Introducing Aran Islands
Just a 40 minute boat ride from the mainland, the desolate beauty of the Aran Islands feels far removed from contemporary life.
An extension of the limestone escarpment that forms the Burren, the island has shallow topsoil scattered with yellow buttercups, white-petalled daisies and spring gentian, and jagged cliffs that are pounded by surf. On the cliff tops, ancient forts such as Dún Aengus on Inishmór and Dún Chonchúir on Inishmaan are some of the oldest archaeological remains in Ireland.
A web of ancient stone walls (1600km in all) ensnares all three islands like a stone fishing net. These walls serve the dual purpose of keeping sheep and ponies in, and providing a repository for stone dug from the ground to make way for grazing and harvests. The islands also have a smattering of early clocháns (dry-stone beehive huts from the early-Christian period), resembling igloos made from stone.
Inishmór (Arainn in Irish, meaning ‘Big Island’) is the largest and most easily accessible from Galway. The island is home to one of Ireland’s most important and impressive archaeological sites, as well as some lively pubs and restaurants, particularly in its little township Kilronan. The smallest island, Inisheer (Inis Oírr; ‘Eastern Island’), with an impressive arts centre, is also easily reached from Galway year-round and from Doolin in the summer months. Hence Inishmaan (Inis Meáin; ‘Middle Island’), in the centre, tends to be bypassed by the majority of tourist traffic, preserving its age-old traditions and evoking a sense of timelessness.
Although high summer brings a maddening number of tourists, services on the islands are few. Only Inishmór has an ATM (with limited hours and a propensity to run out of cash), and the majority of places don’t accept credit cards (always check ahead). Restaurants, including pubs that serve food, often reduce their opening hours or shut completely during winter. However, winter lets you experience the islands at their wild, windswept best.
Last updated: Feb 17, 2009
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