(Gregory's cave) Located on the beach facing the island of Inis Mór, the sea between Inis Meáin and Inis Mór is known as Gregory's sound. Legend has it that St. Gregory spent a lot of time in this cave.
(Church of the seven sons) Very little remains of this early church. By the south door is the grave of Saint Cinndearg. Nearby is the holy well, Tobar Chinndeirge. This used to be a famous place of pilgrimage for all of Connacht. Stations are still held here on the 15th of August.
The name may mean "Church of Canons" or may refer to St. Gregory "Cheannfhionnadh", the fair-headed. The church is a typical 8th-9th century stone building, and is complete except for the roof, which must have been wood framed. It is surrounded by grave slabs and it was here that the island buried its people until fifty years ago. Cathaoir Synge (Synge's Chair) was where the writer John Millington Synge spent many a day writing. It has superb views across the sound to the cliffs on the south east corner of Inis Mór, and the big seas rolling in from America.
This small (8th or 9th Century) church, nestling against a protective cliff, is dedicated to Saint Gobnet of Ballyvourney in Co. Cork, who is believed to have fled to Inis Oírr for safety from enemies on the mainland.
A beautiful fort at the top of the mountain gives you a great view of the island and the ocean below. This is a very large and impressive stone fort, standing on a cliff top 300ft above sea level. It is in the hill fort tradition and consists of four sets of dry-stone walls and a defensive feature known as "cheveaux de frise" (bands of stone) standing on their edge. It is claimed the fort was built by the Fir Bolg and their leader Aengus. Recent excavation, by the Discovery program has produced evidence of activity on the site from the late "Bronze Age" (between 1000 & 700 BC) until early Christian times (around the 5th Century AD). Evidence of habitation in the late Bronze Age includes traces of hut and hearth sites, a stone trough and a range of domestic material. The fort was strengthened and extended from time to time. It is likely that there was a protective wall on the sea side.
This is the main draw to Inishmore, although the other smaller forts should not be missed either. No one is entirely sure why this fort was built in the first place, but these days tourists flock to it in droves. Still, depsite the draw it never gets overly crowded. Just remember that if you want to look over the edge you should lie on your stomach. Unsuspecting tourists have been blown off!
Also known as the "black fort", this sister to Dun Aegnus is a little smaller in scale, but also impressive in its own right. It has large bands of stone circling it and is usually less crowded than the other fort.
This is an old church dating from the early period of Christianity. It is located on the western side of the island in the village of Cill Einne. The intersting part of it is that it is situated North/South instead of East/West.
Teaghlach Einne is situated on the grounds of the Cill Einne graveyard. (By the way, "cill" means "church".) It was built in honor of Naomh Einne who founded Christianity in the Aran Islands in the 5th century. A few yards away from the door is a flagstone that is said to cover the grave of Saint Ende, the patron saint of the Aran Islands.
Right in the middle of Kilronan stands a large shop (you can't miss it as it stands by the one road junction in town by the cross) dedicated to the most famous product of these islands - aran sweaters.
The shop has a number of 'information boards' which they think also makes the shop a museum. To be fair they are well written and give a good insight into the background of such garments.
I must also confess that whilst looking at the the 'modern' aran inspired pieces I had a Graham Norton moment and said quite loudly "That's georgeous". Unfortunately several people turned round and must have thought I would be going home on the other ferry (if you get my drift)
This tip should also be read in conjunction with the 'Dangers and warnings' tip on Kilronan.
Just outside of Kilronan, on the coast road, is a seal colony.
It's best to ask the locals (especially the minibus drivers) when is a good time to see them, as it is quite dependent on the tides.
It's clearly marked on the maps, and you can combine a visit with a stop (if it's not freezing cold) at the beach - considered to be possibly the cleanest beach in Europe. That should keep the kids happy.
A pre-historic tribe, the Fir Bolg, built Dun Aonghasa fort. The series on concentric circles together witha collection of standing stone designed to repel attack by horseback stands as a monument to these resourceful people.
In many ways it seems more impressive than sites such as Stonehenge. The experience of the ruins was further enhanced by it's setting high on the cliff with stormy waves crashing hundreds of feet below.
In these times of UNESCO world heritage sites guidelines you have to pay 2 euro for the priviledge of tramping up about a kilometer of stoney ground that rises up to the fort.
It seems a pity that the wheelchair-bound and less active visitors are denied access in this way.