Arranmore – click any image for full size
Now open in Second Life is Arranmore, the latest region designed by Lauren Bentham. Although its name from Arranmore (Árainn Mhór, essentially “large island”), the largest inhabited island off the west coast of County Donegal, Ireland, this is an entirely a fictional place of dark fantasy – and extremely atmospheric to boot.
Lauren has a long history of region design in Second Life, offering some of the most popular destinations for SL traveller on the grid. From the Baja group of region (Baja Norte, Baja Cove, Baja Bay and Baja Sands), through the likes of Storybrooke Gardens (a personal favourite – see here and here), Bentham Manor, Everwinter, to her most recent prior design, Netherwood (see my April 2016 review), Lauren’s work is deservedly known and appreciated. I’ve little doubt Arranmore will be the same.
Visitors arrive on the west side of the region, on a small platform alongside a single railway line which curls south-to-north along the west side of the island without actually going anywhere: the two extremes of the track end in buffers. Perhaps it once went further – the fallen mass of a lighthouse suggests a calamity befell the north-west end of the island, so perhaps the tracks were washed away in whatever storm may have been responsible for bringing down that tower.
Ringed by the high peaks of surrounding islands, Arranmore broods beneath a sombre, storm-laden blanket of heavy grey cloud. Thunder rolls around the rugged peaks of the other islands, a deep booming against the plaintive cry of gull and moan of wind. Lightning flickers and forks, reflected by the mist rolling in from the sea as it drifts inland between the island’s trees like a living thing, watched over by the ever-rotating eye of a surviving lighthouse.
On arrival, newcomers are invited to take a torch, offered alongside the region’s rules. If you’re keeping to the default windlight – which I suggest you do while initially exploring – the torch is a handy thing to have. Across the tracks from the little railway platform sit the entrance to the grounds of a once great manor house. This, we are told, was had been the home to Lord & Lady Inman and their family, all of whom mysteriously vanished whilst on holiday. Since their disappearance, the house has slowly fallen into ruin and the fortunes of the island had declined.
It is along the path leading towards the brooding form of the manor house that we come across the first signs that this is indeed a place where those still living on the island might be somewhat Lovecraftian in their ways – or perhaps it was the Inmans themselves? Just over the wall from the path sits a rotunda, its broken dome still offering some protection for a statue of an adult figure holding an tentacled infant child close to his or her chest. Even along the path to the house strangeness can be found: an empty hearse, a mildewed stuffed toy, its eyes apparently cut out, occupying the basket of a tricycle, and the gaunt figure of a local, funereal in his top hat and tails, holding aloft a lantern – whether in greeting or warning is yours to decide.
As with all of Lauren’s region designs, there is a lot to see here, be it in the manor house as it slowly moulders away, or in the surrounding grounds and other building on the island. All of it is beautifully composed to create an environment that is a curious mix of the dark, the beautiful, the mysterious, the unsettling, and utterly captivating. One which really needs to be experienced rather than simply written about.
Lauren notes that the region is primarily for enjoyment and photography – those wishing to rez props in support of their photo work can join the local group for L$175 and do so – but role-play is welcome. There is a warning in the rules that weapons are not allowed – although seeing a member of the admin team walking around carrying an assault rifle seemed a little at odds with the spirit of the rules :). There’s also a Flickr group for those so minded to add their pictures.
Definitely a must for any SL traveller’s itinerary.
- Arranmore (Rated: Moderate)