The cracked limestone terrain of the Aran Islands, lying about 45km out in Galway Bay, links them geologically with the Burren, in County Clare. The islands are flattish, but tilt towards massive sea cliffs in some places. making a living on these bleak rock platforms, virtually treeless and exposed to the full to the full brunt of Atlantic storms, has always been a struggle. large areas have no natural depth of soil and the islanders have painstakingly created fields from a mixture of sand and seaweed compost, protecting them with an intricate network of dry stone walls.
Today’s dwindling population of islanders subsist on their age-old livelihoods of fishing and farming, and increasingly on tourism. Many speak Gaelic and a few still wear traditional Aran dress. The high-powered canvas fishing boats called “currachs” are used around here, and you may see them being carried up from the beach over the men’s heads, like giant beetles, to protect the skin from the rocks.
Aran has always inspired a strong tradition of literature and oral story telling; J M Synge set his play “Riders to the Sea” here, and the classic film, “Man of Aran”, made by the Irish-American director Robert Flaherty, in 1934, depicted the harsh life on the islands.
Inishmore is the largest and most visited island. You can explore by bike, on foot, take a minibus or hire a pony-trap ride along its 12km spinal road. Inishmore has a wealth of ancient monuments, notably one of Ireland’s outstanding prehistoric sites, the remarkable cliff fort of Dun Aengus. Three concentric horseshoe rings of stone perched atop mighty cliffs seem an odd place of refuge, so exposed to the elements and with a sheer drop to the roaring sea below. Its precise age and purpose are still a mystery.
The smaller islands of Inishmaan and Inisheer both have small fortresses, churches and folk museums to visit.
So if you are on any tours of Ireland…hopefully with Ireland Luxury Tours…consider visiting the Aran Islands…..