Another prominent landmark of Inis Oirr is the Signal Tower which stands just south of O’ Brien’s Castle. This tower is not actually part of the castle complex but was built later, during the 18th century, as part of a series of Signal Towers which popped up all along the western coast of Ireland at this time. Another such tower can be seen on Inis Mor.
The tower was the location for a hedge school during the early 19th century. (Hedge Schools were common in Ireland between the 18th and 19th centuries when Irish Catholics were prohibited from attending conventional schools. The schools were run in secrecy by Irish poets, priests and other learned Irish Catholics.) Located close to the tower are the scant ruins of Cathair na mBán (Fort of the Women)
Making a stunning addition to the Inis Oirr landscape is the ruins of O’ Brien’s Castle, which is perched high on a hill overlooking the beach. O’ Brien’s Castle dates from the 15th century but as I mentioned previously, the castle occupies the approximate centre of an earlier Iron Age stone fort known as Dun Formna. The three storeyed castle was built by the O’ Brien clan who ruled the Aran Islands for over 450 years until they were defeated by the O’ Flaherty Clan in 1585 who remained in control until Cromwell’s forces (who else!!!) took the islands in 1652.
The ruins of the castle can be easily reached from the pier by heading to the small village of Baile an Chaisleáin (Castle Town). From the summit of the hill you have great views all over the northern side of the island and can take in the extent of the stone wall grid of the island.
The graveyard which surrounds Teampall Chaomháin is still the graveyard of the local islander’s but mixed with the newer headstones you will find older headstones dating back generations. The island’s patron, St. Chaomháin, is himself buried in a tomb known as ‘Leaba Chaoimháin’ (Bed of Keevaun) just to the north of the church.
Below the graveyard is Port na Cille (harbour of the church) and you have lovely views over the northern side of the island and up towards O’Brien’s castle from the graveyard.