculars, and nature guides. The aesthetic is sleek and modern, characterised by muted materials that reflect the striking surrounds (think stone, wood, and wool), and the brooding sea views from a 10m glass window serve as a constant reminder of the outside’s tranquil ambience.
The Inis Meáin Restaurant, with Ruairí at the helm, is a destination in and of itself. Embodying the independent, pure, and resourceful spirit of the island and its people, the coveted foodie hotspot sources only the best local ingredients; from produce grown onsite in the garden and greenhouse, to the wild Atlantic fish and homestead-reared meat. Changing daily, the four-course dinner menu (served to a maximum of 16 guests), is made with just two elements per dish; a method of dining they describe as Elemental Eating, one that exercises simplicity, awakens the palette and allows the prime ingredients to shine.
An effortless blend of environment, space, cuisine, and service, this immersive island retreat will transcend expectations. Peaceful surrounds, natural beauty, culture, and history, here, daily realities are a world away.
(Please note Inis Meáin Restaurant & Suites is closed from October to March. The suites book out several months in advance and the 2018 season currently has very limited availability. If you are interested in cancellations or securing a reservation for the 2019 season, please get in touch with one of our travel managers.)