The Aran Islands
The Aran Islands have long been associated with the hardy resilience of Ireland’s people.
Celebrated and immortalised in Robert ‘O Flaherty’s 1934 film “The Man of Arran” and beloved of artists, writers and all who relish that raw and real experience of life in the open air. In defiance of their modest size these islands offer a wealth of nourishing experiences: breath-taking scenery, ecclesiastical ruins from early Christian times, medieval castles, cliffs, prehistoric stone forts (sandy beaches, clean air, unique flora and fauna and a rich folklore that the islanders are proud to recount. Meet the people, enjoy an Arran Island atmosphere from cosy firesides to cliffs, awesome archaeological sites and spectacular coastal views.
Here you can appreciate roots of Irish culture in this Gaeltacht area where locals naturally speak the Irish language as they have for generations. Inish Mór, the largest of the Islands is set as a prime tourist attraction. Leave behind the pace of modern life and take an opportunity to slow down while you are here – you can explore the boreens by bicycle or on foot. There’s no better way to meet those fabulous Arran Island donkeys!
If you wish to stay longer than a day the Aran Islands offer excellent options such as Bed and Breakfast accommodation, Hotels, and Hostels.
Inis Mór (Inishmore)
The largest of the Arann islands is called Inis Mór (Inishmore) meaning “the big island”. That being said, the island is only 12km by 3 km in size. A windswept home to over 50 different monuments of Christian, pre-Christian and Celtic mythological heritage, and untouched by industrialisation, the island experience offers a unique glimpse into a bygone Ireland, when man looked always to the sea. Nowhere is this more tangible than at the spectacular pre-historic fort of Dún Aengus. There isn’t far you can go before being somewhere where there’s some-thing of historical interest and little reason to question its importance in modern Irish Culture. If you wish to stay on Inis Mór it is advised that you book your accommodation prior to your departure. Look on the helpful website below for more details.
Inis Meáin (Inishmaan)
Inis Meáin Island is where you’ll find a more authentic escape from the modern world. With a population of 200 people, it is the less visited of the three islands. Visiting Inis Meáin will give you the best chance to acquaint yourself in the precious sanctuary of Irish Cultural tradition. This island has a hilly landscape. It also features crystal clear views of the cliffs of Moher. This island was a retreat for Synge, one of the most famous playwrights to emerge from Ireland, and continues to inspire artists and writers to this day. More recently it has become a centre for diving with its beautiful marine life and clear waters. The island also features cultural courses in themes as diverse as dance, poetry. A popular “Road Race” along this spectacular island coast is held yearly in the Springtime to support the local school(www.inisironmeain.com). Resident business, Inismeáin knitwear, bring the unique island tradition of Irish outdoor wear to an international market (www.inismeain.ie) . As there is no bank on the island, the bank flies in once a month to do business. So it’s a good idea to come prepared – you never know what you might want to take home with you.
Inis Oírr (Inisheer)
The smallest of the islands is characterized by its distinctive charm. The island is 3km by 3km wide with small hills and intricate little valley’s and is easily covered by foot or by bike This island has a character similar to the Burren with its unusual eclectic mix of colour and the Cliffs of Moher clearly visible in all its panoramic splendour. From the pier you are greeted with a pristine carpeted white sandy beach facing clear crystal turquoise water and plenty of fishing boats, their nets, and fisherman returning at the end of the day with their catch.
Inis Oirr is also home to St. Kevin’s church or Teampal Chaomhain. Over a thousand years old now, it has sunk deeply into a sandy hill close to the shore. The saint is thought to be a brother of St. Kevin of Glendalough. His feast day is celebrated locally on June 14th.
This appears to have been a popular spot among Ireland’s noble early Christian leaders of old.
You can also visit St. Gobnait’s Church, or Cill Ghobnait, the Church of the Seven Daughters, or Cill na Seacht nInghean. This is thought to be the same St. Gobnait who is associated with the little Gaeltacht area of Ballyvourney in Co. Cork.
The main village area is right next to the beach and is enclosed by a small hill bearing a castle and fort at the summit keeping vigil over the islanders and its visitors. This is O’Brien’s Castle, a 15th century tower house that stands within a stone fort.
A walk to the lighthouse or the shipwreck of the Plassy is a great occasion where you feel the island with its diverse landscape unfold before your eyes and encounter the rare flora and fauna that thrive in the salty air.
Inside the village you will find a strong local community still adhering to the traditional Irish way of life. The island features a traditional music bar which is has a nationwide reputation for the finest of traditional music and a great night out. The island also has an arts center. Find out more about this island on www.discoverinisoirr.com.
Getting to the Islands
There are two main choices when it comes to accessing these jewels of green land in the vast Atlantic ocean. By sea or by air. Visitors can choose to travel as locals have done for countless generations, by sea – taking in the rhythm of the sea, the salty air and the spectacular scenery. Or, choose to leave fair earth and take to the skies with Aer Arann.
The Aran Islands are located just off the coast of Galway and Clare. The traditional local boat, the currach, would have once been the most common mode of transport for those who wished to access these islands. Today they are accessible by ferry daily from Doolin in Clare (www.doolinferries.com) and Ros a mhíl, just 23 km west of Galway city. Ferries also cater for wheel chair users and cyclists may bring their bikes too. It is advised to book in advance. For more details visit www.arranislandferries.com.
With frequent daily flights at less than ten minutes from lift-off to touch-down, Aer Arann Islands serves both commuting locals and visitors making the most of a day trip, and especially for a fast hop to an island holiday. All flights depart and arrive to Connemara Regional Airport, reachable by a scenic drive- and featuring free parking facilities; or a convenient shuttle bus service from the city centre. In addition to a regular service, Aer Arann Islands also provide charter flights for freight, passengers, and scenic flights. To find out more about this service you can visit www.aerarannislands.ie.