Inis Mor

Aran Islands, Co. Galway

Inis Mor is the ‘capital’ of the Aran Islands and its sheltered harbour at Cill Ronain (Kilronan) has long been the main entry point for visitors to Aran. The island’s 900 inhabitants occupy an area that measures an area of 14 kilometres by 3 kilometres at its extremities, occupying a total area of little more than 31 kilometres.
On each island are tombs and other structures dating from the end of the Stone Age, built by a people who probably had migrated up the Atlantic Coast from Iberia and perhaps further afield.. They were farmers, in search of land easily cleared with stone axes, and whether or not Aran had at that time rather more soil and tree cover than it does now, it, like its mainland relative, the Burren.
The Bronze Age too left burials but the grandest antiquities are the huge stone cashels, dating perhaps AD100 or 200, that dominate the uplands of all 3 islands, and the 2 coastal forts, which may be a few centuries earlier, Dubhchathair and famous Dun Aonghasa, on the Atlantic cliffs of Inis Mor.

Aran is a walker’s paradise and is best explored that way or in combination with bicycles, either hired on the island or brought over on the ferry, or by the island’s minibus taxis. There is a secure car park at Rossaveal ferry port on the mainland as cars can not be transported to the islands. Alternatively, see Aran on horseback along the pathways of history on this unique island. Swim in unpolluted seas, study rare flowers and wildlife (some 437 varieties in all!), write, paint, take pictures, fish for a specimen or just relax, unwind and learn spoken Irish in this bilingual community. And when the Celtic twilight comes, drop in for a quiet pint, or enjoy a wealth of bird species which breed on the island including Chough, Little Tern, Arctic Tern, Sandwich Tern and Peregrine Falcon.

The landscapes of the islands are interspersed with miles of unevenly assembled stone walls with no less than 1,500 kilometres of meandering walls on Inis Mor alone. The islands have no gates, with the rare exception of those made of driftwood, and the islanders simply dislodge the part of the stone wall when they are transferring livestock from one field to another. The sparse soil is mixed with seaweed for the growing of barley and potatoes.
The impression many people have of the Aran Islanders is of currachs, Aran sweaters and craggy faced old men in dark clothing but much has changed in the appearance and lifestyle of the islanders. Thatched cottages are still quite common but in recent years a number of modern houses and bungalows have been erected. The islands are easily accessible from the mainland with ferry services from Galway, Doolin and Rossaveal and an air service with Aer Arann from Inverin. The tourist potential has developed enormously in the past few decades with many people coming to learn or improve their Irish and others seeking a quiet relaxed holiday.