There are three Aran islands. They are Inishmore (Inis Mor, in Gaelic), Inishmaan (Inis Meain), and Inisheer (Inis Oirr). They are rocky isles near the mouth of Galway Bay. They are in Western Ireland. They have many ancient sites. Inishmore, which is the largest of the islands, is home to a fort called Dun Aengus which is on a cliff. There is another location called the Worm Hole that is a natural pool in a rectangle shape. There are also ruins of medieval churches.

There is a beauty about the Aran Islands and the lives their inhabitants lead. Cliffs keep the southern part of the island secure as they did in medieval times. There are fields with stone walls along the island even though there are only six inches of topsoil. There are hidden sandy beaches. Most visitors go to Inishmore which is the largest of the Aran Islands. While there they can take a tour by minivan to Dun Aengus, get a bite to eat, and browse the shops and perhaps have a drink of Guinness.

 

Ruins of the Dun Aengus Fort, Inishmore. (Chris Hill / Tourism Ireland)

Ruins of the Dun Aengus Fort, Inishmore. (Chris Hill / Tourism Ireland)

 

You can take a short flight or a ferry ride that lasts about 45 minutes to the islands, from Rossaveel ferry port which is near Galway. Galway is the main town on the coast there. The islands which are made up of limestone are a great destination. Inishmore is 9 miles of land with one town called Kilronan. The town has a sleepy feel and a charm despite being weather-beaten. The landscape of all three islands is harsh. It is windswept, and steep with rugged cliffs.

The other islands are smaller, with fewer people and not as many tourists. The locals speak Gaelic but they will speak English with tourists happily. There are less than a hundred cars on the island, and most of them are probably minibusses. A line of them waits for the ferry to arrive and then give island tours with stops at the major sites.

There is a mysterious history to this area as there is with the rest of Ireland. The fort built in the Iron Age Dun Aenghus was the most impressive in its time in all of Europe. Little is known about it. It is spectacular on the edge of a cliff with a 200-foot drop into the ocean. There is no fencing at all, just the sheer drop.

 

The climate of the Arans, as with most of Ireland, is inhospitable to the breeds of sheep that produce the softest wools, so most wool for Aran sweaters is imported. (Tuoermin / Wikimedia Commons)

The climate of the Arans, as with most of Ireland, is inhospitable to the breeds of sheep that produce the softest wools, so most wool for Aran sweaters is imported. (Tuoermin / Wikimedia Commons)

 

There is also the “Seven Churches” which is historic but not impressive per se. It is in ruins and fragments of chapels, crosses and monastic houses. There are reminders of early Christianity. They honor St. Enda, who established a monastery on the island and brought monks to the area. These Irish clergies are considered the “Irish Apostles” which started a golden age referred to as the “Age of Saints and Scholars.” This took place from A.D. 500-900. There was religious art, literature, and an overall period of learning. Europe imported Irish monks to write for them, as Europe was nearly illiterate.

The Irish were eventually, told by the British to split their land among all their sons. This made large properties fragmented and could starve a family. British landlords eventually took over though largely absent. Then the land ended up as possession of British landlords who were largely absent. shrinking lots to sizes just large enough to starve a family. The rock-fenced tiny lots that carve up the land serve as a reminder to the poverty that shaped history for the occupants of the Aran Islands.

 

Two women with a spinning wheel on the Aran Islands, 1898. (John Millington Synge / Trinity College Dublin)

Two women with a spinning wheel on the Aran Islands, 1898. (John Millington Synge / Trinity College Dublin)

 

There have been many creatives who have come here over the years even though the location seems a world apart. Several are the Irish Literary Revival playwright John Millington Synge, and the artist Sean Scully. Colm Tóibín, a novelist, as well as historian and cartographer Tim Robinson, are also included in this list.

Tarlach de Blácam and Áine Ní Chonghaile, his wife, started a clothing brand in 1976, called the Inis Meáin Knitting Company. It has been very successful. The clothing is carried at retailers in Tokyo and New York. They bring together the old-fashioned as well as know how that would only come from a place like Ireland. They are also very forward thinking. They are creating special business knitted garments that people love and appreciate.

 

This Aran sweater, from 1943, was featured in a 2017 exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art in New York called Items: Is Fashion Modern? (National Museum of Ireland)

This Aran sweater, from 1943, was featured in a 2017 exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art in New York called Items: Is Fashion Modern? (National Museum of Ireland)

 

The Aran Islands are a lovely place to visit. They have many ancient sites for you to explore. With tours and places to shop, you’ll surely be busy for a day. And, if you’re looking for a slice of Aran without the vacation expense, check out ShamrockGift.com’s full range of Men’s and Women’s Aran sweaters.

 

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Have you traveled to the Aran Islands? Let us know in the comments below!

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