The Aran Islands are located in the west of Ireland in a place where the warm current of Galway meets the Atlantic Ocean. They protect the coast of Ireland from the elements, and in ancient times prevented the invasion of enemies. Three islands - Inishmore, Inishman and Inishir - are famous for their unique landscapes, buildings of the Bronze and Iron Ages. This is a reserved land: here the population is engaged in animal husbandry and fishing, as many centuries ago, speaks Irish and Gaelic, travels on water in boats covered in animal skins.
In summer, a ferry runs between the islands, and the rest of the time you can get to each island only from the coast. Cars will have to be left on about. Ireland - on the Aran Islands, tourists travel on foot, by bike and pony. Each of the islands has a landing strip for small aircraft.
Inishmore - "Big Brother", the main bait for tourists
Inishmore Island is the largest of the three, 13 km in length. The rocky limestone plain, crossed by grass paths, looks like a man-made landscape, and even from the sea the cliffs also look like they are made of giant building blocks. Soft limestone, formed by layers of marine animals and corals millions of years ago, is destroyed by wind and water pressure, which act more strongly on the gaps between the layers. Such work of the elements creates a unique relief that glorified the island.
Fans of antiquity are attracted to ancient buildings, whose age is not always possible to determine. Stone forts, built thousands of years BC, protected the ancient inhabitants - but scientists also believe that they served as a place for the rites of the Druids. There are several of them in Inishmore, Dun Aonghasa (Fort of Engus, the Celtic god of love) is especially popular.
Dun Aengus is located on the edge of a hundred-meter steep cliff, overlooking the ocean and the coast of Ireland. Aengus fort is a rounded stone wall, sometimes reaching up to 6 m high, made of stones without mortars. Stones hold only due to their weight, but ancient technologies are so perfect that the walls are more than one thousand years old. In the center of the fort is an ancient fortress. Built by Dun-Engus in the 11th century BC
There are two more forts in Inishmore that are at least 2,000 years old. Dun Eochla and Dun Duchathair (Black Fort) are located in the center of the island on the hills - you can reach them only on foot by stones, so there are much fewer tourists, and the views are grandiose. Those who got to Dun Duchathair write that they got the strongest impressions here.
The history of Christian doctrine on the islands begins in the 6th century AD: it was brought here by missionaries, some of whom were canonized as saints. On Inishmore, among the ancient stone tombs, there are graves of 4 saints, next to it is the holy spring and the ruins of the Church of the Four Saints.
In Killeani is the smallest church in the world. Brendan (XI century AD), near Ministir is located Timpoll Chiarain, a church of the XII century.
Another attraction is the Wormhole Natural Pool: the pool is a rectangular hole in the rock that the water fills from below.
The main souvenir of the Aran Islands is the Aran wool sweater. A sweater made of local wool with "braids" has long been a tradition for every Aranian sailor, and each family wove its own special pattern. Needlewomen from all over the world call the complex wicker pattern on products Aran, because these patterns were born here on the Aran Islands. Now they are knitted with machine knitting, but the quality of the wool and the beauty of the pattern are worth it to spend money on a local attraction. In the village of Kilronan there is a museum-market of Aran sweaters.
"The Middle Brother" Inishman - Tall and Green
Unlike Inishmor, Inishman is more fertile, overgrown with herbs, greens. The vegetation on the Aran Islands is unexpected: due to the proximity of the warm current, subtropical flora can be found here. Despite the cool climate, palms can be found near houses in villages.
The cliffs of Inishman are higher, the cliffs are steeper. In a storm, fountains of water fly out of holes in the rocks under pressure - this is the “visiting card” of the island.
The ancient builders of stone fortifications left their mark here too: Dun Konkubhair was built at the beginning of the 1st millennium. Powerful stone walls are arranged in a semicircle and constructed using gravity, like the walls on neighboring islands.
Inisheer Island: the smallest, but by no means the worst
Inisheer Island is advised by experienced tourists to explore on carts: the terrain is hilly, it’s hard to move on it, and the locals will ride their stunted horses, they will show everything.
It is worth to see it:
- the remains of stone churches of the VIII-X centuries. AD
- the remains of the Church of St. Kevin and St. Gobnite
- Church of the Seven Daughters
- ancient mound that is more than 3000 years old
- O'Brien Castle. Clan O'Brienov built his castle on Inishir in the 14th century, and in the 16th century lost it in battle to another clan.
From Inishira there is a ferry to the coast of Ireland, to the famous cliffs of Moher, from where you can continue your journey through the western part of Ireland.