3 reasons to Rent or Hire a bike on Inis Mor (Inishmore)


Summer is upon us here on Inis Mor (Inishmore).  We recently asked several people what were ‘the three best things about Renting a bike on Inis Mor (Inishmore) Island’. Here are the three main conclusions.


1. Renting a bike on Inis Mor (Inishmore) and cycling around simply helps you have a great day.

There is just something about arriving on Inis Mor (Inishmore) island and cycling. The journey is not very long and is easy for most people to do. The route to Dun Aonghasa is relatively flat. Most people seemed to like the isolation the island offered and simply enjoyed being the fresh air. They also liked the range of things to see such as; The seal colony, The various monuments and churches, The wild flowers and birds, The stone walls.



2. Dun Aonghasa is the main attraction on Inis Mor (Inishmore).

If you were isolate one event of the day, everyone interviewed really enjoyed the experience of being at Dun Aonghasa and saw this as a highlight of the day. The whole experience of being at Dun Aonghasa includes, The Cliff views and the view of The Cliffs of Moher, The view of the whole island, The fort itself, The fresh air, The sea rolling against the cliffs, the wonderful view of the whole island, the Heritage center.



3. Cycling around Inis Mor (Inishmore) Island is not an expensive day out.

Simply put, for the price of renting a bike on Inis Mor (Inishmore) Island, everyone felt that is excellent value for money




The post 3 reasons to Rent or Hire a bike on Inis Mor (Inishmore) appeared first on Aran Bike Hire.

Source: bike hire

Inis Oírr – The Little Sister of the Aran Islands

Inis Oirr grave yard

There are three Aran Islands and the smallest – the little sister of Aran – is Inis Oírr (pronounced Inish Sheer).  The name means “island of the east”  and it is the most easterly of the three. It is not as popular as the largest island, Inis Mor – but if you love mystery, you’ll love Inis Oírr.  It has the expected Irish cottage-style houses, endless stone walls winding around the landscape, fishing boats, and beautiful Celtic crosses in the cemetery.  But this little island with just 300 inhabitants also has a castle ruin, a shipwreck, a Bronze Age tomb, a holy well, a beautiful beach and an old church ruin that sits 6 feet below the ground – a result of the Atlantic winds burying it with sand.


Much like the Burren, Inis Oírr is solid rock.  For thousands of years Islanders spread seaweed and sand over the rock to cultivate a little patch of green where potatoes could grow and cattle could graze.  The soil on Inis Oírr is seldom thicker than a few inches in any one place.  Islanders picked up the rocks that covered the ground and piled them up to make stone walls. These eventually became enclosures for cattle.  If you lined up all the stone walls on the islands in a linear direction, they would cross the entire country.  It’s a magnificent, windswept, damp, wild, rocky landscape.

The primary economy is seafood.  It’s a very similar lifestyle to the offshore islands in Maryland.  The families earn their incomes through harvesting seafood and tourism, with a little bit of “side-work” thrown in hear and there.  Cooperative groups handle things that generally affect all the islanders like how to manage debris and garbage, keep the beach and roads up and settle issues that affect the entire island.

But the landscape is the polar opposite of our Maryland islands.  Instead of rich swampy marshes and mud there is rock and rock and more rock.  Instead of sweltering heat and humidity you can slice with a fishing rod, the Aran Islands have a temperate climate that is not too hot in the summer and not too cold in the winter.

There’s a beautiful beach on the island with water the shade of green I remember seeing in the Caribbean.  The beach has a wide sandy area, but also has remnants of boats lying about that have all seen better days.  Curraghs, a type of island row boat, are all over the island.

The islanders use curraghs for fishing.  They were first built with timbers covered with animal skins.  Now they’re much more durable, usually made of fiberglass.  A fisherman told me that the front of the curragh is slightly elevated and the bottoms of are curved or rounded.  This is so the boat can cut through wave head on and and roll over the waves when the hit from the side. Three men can fish from one curragh.

The island land is divided between the islanders, each family having about 20 acres.  I asked an islander if there were summer homes or Americans that live on the island.  He said there were two Americans who lived there because they married islanders.  He explained that you can’t just move to Inis Oírr, because nothing is for sale.  A landowner will pass his land to one child and that child will pass it on to his or her child.  All other children must find lives off the island, because there’s no land for them to live on




I wanted to visit Inis Oírr because of the legend of St. Gobnait.  This island was where Gobnait received her vision to go to the place where she’d find nine white deer grazing.  That would be her place of resurrection.  That is where she’ll be safe.  That is where her spirit will be most alive.

Finding one’s Place of Resurrection is an integral part of the thin places concept.

Gobnait saw the nine white deer in Ballyvourney in West Cork.  She founded a monastic community there that flourished, and she became the patron saint of Ballyvourney and is beloved by all the people in Cork.  Her holy well there is a huge pilgrimage site.

She saw three white deer in Clondrohid and followed them to Ballymakeera where she saw six more. But it wasn’t until she came to Ballyvourney to a small rise overlooking the River Sullane that she saw the nine white deer all together – grazing … just as the angel from Inis Oírr had prophesied. She crossed the river and settled there. She founded a religious community for women, performed memorable – some say miraculous works, and it was there she died and was buried.  read full post on the Thin Places blog site

There’s stunning little church ruin presently on the spot where St. Gobnaits had her vision there on Inis Oírr, The church dates back to the  8th and 9th century structure still stands on the Island next to the remains of a beehive hut.  According to the legend, it was in or near this place that she had her vision.  I also knew that there was a holy well on the island.  So these were the two things I wanted to see the most.




What a dismal day it was.  The clouds stuck to the hills reducing visibility to the immediate surroundings. There was a constant misty rain.  I’d read in a guide book that you could hire a pony and cart or a mini bus to get an island tour.   I confirmed that at the Galway City Tourism Office.  There were ponies and horses and open carts alright, but I didn’t see any mini-buses.  Before I could ask anyone about a bus, a young man began to try and talk us into his carriage ride.  The conversation went like this…

Young man:  “Would you like tour of the island? Sure, I’ll take you to the castle and the shipwreck and the lake and beach”

Me:  I was really looking for a minibus tour.

Young man:  Oh, there are no buses.  What ya need a bus for.  It’s a great day.

Me:  It’s raining.

Young man:  It’s only misty.  That adds to the charm. C’mon, I’ll take the three of you

Me:  There are no buses?

Young man:  There are buses.

Me:  How much?

Young man:  $50 euros for the three of you.

Me:  Do you have a site related to St. Gobnait?

Young man:  Uhh.. yes.  There’s a church.

Me:  How about dolmens, standing stones, sacred sites.

Young man: No dolmens, no stones.  We have a church… yeah.  And a saint.

Me: You have a saint?

Young man:  St. Kevin. C’mon hop in, we’re losing time.

So we got into this young man’s carriage and it was a delightful ride.  He later admitted he owned a mini-bus and when I asked him about his previous comment stating there were no buses he said, “Had I had my bus with me today, there’d have been no carriages, see?”

He was an excellent guide, had a great sense of humor and I felt I’d certainly got my money’s worth.  But he knew little about thin places or the concept of mystical landscapes.  He knew nothing about St. Gobnait except that she was from Cork.  But he knew much about the castle, shipwreck, lake and history of the island.  His name was Aidan. I would highly recommend him if you’re ever on the island.

Though Aidan gave a fantastic tour, I was a little disappointed that there seemed to be less identified mystical places – and not an apparent great love for them that I found in the islanders on Inis Mor.



The first stop was a Bronze Age tomb.  This was uncovered by a storms gradually blowing the sand off until it was eventually visible on the surface of the land in 1885.  You can see that the two standing stones mark the grave and the slight stone wall is where the islanders uncovered human remains along with Bronze Age treasures tucked in with the bones.  The whole thing is set atop a huge mound similar to the style of tombs seen in Lough Crew and the Boyne Valley.



Just beyond the tomb is the old rusty relic known as the Plassy Wreck.  The ship ran aground in a storm in 1960.  All the crew were saved but the ship was abandoned.  Eventually, it was cast up on the rocks and has been sitting there since.



The patron of Inis Oírr is St. Kevin.  He was the brother of St. Kevin of Glendalough and both Kevin’s studied under St. Enda, a great religious scholar in his day.  Enda resided on Inis Mor, but had a reputation as a great teacher and showed a presence on all the islands and on the region.  The two Kevins in confusing.  Obviously there’s a mistake as two brothers would not have the exact same name.  But the islanders don’t care.  They claim this Kevin and they’re sticking with the name they have for this saint.  To them the great St. of Glendalough is just “the other Kevin.”

The church of St. Kevin is buried in the earth, and one must climb down into the ground to get to it.   It dates back to the 10 and 14th centuries, but it was continually covered with sand and had to be dug out regularly.  Another islander told me they deliberately built the church in a “dug-in” style to protect it from the elements.  I’m no scholar, no I make no assessments, but I’ll enjoy learning more about this special place.  The church still has its altar in tact and above it is a beautiful stone carving of Christ.  There are cut-outs in the stone where pilgrims will place devotional candles and stones as tokens of devotion.   St. Kevin (of Inis Oírr) is buried beneath an oratory just next to the church.  The island graveyard fills in the grounds around the church.



Visible from almost every perspective on the island is O’Brien’s Castle.  The ruins date back to when the O’Briens owned the island.  The castle is three stories high and was eventually razed by Cromwellian types in the 17th century.  It’s ruins haunt the island skyline.

Finally, Aidan took us to St. Gobnait’s church (pictured earlier in this post).  This is much smaller than Kevin’s church and is much more remote and unkempt.  The roofless structure dates to the 8th century and close by are the remains of a cloghan or beehive hut.  I stopped for a minute and remembered Gobnait.  I thought of what it must have been like to be fleeing in fear, a single woman.  Then to have this vision about how to blindly navigate this unfriendly, wild landscape to a place where an invisible presence is leading you, a place where you will not only be safe, but you will belong.  A place you’ll know when you get there.  That’s some serious trust.



After his stellar tour, Aidan deposited me at the beach and I walked through the village.  I couldn’t decide what to do with the next hour.  So I kept walking.  There were two horse  / carriage drivers chatting in the road.  I knew they’d ask about touring the island and I was formulating my answers, how I’d gently and politely explain I’d already been on a tour.  One of the drivers was older  – maybe late 60s or 70s.  I said hello, and he nodded.  Then he said, “Would you like to go for a ride and see the Holy Well?”


I figured Aidan must have tipped this guy off by cell phone call.  “Hey the holy lady looking for religious stuff is coming.”  I asked this man to tell me more about the well.  He said it was St Enda’s well.  I said, “I thought St. Enda was from …..”  the man completed my sentence, “Inis Mor. Yes, he was from Inis Mor, but he spent time here too and he lived in a cloghan on the other side of the island. Many people believe the well has healing power – healing power for everything, not just one thing like the eyes or the heart – everything.  And it never dries up.”

I jumped in the carriage and had one of the most meaningful tours I’ve ever had in Ireland.



The man’s name was Stiofán (Stephen in Irish).  He was quiet but ready to share all he could about the island way of life.  I soaked it up.  He didn’t seem the religious sort, and I thought it strange that he asked only if I wanted to visit the well.  He didn’t mention the other sites along this side of the island – like the seals, or the fisherman’s working areas … nothing but the holy well.

When we got to the well, Stiofán explained that there are many local devotees that will visit the well on nine consecutive Sundays as a sort of devotional pilgrimage.  He also explained that there are many wells on the island and fresh water streams flowing beneath the rock, but this well never runs dry.  People believe it has healing power.  He said there is also an eel that appears from time to time in the well.  “Some people have seen the eel.  They’re the said to be the holy ones.  I’ve never seen the eel.”

Then Stiofán surprised me.  He got down on his knees and scooped water from the well with his hand to bless himself three times.  The well meant something to him after all.  I was humbled.  Really … humbled is the only word I can think of.  There was a gentle holiness about this man, and it revealed itself to me there at St. Enda’s well.  What an encounter.

I kinda figure he should have seen the eel.

I will take a group back to Inis Oírr someday, and we’ll visit St.Enda’s well.  I hope we’re lucky enough to have Stiofán lead us there.  He’s a rare one.

If you get to Inis Oírr before me … ask for Stiofán.  And ask him to show you the holy well.




My pics for books and music that reflect the Aran charism

Best place to be

golden path

Sure he must have felt his reasons why he slipped in. Was it perhaps the light which shone so brightly from the inside or maybe the heavenly sounds elicited from the harp? Anyway both of them had the quality to prepare him a warm welcome. Actually thinking back, I suppose the main reason for him to come was that he wanted to be assured of the best place he could ever get for the following morning which was now still available. And the music and the light would have strengthened his desire to do what he did…

Golden path

It was quiet that same evening when I went over for closing. The sun had already set. Nice colours marked the sky and there was no wind of any importance. The birds had probably found their shelter for the night yet at least I did not hear any tone of them. The only animal I did see was the cow near Dún Chonchúir, she looked at me without actually looking. I suppose I distracted her out of her atmosphere of the night.

Dún Chonchúir

As I used to do when I enter in the evening, I first had a look inside if someone was still in. Then I blocked the door and went through.

in front of the altar

In front of the altar

Only a few candles were still lightened but those gave everything around the altar an intensified and intimate glance. I saw lovely bunches of flowers everywhere around as well as on a small table in the front on which a lovely embroidered cloth was laid. In addition there was a booklet called An Chéad Chomaoineach (the First Communion) with a picture of the children attending the school, the receiving child to be, inclusive. Between the first benches there was the covered harp and the music. Everything looked tenderly looked after. I extinguished the candles and left.

When I returned the following morning and lit the candles again I heard an ongoing chirping. It was only when I unlocked the door that the bird which seemed to be so eager to be in the oncoming festivity, emerged.

agus as go brách leisAgus as go brách leis (and off he went)

Slán go fóill,

Elisabeth from Inis Meáin

Source:: aranisland.info

Why Should One Visit Aran Islands Once In Their Lifetime?

The Aran Islands are a cluster of three islands located on the West Coast of Ireland at the entrance of Galway Bay. The three islands are namely Inishmore, Inishmaan and Inisheer of which Inishmore is the largest and Inisheer is the smallest. These islands are home to a population of approximately 1,200 people who use Irish and English as their prime languages. When people talk about islands, one often pictures crowded sandy beaches with plenty of sun and surf action.

However, The Aran Islands are nothing like you might have pictured about islands in general. The Aran Islands are known for its serene ‘spiritual’ atmosphere, limestone landscape surrounded by miles and miles of stone walls, isolated blue flag beaches, stretches of spectacular cliffs and a mosaic mix of pre christian and christian monastic sites. This is unlike anywhere you might have visited in the past. If you are bored of visiting the party rich Hawaii Islands, Andaman Islands or Maldives etc. you might want to consider visiting The Aran Islands for a totally fresh experience.

IMG_46281.Old Ireland Revisited

If you have been to Ireland in the 19th century you might know how it has changed over the years where modern cities have replaced the old Irish outdoors. The Aran Islands however have remained untouched by modernization and urban culture and retains the old Irish culture to a large extent. Irish or Gaelic is still the primary language of the Aran island inhabitants although most people can speak fluent English.

1 (7)2.Tranquility Like No Other

The landscapes in the Aran Islands largely comprise of old Irish Pubs, small Restaurants, and pre-Christian era forts and the remaining terrain is mostly covered with vast stretches of green countryside, limestone rock, and eternal stone walls. The waters are great for angling and taking a bike ride provides a feeling of being one with nature and experience a moment of immense calm and tranquility. The Aran Islands are one of the most serene escapades one can ever think of having.

IMG_24813. A View to Remember

The Aran Islands have been inhabited by humans since the Bronze and the Iron Ages. There are several ancient forts from the Bronze and Iron Ages located by the cliffs facing the Atlantic Sea. Dun Aengus which is located on a 300 foot cliff face, The Black Fort, O’Brien’s Castle, Teampull Bheanáin, Teampall an Cheathrair Álainn are few of the famous forts located in the Aran Islands which are famous for their scenic location. What make the place special are the low number of visitors and a complete absence of human population over here.

IMG_24754. The Ruins from History

The Aran Islands are known for its history that goes back to more than 5000 years and is known for its ruins from the later Bronze Age. Few of the first Christian era buildings have also been greatly preserved in Aran Islands. Several medieval forts and churches from the 9th and the 10th century are also located in Aran Islands and are few of the most popular attractions in Ireland. limestone landscape in Inishmore and the Na Seacht Teampaill and Dun Aonghasa, are a few of the several attractions that make this place worthy of being a World Heritage Site.

2014-02-21 13.10.285. For Adventure Lovers

If you think The Aran Islands are a treat for just the nature enthusiasts or people who are looking for a place to relax and enjoy the view, then you might be wrong. The Aran Islands has some of the best rock climbing spots in the world with cliffs that are 300 foot high.

It also has some great off road cycling tracks, serene turquoise water for divers and snorkelers and particularly large waves for surfing in the winter months.

IMG_2559If you are not interested in history or how civilizations came to exist and are looking for some adventure to pump up your adrenalin, then rock climbing could be the thing to try. The jagged and rocky cliffs of The Aran Islands are an attraction for rock climbers although most people are drawn to the views and atmosphere of the cliffs as relaxing sight. Dun Aonghasa is the main attraction for tourists visiting Inis Mor Island and is one of the main features of the Wild Atlantic Way.

Further adding to this, Poll na bPéist which is a naturally occurring wormhole at the base of a cliff that leads to a 91 foot drop, is the venue for the Redbull Cliff Diving competition.


5. For Fun

Like the great scenery and serene atmosphere that the Aran Islands contain, the people are overly friendly and welcoming. The islands are also home to several unusual and quirky customs and traditions which are healthy sources of entertainment for the visitors;especially the Ted Fest where inhabitants indulge themselves in a drinking fiesta while being dressed as Priests and Nuns.

St. Patrick’s Day on the Aran Islands

St. Patrick’s Day – is probably one of the most well-

known feast days throughout the world. It is celebrated in

numerous countries outside of Ireland as well as here on the

“Emerald Isle” and in many cases with parades much larger than

you would even see here. It is estimated that 70 million worldwide

join in the celebrations on this day.


When we think of St. Patrick’s Day we automatically think of

green, from the beautiful fresh Shamrock to food and green beer

and everything in between.


But how much do we actually know about St. Patrick? How he

came to be one of the most celebrated Saint’s in the world?

I will tell you as much as I know and forgive me if I am wrong –

St. Patrick was actually born “Maewyn Succat” and was born in

Kilpatrick in Scotland in approx. 387 AD.


It is told that when he was sixteen years of age Maewyn was

captured by Celtic raiders and spent some time in Ireland as a

slave.  He spent a lot of time learning customs and languages of

Celtic Druids and began to convert these people to Catholics.

We understand that he had a dream one night in which God

spoke to him and said “your ship is ready” and St. Patrick knew

that we would escape by ship back to Britain. Some- time later he

dreamt about getting a letter which claimed that it was “the voice

of the Irish”. On opening the letter, he could hear “Irish ”voices

begging him to return to Ireland.


He decided to study and become ordained as a Bishop in the

Catholic Church and returned to Ireland to start a Church here.

He was met with many obstacles along the way but stayed

determined and eventually by combining old Celtic beliefs and

traditions with the Catholic Faith founded a strong base for the

Religion in Ireland.


St. Patrick is also said to have banished snakes from Ireland,

Legend has it that he stood on a hilltop, dressed in his formal

green attire, and waved his staff to herd all the slithering

creatures into the sea, expelling them from the Emerald Isle

forever,  there hasn’t been a snake seen in Ireland since 461 AD

(expect for the odd household pet and zoo creature),  I , for one

am very glad of this .


Symbols for St. Patrick’s Day:

Probably the most famous is the Shamrock; the shamrock is

a type of clover with three leaves. It was used by St. Patrick

to explain the meaning of the Holy Trinity, with The Father,

Son and Holy Spirt.  To this day, the Shamrock is looked on

as a symbol of good luck and is worn pinned to clothes on St.

Patrick’s Day.


Wearing the Green, Blue was the colour originally

associated with St. Patrick, but as Ireland is known as “The

Emerald Isle” due to its green infrastructure. Green became

more associated with the feast of the Patron Saint. Also the

green in the flag and the clover St. Patrick used in his

teachings about Catholicism played a big role in why green

is the colour now associated with all things Irish.


Other symbols of St. Patrick’s Day are: Leprechauns, The

Harp, and The Celtic Cross.  While I can tell you of the

beautiful music from a traditional Harp and have pages and

pages of history in relation to the Celtic cross… The

Leprechauns are a whole other story… but if you do seen

someone with a crock of gold, at the bottom of a rainbow,

don’t let him go and oh yeah, give me a call. !!

St. Patrick’s Day is reported to be celebrated by over 70

million worldwide, (give or take a few).  The celebrations

include some or all of the following, in whatever order suits



Attend Mass (if you wish) – Mass is celebrated by Catholics

to remember the Saint. Wear Green. Pin Shamrock on you.

Attend a parade, held locally throughout all of Ireland and

in many many countries worldwide.


Eat green food (some not naturally green, but green for the

day).  Drink green drinks, (some also not naturally green, but

green for the day).


Listen to and enjoy some traditional music, dance if you can.

Catch up with family; it is almost a “mini Christmas

celebration” for families.


Just celebrate being Irish or just being with the Irish.

If you plan to be in Ireland for St. Patrick’s Day, be sure to find

out from the local tourist information, what is happening, where,

what time and be sure to join it.


St.Patrick’s Day on the Aran Islands.

There will be lots of great events on the Aran Islands on St.

Patrick’s Day – There is a parade on Inishmore starting at 1pm,

with music and celebrations all day in the many bars.  Where you

can immerse yourself in tradition, music, great food and above all

great craic.


The weekend before, there is the first ever Aran Celtic

Music Festival,  It is a three day celebration of Celtic music, dance and



Renowned artists from Ireland and the Celtic Diaspora

coming together for a unique fusion of our shared culture

on the intimate setting of the Aran island of Inis Mor.


Seated concerts and readings, dance floored Ceilis and some

of the best pub sessions you will ever have the pleasure of

taking part in will create three days of unforgettable Celtic



Please see the festival website : http://www.ceilteach.ie,

where you will see the full list of events and everything you

need to know about the weekend.

Who knows , I might just see you there ….!

Lá fhéile Pádraig sona dhuit!

Marcella Gemmell .

The Aran Islands in the dead of winter – a life-changing experience


I’d been to Ireland dozens of times, but a winter’s day on Inishmore was something else entirely.Photo by: Arkell Weygandt

“What if we just didn’t get on the ferry?”

All three of us had been thinking it as we cycled the coast road of Inishmore back to the main village of Kilronan, where the 5:00 pm ferry was waiting to make the last trip of the day back to the mainland.

We pulled our rental bikes over to the side of the road, each of us quietly debating how crazy it would be to forgo our New Year’s Eve plans and cozy AirBnB in Galway for a few more hours on Inishmore, the largest of the Aran Islands. We had 20 minutes to decide.

The main road on Inishmore. Photo: Arkell Weygandt

The main road on Inishmore. Photo: Arkell Weygandt

The border collie who had been gamely running alongside our bikes for the past half hour stopped to take a drink from a puddle and wove around our legs, leaping up affectionately.

A white cat the shape of a large cotton ball emerged from the pub Ti Joe Watty’s, padded across the road, perched on a stone wall and looked at us quizzically.

The cat from Joe Watty's. Photo: Arkell Weygandt

The cat from Joe Watty’s. Photo: Arkell Weygandt

That was that.

Arkell, my boyfriend, and I walked in to Joe Watty’s where a welcoming fire was just getting going and a few local gents were settling at the bar with pints. His sister Annalisa, who’d been the first to speak up about wanting to stay, cycled off towards a sign that said B&B.

The barman raised a skeptical brow when we asked him if he knew where we could find last minute accommodation. But he went to the phone and returned with the welcome news that “the hostel up the hill” was open and had room for us.

The famous Joe Watty's. Photo: Arkell Weygandt

The famous Joe Watty’s. Photo: Arkell Weygandt

We raced to the pier and confirmed with the bemused boatman that we could use our tickets for the morning ferry instead, slipped a note under the door of the shed where we’d rented the bikes saying we’d return them in the morning, and headed back up the hill on Inishmore’s main road to Mainistir House Hostel, arriving just as darkness set in.

We’d set out for Inishmore bright and early that morning from Galway, boarding a shuttle bus that took us to the Aran Islands Ferry at Rossaveal. It was a grand soft day, meaning that the rain was pouring and the wind was blustering and the small ferry rocked from side to side throughout the 30 minute journey, sprays of ocean water pouring over the top deck.

In the summer, during the peak of the tourist season, hundreds of visitors flock to the three Aran Islands each day by ferry and airplane. Inishmore (Inis Mór) is the largest and most populated, with a little under 900 people living on the 12 square mile stretch of land.Inishmaan (Inis Meáin), the middle island, where playwright John Millington Synge drew his inspiration, is the second largest and the least populated, home to fewer than 200. Inisheer (Inis Óirr), the smallest of the three islands and the closest to the Galway coast, has a population of almost 300.

Map of the Aran Islands. Image: Creative Commons.

Map of the Aran Islands. Image: Creative Commons.

Though the entire population of the Aran Islands hovers around 1,200, tourism brings an additional quarter of a million people to the islands each year. On New Year’s Eve, however, we were three among just a small handful of visitors to step off the ferry and on to the pier at Kilronan, Inishmore’s main town.

At the end of the the pier was a bike rental. A Japanese family and group of young French Canadian tourists we’d been on the ferry with made a beeline for it, cycling off minutes later into the drizzling rain. The proprietor plied us with maps and friendly advice about the best route to Dun Aengus, the semi-circular Iron Age fort atop Inishmore’s imposing cliffs, but we declined his offer of €10 per bike for the day in favor of shopping around.

“How much are your bikes?” We called to a man with a fleet of cruisers leaning against the front wall of his shop. “Ten euros,” he answered. Right before the road curved up and inland away from the harbor, there was another shed with bicycles. Also €10 for the day. “And I’m the last one,” the owner told us with a smile.

Delighted with our bikes after "shopping around." Photo: Arkell Weygandt

Delighted with our bikes after “shopping around.” Photo: Arkell Weygandt

He advised us to take the main road to the town of Kilmurvey at the start of the path to Dun Aengus. Inishmore boasts many other important forts, ruins and monastic structures, but Dun Aengus is the largest and the most famous, and with just a few hours on the island (or so we thought) we had our sights set on it.

In Kilmurvey, the man said, we would find a café and an Aran knitwear shop with much better prices than the larger sweater market in Inishmore. For the way back, he said, the coast road would be our best bet. “There are fewer hills and you’ll be tired by then, and you might see some seals when the tide’s coming in.”

As we set off, the rain miraculously let up and the sun began to break through the low-lying clouds in the sort of meteorological coincidence that forces you to believe in good luck at the very least.

Inishmore’s main road (labeled as Cottage Road on some maps) curves uphill from Kilronan Harbour, winding past the sweater market, a place called The American Bar, a Spar, the post office, and cheery looking B&Bs. At Joe Watty’s Bar and Restaurant, the coast road forks off to the right and the main road continues farther uphill, the spaces between houses growing wider and wider until the landscape opens up to reveal Inishmore’s stone walls and green fields punctuated by limestone karst, the same rock that covers The Burren in Co. Clare.

The stone walls along Inishmore's main road. Photo: Arkell Weygandt

The stone walls along Inishmore’s main road. Photo: Arkell Weygandt

While the karst makes a suitable home for some unexpected varieties of Alpine and Mediterranean flowers, it does not lend itself well to farming or agriculture. What green fields you see on Inismor were grown out of determination as generations of islanders created a layer of arable soil by spreading seaweed and sand on top of the limestone. Interestingly, a local informed us, this meant that the islanders suffered much less during the Great Hunger than those on the mainland, accustomed as they were to relying on alternate methods of farming and what they could take from the sea.

Cottages on Inishmore. Photo: Sheila Langan

Cottages on Inishmore. Photo: Sheila Langan

The patchwork quilt metaphor is synonymous with Ireland’s landscape, and while I’ve always understood it looking at Ireland from above during the descent into Shannon or Dublin, I’ve never witnessed it so clearly on the ground as I did on Inishmor. The stone walls section off the fields into parcels of land, some so small you can’t help but wonder. When you reach a high enough elevation, towards the center of the island, the walls stretch out as far as you can see, white cottages dotted in between like grazing sheep.

The stone walls may seem like a relic of times past, but many still serve their purpose and are maintained, as proven by a young guy in a hoodie and track pants who we saw stacking stones back together on a section of a wall that had toppled down.

The shops at Kilmurvey. Photo: Arkell Weygandt

The shops at Kilmurvey. Photo: Arkell Weygandt

The road led us straight past the beautiful horseshoe-shaped Kilmurvey Beach and into a town of the same name, though on Inishmore “town” may be a relative term as Kilmurvey is really a small cluster of houses, a café, and craft and souvenir shops.

As promised, Aran sweaters here were indeed less expensive than they had been in Kilronan. One of the shops had shelves upon shelves of cardigans, scarves, hats, blankets, even mittens and baby booties. The hand-knit items were priced higher than the machine-knit ones, but they were all made out of delightfully soft merino wool and therefore a far cry from the thick and itchy Aran sweater that upset me greatly as a child. As we tried on different styles and colors, we were joined by a robin who flew in the open door and perched on Annalisa’s head before hopping over to a stack of men’s sweaters.

A friendly robin perched on Aran sweaters. Photo: Arkell Weygandt.

A friendly robin perched on Aran sweaters. Photo: Arkell Weygandt.

Leaving our bikes in a small parking lot, we entered the Dun Aengus visitor center, where for €5 we learned the history of the fort dating back to 1100 BCE and gained access to the path leading up to the cliffs, which the center cleverly obstructs (though there is, we later learned, a path at the side of the center that can be accessed outside of business hours).

Leading up to Dun Aengus. Photo: Arkell Weygandt

Leading up to Dun Aengus. Photo: Arkell Weygandt

Dun Aengus (Dún Aonghasa) is named after Aonghus mac Úmhór of the Fir Bolg, a legendary ancient race who are said to have ruled Ireland before their defeat by theTuatha De Danann.

Approaching Dun Aengus. Photo: Sheila Langan

Approaching Dun Aengus. Photo: Sheila Langan

Its three semi-circular rings end at the edge of a 300-foot cliff that drops straight into the Atlantic. Excavations conducted in the 1990s revealed that Dun Aengus was at one point regularly inhabited, though some theories suggest that the inner-most ring was used for religious or ceremonial purposes. Others have argued that it served a military function.

Steps up to Dun Aengus. Photo: Arkell Weygandt.

Steps up to Dun Aengus. Photo: Arkell Weygandt.

A defensive construction known as chiveaux de frise remains in place today, with forbidding stone spikes and slabs studding the ground along the approach, though a path has been cleared for contemporary visitors.

Remains of the chiveaux de frise that protected Dun Aengus. Photo: Arkell Weygandt

Remains of the chiveaux de frise that protected Dun Aengus. Photo: Arkell Weygandt

As we made our way up to the cliff top, four people were returning to the visitor center. They were the last people we saw for the next hour – when we reached Dun Aengus, it was shockingly, wonderfully, deserted.

Exterior wall of Dun Aengus. Photo: Sheila Langan

Exterior wall of Dun Aengus. Photo: Sheila Langan

Having heard and read that it’s usually thronged with visitors during the tourist season, we knew full well how lucky we were. Despite the excavation and some restoration work, Dun Aengus feels more or less untouched – completely wild and pre-historic. The lack of barriers and the sheer isolation make the view and the experience a thousand times more majestic and exhilarating than the Cliffs of Moher or anything remotely comparable.

View from Dun Aengus. Photo: Sheila Langan

View from Dun Aengus. Photo: Sheila Langan

The sun sinking into the Atlantic reminded us that we had a 5:00pm ferry to catch, so we ran back down the hillside, dodging the slippery patches of limestone, hopped back on the bikes and pedaled towards the coast road.

Sun setting beyond the cliffs. Photo: Sheila Langan

Sun setting beyond the cliffs. Photo: Sheila Langan

As we passed back through Kilmurvey, a black, white and brown dog leapt into stride alongside us. We thought he might stop when we passed the last of the houses, but he didn’t. We thought he might turn back when we reached the beach, but he kept going. When we slowed down, he slowed down. When we sped up, he did too. Yelling over the wind at each other, we decided he was herding us back to the ferry.

Dog running alongside us as we biked the coast road. Photo: Arkell Weygandt.

Dog running alongside us as we biked the coast road. Photo: Arkell Weygandt.

On our right side, cottages, ruins and stone walls flashed by. To the left of us, the shoreline wove in and out, sandy stretches of beach giving way to rocky outcrops. Paradise for some people might be palm trees and sunshine or the top of a mountain, but for the half hour we spent cycling the twists and curves of that road, drinking in the ocean air, I had found mine.

Cottage along the coast road on Inishmore. Photo: Arkell Weygandt

Cottage along the coast road on Inishmore. Photo: Arkell Weygandt

So when all three of us admitted we wanted to stay, there was no question about it. And luckily, Joel D’Anjou, the owner of Mainistir House Hostel, agreed to take us in at quarter to five on New Year’s Eve.

It was pitch dark by the time we got there, not a car in the car park and nary a light on in the house. Visions of low budget horror movies danced through our heads as we approached the reception desk, deserted but for a radio playing classical music. For a good 10 minutes we shouted “Hello?” through different doors and grew increasingly suspicious of our surroundings, which included a portable ironing board with scorch marks and a magazine from 1996.

Approaching the hostel with some trepidation. Photo: Arkell Weygandt

Approaching the hostel with some trepidation. Photo: Arkell Weygandt

When a door we’d thought was locked suddenly flung open, I shrieked and then sheepishly tried to pass it off as a very excited “Hi!” Joel was completely unperturbed and went to retrieve our room keys from behind the reception desk. As we chatted and settled the bill, his wry humor dispelled all slasher-flick delusions of five minutes earlier.

Since arriving on the island nearly 30 years ago he’s become a local fixture, as testified by the framed newspaper clippings praising his “mostly vegetarian” buffet dinner as one of the best meals you can have on Inishmore. He told us about the havoc wreaked the same week the year before by a massive storm that washed away some of the pier and cut off boat access for days. He recalled a letter he once received addressed simply to “The Black Man, The Hill, Inis Mor.” Learning we didn’t have dinner plans, he called Joe Watty’s and asked them to hold a table for us. “Goodbye, bye, bye, bye, bye,” he said into the receiver before hanging up – the surest indication I know that someone has become well and truly Irish.

At Joe Watty’s we feasted on fish and chips and sipped whiskey next to the fireplace, watching people file in and listening to them move seamlessly between conversations in Irish and English. We were not the only tourists – the group at the next table was from Quebec, and two guys from India who had been on the same ferry as us appeared later on in the night. Shortly after 10pm, the dog who had herded us to the pier came running through the door, made a beeline for our table and snuggled beside us in the booth. Maybe this was his plan all along, because we lavished him with scraps and belly rubs until the manager came over to say he wasn’t allowed in the bar. “Come on Shadow, you’ve had enough,” he said sternly leading the dog outside. “Go home.”

Annalisa and Shadow at Joe Watty's. Photo: Arkell Weygandt

Annalisa and Shadow at Joe Watty’s. Photo: Arkell Weygandt

A band set up on a stage in the corner and launched into Johnny Cash covers before switching to trad. Next to the bar a small space cleared and two older men and women started set dancing. What at first seemed quaint soon became downright amazing and intimidating as they picked up the pace, spinning around so quickly that one misstep would have sent them flying across the room. If the dancers themselves were entertaining this possibility, it didn’t show at all. They just smiled at each other serenely and laughed every time they switched partners, hopefully secure in the knowledge that they were a million times better at dancing than the young ones who took over the floor when the band started playing Rihanna covers.

By the time the countdown to 2015 began, people were spilling out the door. At midnight on the nose everyone cheered, started singing Auld Lang Syne, and we wished each other Happy New Year.

It was 2015 on Inishmore. I thought about my friends in New York, where it was still 2014, just getting ready to go out. I thought about the way my 2014 had started, wine drunk and dancing in a smoke-filled loft. I couldn’t have dreamt up a more different way to start this year if I had tried. But I hadn’t even tried, and it turned out wonderful.

2014 comes to a beautiful close on Inishmore. Photo: Sheila Langan

2014 comes to a beautiful close on Inishmore. Photo: Sheila Langan

Travel section ofIrishCentralhttp://www.irishcentral.com/culture/travel/

My Favorite Place in Ireland: The Wild West – By Andrew McCarthy

An innkeeper, a painter, a bodhran maker.

Almost 30 years ago on a chilly June night I stumbled into Ballinalacken Castle House Hotel in County Clare and came upon a gruff lion of a man with an unruly mop of hair who offered me a country welcome amid peat fires, heavy blankets, and flowing pints of Guinness.

Denis O’Callaghan has endured my comings and goings at all hours, my crashing into his car, my insistent requests for more of his wife Mary’s unmatchable soda bread, nearly every year since.

He has become as much a part of my visits to the west of Ireland as the nearby Cliffs of Moher, the traditional Irish music played in McDermott’s Pub just down the hill in Doolin, or my wind-whipped hikes across the Burren. His site on a bluff overlooking the sea and the Aran Islandsbeyond is a place I return to in my mind on a weekly basis.

A large canvas covered by a roiling blue-green sea led me to find Carol Cronin halfway out on the Dingle peninsula, a craggy finger of unmanicured land jutting out into the Atlantic in County Kerry. Carol’s gallery on Green Street in the town of Dingle is filled with a riot of seascapes—gray, golden, turquoise; some placid, some in turmoil.

A view of Dunquin Harbor and the Blasket Islands beyond (Photograph by Marshall Ikonography, Alamy)

She can be found there painting—usually barefoot, long brown hair yanked back off her face—on most afternoons. It’s Carol who pointed me to Curran’s, a Main Street pub where the owner/barkeep shared with me crumbling letters of gratitude sent to his grandfather by so many of the people who had fled Ireland during the Great Famine with a few pounds of the elder Curran’s money in their pockets to ease the way.

It was Carol, too, who insisted I go out to the Blasket Islands, the now deserted, treeless outcrops that were home to a few dozen rugged, Irish-speaking people until the mid-20th century. Alone on Great Blasket, amid the handful of derelict houses, under raging wind then lashing rain then burning sun, I spent a day in potent silence that I have never forgotten.


And it was out in Roundstone along the coast road in Connemara that Malachy Kearns told me, “I had a wild call to be by the sea and I couldn’t wish it away.”

A stone wall keeps a horse from wandering in Connemara. (Photograph by Medford Taylor, National Geographic)

It explains why Ireland’s premier bodhran maker has secluded himself far from the beaten path in County Galway, and why musicians make the pilgrimage to his seaside studio for his custom-made drums.

An outsize man in every way, with pale blue eyes full of mayhem, Malachy embodies much about this wild, merciless, untamable corner of an already wild and untamed west. Connemara is Ireland’s Ireland, “a different world out here, to be sure.”

For more than a quarter of a century I’ve traveled this coast, up from the filigreed fringe of west Cork, along the lakes of Killarney, to the world-class golf links of Ballybunion and Lahinch, to Yeats country in Sligo, meeting people like Denis, Carol, and Malachy.

Next year, I’ll meet still more.

Celebrated travel writer, actor, and director Andrew McCarthy is an editor at large at National Geographic Traveler magazine. Follow him on Twitter @AndrewTMcCarthy.

Mystery of the moving rocks off Irish island solved

Scientists have uncovered the mystery of the moving rocks on the rugged shoreline of the Aran Islands.Photo by: Tourism Ireland

A mystery on the Aran Islands off the Irish West Coast has finally been solved by one of the world’s top geologists.

Something had picked up massive boulders off a beach and propelled them over high cliffs to a flat landscape beyond. The largest of these boulders weighed about 78 tons, and  they now lie some 40 feet above the Atlantic Ocean. Smaller boulders, weighing about 4 tons each, lie more than 820 feet inland.

“The local people say that these rocks are moving,” said geologist Ronadh Cox, a professor of geosciences and chairwoman of the maritime studies program at Williams College in Massachusetts.

The mystery of how they got there has finally been solved.

The most likely culprit, a tsunami hasn’t hit Ireland  since 1755, when a magnitude 8.7 earthquake in Portugal sent tidal waves across the ocean to Ireland.

By dating the rocks they proved that some arrived on land  thrown up from the ocean 2,000 years ago, but others arrived less than 50 years ago,a key piece of evidence that leaves powerful storm waves holding the smoking gun, Cox said.

A local man provided much needed evidence when he recalled a ferocious storm in 1991 that deposited massive boulders from the sea bed up a cliff and hundreds of feet away

Cox hunted through Irish government data and found that in the winter of 1991,a particularly ferocious storm did indeed hit the area. ”

She said the mystery was solved and the ocean’s power is truly astonishing “The waves can just climb these cliffs in amazing ways,” she said.

Original Article Source (Irish Central.com): http://www.irishcentral.com/news/mystery-of-the-moving-rocks-off-irish-island-solved-133521838-237739871.html

A Day on Inis Meaín – From Dawn to Departure

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I awake before dawn to almost complete silence. I strain my ears and barely hear the muted lowing of a cow and the muffled lapping of waves. I am enveloped in peaceful solitude. I am on Inis Meáin. I sit by the window and wait for day’s first blush to appear and lose myself in dawn as it comes creeping up over the eastern horizon. As I watch the sky, a faint rustling below me precedes the sudden appearance of a wren and a pair of robins who propel themselves from the thicket to alight on the stone wall in a flurry of tik­-tik-­tiks and melodic trills. I am a recent visitor to this island, only coming for the first time a fortnight ago. I was so enchanted that I have returned to see more of, and to spend more time on, this least­ visited of the Aran Islands,  this place of unspoiled beauty, of limestone karst, and patchwork of green fields delineated and defined by dry stone walls.


Aran Island Journey

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The Aran Islands, they sound exotic, perched off the coast of Ireland, next stop Newfoundland.

All I knew of them was the old black and white film, Man of Aran by Robert Flaherty.

A dramatic soundtrack accompanying grainy images of rock strewn land, high cliffs and storm lashed coasts. Emphasising how hard a life it was for the few inhabitants of this wild unforgiving landscape.


Aran Islands’ Inis Mor: Wind, Rock, Roots & Resurrection

The Aran Island of Inis Mor is a special place.

On Inis Mor, you can see the wind. You can see it in the ruddy faces of the men who work outside. You can see the wind in the rose-tinged stone of ancient ruins, imbued with the color of the “red tide” algae, borne inland from the sea by the stiff breeze.  You can see the wind imprinted on Inis Mor’s limestone landscape, with some rock surfaces scoured smooth, and others dappled with deep depressions.


The Aran Islands: Our First Night

Before we embarked on our week long trip to Ireland, my friends and I did what most people do: We asked around for travel recommendations. “Oh, you totally have to go the Aran Islands,” my friend Matt said. “It was one of my favorite places.”

Indeed, Matt was right. We arrived in the evening from Galway, our giant wheeled suitcases in tow, unsure of what to expect. Could we catch a cab to our Inn? Where could we find a restaurant? More importantly, why hadn’t we done any research on this particular location before we came? We’d read up on every other destination.

Aran Travel Tip #1: It’s more remote than you’re probably expecting (in a good way). There are no taxis and no rental car depots, so plan ahead.

So what are five weary travelers to do when arriving to a remote Irish island after dark? Fortunately, Noel came to our rescue.


Noel and girls

Noel and his five feisty charges.



The Aran Islands – “That Island Energy”

The Aran Islands are located just 20km off County Galway in the West of Ireland. Inis Mor which has a population of 800 left me thinking I not only had an island escape from the kaos and distractions from day to day living on the mainland, that I had been somewhere very beautiful, very unique, and very Aran.

A ferry goes to Inis Mor island from a picturesque port in Connemara where you will see the local fishing boats as you board the ferry surrounded by connemara’s 12 pins. The double decker bus trip from Galway is equally as scenic with its coastal views of Galway Bay and the introduction to the region of Connemara. A boat also leaves from the cliffs of Moher each day. And one can also fly there in 7 minutes if they wish.

Once at the pier of Kilronan I hired a bike. The cycle to Dun Aonghasa is the most popular way to view the Island which could be described as an outdoor museum of stone monuments, churches and forts.There is a place called ‘The Seven Churches’ . Churches seem to be everywhere. There are monasteries, pagan standing stones, beehive huts, and The bronze age fort of Dun Aonghasa (there are three forts on the island) sits on a 300 ft cliff that stretches along the 8km western side of the island. Not only am I on the island of ‘Saints & Scholars’, The view is spectacular, the scene is angelic.

A simple feature, and a sight that lingers is the island itself, the dominant rocky limestone landscape full of small paddocks bordered by walls made of stone that had be stacked by hand. This has a maze like complexion, many of them have different shaped rocks and patterns from which they were constructed. Each one with its own story. It simply inspired my imagination and took me on a journey where I was at one with myself. I took a lot of photos of these stone walls. And it isn’t just me, books have been written them.

The Islanders also speak Irish. It took me a while to understand their english accent and vocabulary which is poetic, expressive, and metaphorical. Irish itself is full of stories and metaphors so there seems to be a lot interpretation involved, and where a lot of phrases in english are derived from. It adds to the charm and authenticity of the experience.

Aside from my highlight which was Dun Aonghas and the cliffs, I discover an eclectic mix of interesting things. There is a beautiful seal colony, stunning beaches, and exotic wild flowers. A famous film called “Man of Aran” and its cottage. The Aran Sweater Market. The Worm Hole which is the venue for the Red Bull Cliff Diving. There is 3 lighthouses, There is great traditional Music and lots of musicians. The food is superb such as Aran Cheese, and there is the Island Energy co-op!!.

The island has you leaving it thinking you had been somewhere special. Not only that you had left the hussle and bustle of the mainland; You get that “island” energy!!!. Rarely do I feel ‘effected’ just by being in a certain place.



The Aran Islands are  located in the center of the Wild Atlantic Way. It is Accessible from Rossavel (Connemara & Galway). The Aran Islands are also accessible from Doolin which is close to the Cliffs of Moher in County Clare.

Learn More about The Wild Atlantic Way