The Aran Islands got closer this week as the fastest and most eco-friendly passenger cruise ship to operate on the western seaboard sailed into Doolin for the first time following a €3m investment.
The Doolin2Aran operated ‘Star of Doolin’ completed the 650 nautical mile journey from La Rochelle in France and sailed into Doolin Pier in splendid morning sunshine to cheers from tourists and locals and - naturally for the North Clare village recognised as the home of traditional Irish music - strains of box, fiddle, banjo and pipes.
Following regulatory sign-off by Department of Transport officials, the boat was operating to the three Aran Islands and Cliffs of Moher by mid-afternoon.
The ship, will be the fastest and largest to operate to the islands from Doolin, halving journey times and doubling capacity of the company’s existing boats. It has also been designed with the environment in mind, with additional features to lower emissions and state of the art waste water treatment on board.
The investment by Doolin2Aran, which is owned and operated by one of Ireland’s best-known sea families, the Garrihys from Doolin, is the biggest ever made in a single vessel on the west coast of Ireland. The one-off designed, 200 seat cruise ship is also tailored for international tourists, with multi-lingual voice commentary to ensure visitors get the absolute experience and knowledge of the world-famous heritage sites.
Hundreds gathered on Doolin Pier to welcome the ship back in, led by legendary Clare concertina player Chris Droney (93), who gave the boat its name. Chris is father in law of Eugene Garrihy – one of four Garrihy brothers with PJ, Joe and Donie involved in the business.
"Hundreds gathered on Doolin Pier to welcome the ship back in"
The 25m ship was sailed back from La Rochelle to Doolin, with an overnight in Dingle, at the weekend by skipper PJ Garrihy and his crew. They spent Monday night at the Aran Islands as locals, who will benefit from the investment through quicker journey times and more tourists, got a preview of the new vessel.
“It’s a great day for Doolin, for West Clare and for the Aran Islands,” said PJ Garrihy. “It was a lovely trip back. It’s such a comfortable ship and will be a great service to West Clare and the islands. We couldn’t wait to get her back and were blown away by the crowds on the pier for us so early today.”
Said PJ’s brother Eugene, “This is the end of an 18 month journey for us. We took the decision back in late 2016. It was a big move because we’re a small family business and it’s a very big investment for us but now that the ship is back, we’re delighted. It will be a huge boost to tourism in the West of Ireland but particularly here in Doolin and the Aran Islands.
“It ticks all the boxes. While it can take more passengers and operate at twice the speed, it has also been designed with the environment as a core consideration. We’re operating here out of the Burren and Cliffs of Moher Geopark and it was a priority for us to get emissions as low as possible and we’ve done that.”
Garrihy’s daughter Aoibhín, who is due her first child with husband John Burke, in three weeks’ time was also on the pier. “I’m very proud of what’s been achieved here. I got my first job here working in the summers and I just love the place. A lot of hard work, including in difficult times, has gone into this by the family, by people employed here and it’s great to seeing it pay off.”
Her grandfather Chris was in sprightly form, the celebratory mood even seeing him dancing a set on the pier. “I was here 70 and 80 years ago and there was nothing. Now it’s a thriving pier but it didn’t happen overnight. It’s great to see progress like this,” he said.