Aran Islands, Ireland
Inis Oírr is the smallest of the three Aran Islands. It doesn't have the big attraction of Dun Aengus, that can be found on Inis Mor, but I think this makes one appreciate the island for what it is. It must have taken great determination for people to have made this rugged island habitable. There seem to be more rocks than grass here, and the land is densely covered in pale stone walls. We wandered along the maze of paths hemmed in by the walls, stopping to say hello to the solitary animals that occasionally occupied the cozy pens.
We had lunch at lovely cafe, called the Fisherman's Cottage, the path to which is lined with a beautiful garden. We were only slightly put off by the old drunk who was retching nearby. We also stopped in at a nice pub (aren't they all) for a pint...or was it two. Carriage rides can be had there, though we didn't partake, figuring we could get to more secluded spots on foot.
To get there, we caught the ferry out of Doolin (a great place for music!). We were afraid we had missed the last ferry back, and I wasn't all that upset at the prospect of spending the night on Inis Oirr. Unfortunately, the ferry showed up. :)
Fort Aengus is a part of the irish heritage, that is still almost totally unexplored by science. It is eighter a pre-historic castle or maybe a ring-fort built by several circles of stonewalls, BUT the ring is not complete, as the ring is "open" towards the sea and the high cliffs at the backside.Be careful, when walking around inside of Fort Aengus, these cliffs do not have a fence and the rocks will fall down about 100 meters. There seems to be a small entrance-fee today, during my visits a lot of years ago it was free of charge.
You need to be able to climb a bit and walk on a ground of loose rocks and stones, not really a good place to walk with elderly people or small children !!
Some links for Innismore and the other Aran islands:
This amazing fort stands on cliffs high above the sea on the island of Inishmore. The site can be reached by bike, taxi, bus, or a very long walk from the island's main harbor. The walk to the fort from the gate is a bit of a climb itself and can be quite crowded during the tourist season.
Unlike many sites in the US and other safety-paranoid nations there are few impediments from anyone walking off the edge of the cliff inside the fort. The fort itself conists of two enclosures composed of rough rocks harvested from the surrounding area. This site is a must see for anyone visiting the Aran Islands.
A day out in the Aran Islands was the high point of a week long trip we took to Ireland this summer. We spent the day cycling across the island and taking in the historic sites and incredible sea cliff views the island of Inis Mor had to offer. This is a destination not to be missed if you are traveling to Ireland for more than a few days. Cycle rental was 10 euros for the day but be sure to inspect your cycle before jetting off (one in our group picked a really naff one!).
Situated in the far east of the Irish coast, these islands have everything you need for a one day trip. The best thing is to hire a bicicle and spend the day seeing Celtic remainings. Do not miss the cliffts!!!! Impressive!
Aran Islands are one of the most beautiful places I have seen in Ireland .Surely, its clifts are a must-see attraction and the remainings of the celtic civilization can be seen and felt in every single corner of the Islands.
The highlight of our trip to Inis Mor was going to Dun Aonghas - a stone fort which dates back over 2000 years. The fort is spectacularly perched on the edge of the cliffside almost 100 metres above the sea level. In the past it offered excellent defence to the ancient tribes, being protected by 6-metre high walls from the side of land and 100-metre cliffs forming the natural barrier to the invaders coming by sea. Today the fort lets tourists into its heart and offers stunning views.
Without doubt, the best souvenir from Inis Mor is an Aran sweater. These traditional sweaters were once worn by the island's fishermen. Today they are still hand-knit and each one is a bit different, which makes them really unique. The stitches have their meaning and each family used to have their individual pattern passed from generation to generation. Those patterns were often used to identify the bodies of fishermen who died at sea.
Even if you don't buy a sweater (an average price is 40 - 50 Euro), you may find it interesting to visit Aran Sweater Museum (free admission).
The three Aran Islands of Inis Mor, Inis Meain and Inis Oirr, called by Seamus Heaney "three stepping stones out of Europe", are located at the mouth of Galway Bay, on the most westerly edge of the continent.
The islands were first populated in large numbers in the 17th century, at the times of Cromwell's conquest of Ireland. Many catholics sought here the refuge from Protestants' rule.
Today all three islands are Gaeltacht - the region where Irish is the first language. Of course, it doesn't mean that English is not spoken here; everybody knows it and it's widely used to communicate with tourists. But if you feel like learning Irish, the Aran islands are the best place - there are plenty of courses to choose from.
The biggest of the islands - Inis Mor - is 12 km by 3 km in size. Its population is 800 people, which is quite modest in comparison with 1000 - 2000 tourists coming here daily in high season. The land is barren and rocky. It's hard to imagine all the sweat and effort it cost to clear the soil of stones. In result we can see long ribbons of dry-stone walls stretching for kilometres and the patchwork of fields.
The best way to visit Inis Mor is by bike. There are a few places close to a ferry port where you can hire a bicycle. The price is about 10 Euro a day. If you are pressed for time, as we were, you can decide on a tour of the island by mini-bus. A driver, acting also as a guide, will take you to the most interesting places and tell you many stories of the island's past and present. The tour, which lasts about 3 hours, costs 10 Euro.
The best way to reach Inis Mor is from the Rossaveal Harbour, Connemara. I advise you not to buy ferry tickets in the first ticket office close to the car park. The price offered there was 25 Euro for a return ticket (August 2006), whereas in the harbour itself there are other offices where we bought tickets for 13 Euro.
This is a don't miss. The Aran islands are traditional Ireland. The largest island, Inis Mor, has over 7,000 miles of stone walls. The cliffs at the fort rival the Cliffs of Mohrer. Take a ferry from either Doolin in Clare or Rossaveal near Connemara. There will be horse drawn carriages and buses waiting to take you around the small island. Horse carriages will cost you a lot more than the bus, but they are more quaint. Do not take a bicycle unless you are an avid bike rider. We saw a lot of people pushing bicycles up hills.
Inishmore is the largest of the Aran Islands but has only about 800 residents and only one sizable village. The island is only 8 miles long but contains around 1400 miles of stone walls! Many parts of the island also have a rocky landscape much like the Burren in County Clare.
No cars are allowed on the island, but you have a choice of four other modes of transportation: walking, biking (bicycles are available to rent), jaunting car, or minibus. These last two options will be available to you near the pier, with several tour guides competing for your business.
Dun Aengus is a large, ancient fort built on the edge of a cliff. Not only is the fort very impressive and surprisingly intact, the views from its location are amazing. The huge rocky cliffs lie in one direction, and looking the other direction you get a great view of the island, since you are at one of its highest points. From the Dun Aengus visitor centre, you will need to walk up the hill to the fort, which takes about 20 minutes. On the other side of the island, check out "Seven Churches", a group of ruined buildings (only two of which were actually churches) surrounded by an ancient cemetery.
Dun Aengus and Seven Churches are two of Inishmore's most well-known attractions, but there is plenty more to see here, including thatched cottages, beaches, stone walls, other forts and ruins, and just the scenery in general.
To avoid the crowds of tourists who come for the day, stay overnight on the island so you can visit its most popular sites in the evening or early morning.
I definitely recommend to spend the night out on one of the Aran Islands. There are a ton of day trippers that go out there during the day and you have most of the island to yourself - also, there is traditional music played at the pub in town.
From the Kilronan page (Aran islands) :
A pre-historic tribe, the Fir Bolg, built Dun Aonghasa fort. The series on concentric circles together with a collection of standing stones 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.
We took the ferry boat over to Inish more island which was very beautiful and peaceful. OUr minibus driver Michael was friendly and chatty like all the Irish people we met, and gave us a full tour of the island. We enjoyed the peace and quiet of the island where there are no private cars, except those of the inhabitants, and we loved the climb up to Dun Aengus fort and the stunning view from the top.
Black Fort is very similar to Dun Aengus, except it is free, and you probobly will not see another tourist for miles.
The trick is that its tought to get to. You can not drive there since there is no road. Also, many maps have this marked miles away from the actual location.
My advice is to rent a bike. You can get close with a bike by following a rough dirt trail. Then, walk the rest of the way.
Dun Aengus is amazing, but the hords of tourists will flock there as soon as they get off the bus.
Instead, see the other sites first, such as the Black Fort, or the Light House, then see Dun Aengus last.
You will be surprised to find that most of the tourists have already left it for other less interesting sites.