All good things go in three





















Usually some days before (exceptions excluded), a paper is laid down on the table in the portal, accompanied by a pen. Only the image already brings back memories from years ago. It feels good. It means there is a garland, growing longer and longer with the years passing and every bit out of it has brought its own story. Every year anew we celebrate the same festivals mostly at the same time but time and again in a slightly different way. Of course speaking about ‘exceptions excluded’, for example; this year the clause is to be honoured for the third time already due to the unsettled weather.


Well, as it was planned in the third or was the fourth or even the fifth schedule to happen, three festivals would be combined into Mass of Céadaoin na Luaithre, or Ash Wednesday.

between the stormsBetween the storms

The day was already a celebration in herself: the sun was out and since months there was not any sigh of wind I felt. Feeling embraced by sunbeams people came from all directions to meet in the church to attend Mass.

the sun is returningThe sun is returning

With ash from the palm blessed the preceding year for Passion Sunday, a cross was made by the priest on the forehead of those who wished to receive the blessing that we all come out of ash and we will return into ash. Then there was the blessing of the candles or Lá fhéile Muire na gCoinneal , the actual reason for to lay down a piece of paper if you would like to have some candles for use at home. With this festival the closing of the time of Christmas is celebrated.

The third celebrated festival is dedicated to Naomh Blaise. The saint who was called Blaise Sebaste probably because he was bishop of this town in Armenia. He is the patron who wards off illness of the throat.
After all these three combined events delivered a good thing to start the period of Lent.


Slán go fóill,
Elisabeth from Inis Meáin


AranLIFE features on Nationwide

All of last week’s Nationwide programmes broadcast on RTÉ 1 were recorded on the three Aran Islands.  In case you missed any of them please see links below for all 3 programmes in the following order: Inis Mór, Inis Meáin, Inis Oírr. Patrick McGurn, AranLIFE project manager features in the Inis Oírr programme, where he discusses the project and related ongoing works with Mary Kennedy.   Taifeadadh cláracha Nationwide uilig a craoladh ar RTÉ1 an tseachtain seo caite ar an dtrí Oileán Árann. Ar

Source:: Aran LIFE

Mapping Aran Irish: A 25-Year Job!

Over 25 years ago, the Dublin Institute of Advanced Studies asked me to document the spoken Irish of Inis Mór in the Aran Islands. No serious study of Inis Mór Irish had been done there since the Danish scholar Holger Pedersen and the German scholar Franz Nikolaus Finck had investigated the dialect in the years 1894-1895, nearly 100 years before. Since my father’s parents both came from Inis Mór, I was a logical choice for the work.

In a way, though, I was an odd choice. I was a Californian whose previous field experience in linguistics was a sociolinguistic study of the spread of the Swahili language in western Kenya.

When I began my work, I knew that the dialect of Irish on Inis Mór and on Inis Meáin was very similar to the dialect of Irish spoken in the Cois Fharraige area on the Connemara mainland. I also knew that the Irish spoken on Inis Oírr was quite different, with traits that tied the dialect to the Irish spoken in eastern mainland areas – in the Burren and even in distant Kinvara.

I thought that my work would be simple, that I might discover a half-dozen differences in speech that might distinguish the Irish of the west end of Inis Mór from the Irish of the east end. Then I would discover a few more speech differences that would distinguish the Irish of Inis Meáin and of Inis Oírr.

I soon discovered, however, that on Inis Mór itself, the speech differences were far complex than I would ever have believed. Even little groups of townlands on Inis Mór could be distinguished from each other by their speech. The island could be divided into three or four subdialect areas separating the townlands on an island hardly 9 miles long!

And of course there were other speech differences separating the other two islands from one another.

Still, I thought that I could sort out all these complex differences with three or four years of hard work. As it turned out, the work occupied 25 years of my life!

The result is a 1,000 page research work on the speech differences in the Irish of all three islands, with special attention given to Inis Mór. A PDF of this work can be downloaded at no charge from the website

In addition to the downloadable PDF, you will find three pages with links at the website which will summarize the most important points about this research work. Accompanying this website is the Facebook page And for yet more information relating to the rich history and culture of the Aran Islands, be sure to visit the bilingual website

Séamas Ó Direáin / James Duran, Ph.D.

Insight into a wintry day

It will pass as it always did and it always will be. The only thing is that one can never be sure about the moment “when”. Of course with the up to date technology a lot of movements is possible to check beforehand but still.

A wintry day

Since last night there is no ferry and no plane. This does not only mean that travelling is not possible but also that there is no post and either goods or provisions can be delivered. The shop runs therefore empty.

In the early morning I spotted a tractor coming along but for the rest of daylight I did not see a soul. The road was and is still quiet. This in contrast with the ongoing tumult of noise, caused by the storms competing with one another about the championship.

Something like this

Sometimes the sound is nearby, pushing and pulling on everything she is trying to get hold of. Other times it sounds like yelling and screaming. In a situation like this when the wind has a superior role in the overall scene the question pops up what the wind does when she doesn’t blow. I find it hard to exclude myself from it all the more because there is an ongoing stream of rain lashing against the window too which adds to the various sounds.

Up till later in the day there is not any need or urge to go outside but when I actually did go out to close the church it was hard to keep standing on both my feet as the wind tried to blow me away.

The colour of the sea and the sky now is alike: grey. Not as dark though as the stonewalls which have the look of shining bronze, at this moment, but compared with the impelled waves getting a bright white colouring, it looks grey.

shining bronzeShining bronze

The only thing I know for sure is that rain will cease and storms will ease.

after the stormAfter the storm

Slán go fóill,

Elisabeth from Inis Meáin



Wished I could frame them in. . .

Sun of October

On the wire that early morning not just one but, if I counted well, seventy or even more of them were there. Side by side, completely immersed in toileting themselves for the day to come. Then, all of a sudden, breaking through the serenity of the moment, there was the sound of rustling and swishing and off they went to far horizons, scooping down and up again as one long and broad garland driven by a whirl of wind.


Since the stranger birds left for warmer regions to hibernate, the domestic ones apparently took over their position. Now it is them to be the bean an tí (landlady) and with the temporarily change they look more valiant than ever before. Like the other day when I saw six of the slightly bigger ones on top of the church.

usual imageUsual image

My conviction that the seagulls had a booked place over there was negated by what I noticed now: on both crosses of the nave of the church the stayers retreated. Not as I was used to in watching the seagulls: just one on the top.

high above enthronedHigh above enthroned

What I noticed was that each of the three ends of the two ornaments was occupied by them. Well, I am not sure whether the birds seemed completely at ease but still, in any case they were courageous.

Island of rosesIsland of roses

Slán go fóill,

Elisabeth from Inis Meáin



between night and day

Between night and dawn

At dawn

Another day, another pair. Even another colour. The same size though. Nearly every morning around the same time I lay down a different pair on the brown polished shelf. Pure pleasure it is for me to give them their nicely tugged in place. It is between the small but sturdy wooden tractor for the small children to play with and the freshly spun wool with its’ specific smell of lanoline from the sheep of Inis Meáin.

In full brightness they shine towards me. Their lively and bright colour attract straight away of course but there is more. Is it perhaps the material itself with her touch of softness; is it the way it is made? What is it?

nicely tugged inNicely tugged in

It was during the summer, not long after the cuckoo had left the island, that she was sitting on the stone wall in front of her house. Obviously she was waiting for me to pass for when we greeted one another and had enjoyed a little chat she asked me whether I would like to present them to the visitors. “Of course, I said, I feel it as an honour if I can do you this favour”. And so we decided. The next day a coloured bag was already waiting for me.

From that day on I actually have become friends with the dog because of my regular visits to the house. And yes, almost every night I go up and tell her where they went today. Then her lovely face on which there is always a smile, shines from one ear towards the other. Before leaving she reaches for her basket to present me with another pair and off she starts with her needles again…

It is the sharing of a vital part of how she has spent all her life up till the present day. Although the colours might have been changed in the cause of the years the reason “why” will not have been changed. It is her generousness in full brightness which shines towards us.


Slán go fóill,

Elisabeth from Inis Meáin


Home coming

Inis Meáin

Inis Meáin

Puffing hole

In fact it was only just a tiny little scrap out of your entire life time on the island that I got to know you. For it was here on Inis Meáin that you were born and bred. Amongst your family, your brothers and sisters and all those living around you grew up.


With a good lot of them you walked for many a year the tiny and sheltered roads for going to school. With them too you probably played on the slabs of limestone, looking out for the little ferns growing in the narrow grykes.

slabs of limestoneSlabs of limestone

In your garraí (potato field) it was I first met you when you were preparing the wide ridges and deep ditches. You generously allowed me using a strip of them for growing some vegetables. Sometime later you showed me how you restored the gate of a stonewall. It was thrilling to see how deeply you were connected to the stones; out of the heap you just knew and blindly you picked the one you needed.

gate of a stone walllGate of a stone wall

Not long before you left the island you gave me your last advice for which I am still up to this day very grateful to you; “Tigh Cháit will be a lovely place for you to give out cups of tea”, you said.

While standing at your grave I even sensed your smile, fully content you seemed. And you were so right, I think. Really everything was prepared for you so well. On the soil freed from the acquired hole various spades had been laid down. At both sides of the dug grave the grass was neatly cut on three sides which was nicely wrapped up in a roll afterwards. After the coffin was lowered into the hole and the first padríní (prayers) had been spoken the priest spread the first heap of soil over the grave. Your family and friends took a spade then and filled up the left space with care. Whereupon the carefully laid aside wrapped rolls of grass were put back on top.

I will miss you but I am sure for you this is home coming.

home comingHome coming

Slán go fóill,

Elisabeth from Inis Meáin


Remembering Aran

In Germany, when I sleep in my highrise apartment in the city centre, I dream of Inis Mór. She comes to me in the mind’s eye, approaching me over the horizon, as if I am skimming the Atlantic ocean in flight. She looms before me in Galway bay, the sea foam exploding on her southern flank, while the white boats glide softly towards her northern. I smell the milky seaweed, encrusted with salt. I hear the nickering of the horses, the clatter of their hooves. I feel already the harsh karst under my feet, land that has stood, sentinel like and unyielding, for thousands of years. I see the eyes of the old fishermen, swaddled in their sea2beaten faces, eyes that have stared so long over blue waters that they seem to echo the ocean. I dream this, and there, I am returned; an Oisín that has touched the mortal soil, but yet raves of Tír na nÓg.

Four glorious months flew past me in Inis Mór, barely stopping for breath. For those four months, I was lucky enough to call Inis Mór my temporary home. I lived there. I breathed there. I became there.

The precious hours strung themselves like beads on the short thread of the summer. I rose early, watching the first ferries drifting into the sound, the foam in their wake immediately evaporating. The sun rolled across the sky. I chased the wind down Eochaill hill atop a cranky old bicycle that grumbled if I changed gears with too much ambition. Then, I launched into work in the local supermarket, where I was greeted with smiles, chatter, gossip, and friendliness from the very second that I arrived there. The tourists spilled in, a tide of enthusiastic travellers that brought stories from all corners of the globe. Those moments, how I gathered them up and hid them inside my soul, like a greedy child stuffing their pockets with marbles.

Then, when the work day ended, my hands stained with newsprint, it was a slow trudge uphill and homeward. My breath came harder as I crested each little hill, the evening painting more of the sky as I climbed.

Symphonies of red, purple, yellow and orange lashed across the horizon as I defeated the final summit and cruised home to rest, leaving an Elysian canvas in my wake.

My European friends scarcely believe me when I talk about this place. It’s like something out of a storybook, they say. To them, such a place is impossible. The stories of Inis Mór enthrall them. The night before my friend and workmate Gareth left the island for good, we trekked up to the highest point of the island, Dún Árainn, and lay down on the grass, stargazing and putting the world to rest. The night was silent, the stars blazed with ferocity, and we could see the glow of fireworks bursting into life across the ocean in Connemara. Laying on our backs there on the highest point of the island, our faces turned to the universe, the sea exploding against our island only a kilometer away, exposed before the heavens, we could almost breathe in infinity. And as if to prove it, shooting stars flitted across the sky.

Or the stories of my friend José and I, and the many nights we spent slurping hot cups of tea while we lounged on the back wall of the house, the sun wandering below the horizon and the stars beginning to yawn. He taught me Spanish words while the moon rose over the bay and the moths stirred in the grass below. One night, a red moon drifted above the bay, softening out into lemon yellow and then sharpening to white again, before the cold Atlantic air nipped at our faces and ushered us back indoors.

Here, the stars and moon shrink from the glare of this city of a half a million people. The air smells of rich European flowers, not of the seaweed and the salt lace trim of the island. The roads run thick with traffic, trams, cyclists, pedestrians, and anonymity. Cities turn away from you. To the great metropolises of the world, you are nothing more than a solitary enzyme in their system, an ant meandering through its caverns. Anonymity rests on my shoulders here, dragging behind me on the ground like a cloak.

No such anonymity existed on Inis Mór. Everyone knew my name and my hometown within a week. Cars pulled up beside me on the road, windows rolled down, and lifts up the hill were offered, stamped with that islander smile (special thanks here must go to Fionnuala and Cyril, who gave me more trips up the Eochaill hill than I can count). Greetings, waves, and handshakes were the order of the day, pints and glasses of wine were generously passed around, glassware clinked together and the laughter echoed across the sound. We raced up the hill in the back on Philip’s car, Ráidió na Gaeltachta blaring out a jig from 1986, and we roared with laughter and wondered how this one summer could ever end.


The All Ireland Final was an interesting one that year. Donegal versus Kerry; green and gold, versus green and gold; and most importantly, me versus Paul, my good friend, workmate, and proud Killarney man. The healthy tension was spurred on by the islanders, who made Donegal versus Kerry jokes for two weeks before the match every time they saw us. We both scrambled for the day off work, and got it, and so it was to the front lines of the pub we went, washing down cheese toasties with beer, holding our breath, gasping… and, eventually, in my case, bemoaning our defeat. We celebrated and commiserated in our usual fashion with a bottle of red merlot (which has since become my drink of choice, thanks to Paul today, neither my health nor my dignity thank him, but I do).


A kaleidoscope of memories wheels behind my eyes as I write this. How can I possibly describe everything and everyone who made an impact on me on that island? How could I tell you about the scratch card contests between Mary Burke and Roland outside the café, and how they raced each other inside to the till to cash them?

How can I ever do justice to the oceanic spray of Dún Dúchathair, flaring over the black cliffs like a bridal veil? How can I describe the feeling of cycling up the hill in pitch blackness, feeling my way forward by the twin lights of my bicycle lamp and the lighthouse on Oileán na Tuí?

How can I put onto paper the lump in my throat when Angela plonked an Irish breakfast (on the house) in front of me on my last morning? How can I put into words the love I have for these people, the embraces I shared, the gifts they gave me, the memories I carry with me? Does it even make sense, any of this? How can I ever thank all of them for this… this thing that has been planted within me, this thing that no words in neither Irish nor English can ever describe, this thing that I carry with me, yes, I carry it in my heart, and I know not what it is, but I know that it feels of karst, it smells of seaspray, and when I look at it, it is the sun sliding down beneath Galway Bay, hardly willing to let Inis Mór out of its sight, and I’m watching from Dún Árainn as I always did, the boats are drifting across the sound like spirits, and the air there is so still that I can hear the céilí music, faint as a dream at the point of wakening, flitting between the stone walls of Aran.


Love, Relationships & Island Living

I called up to a friend of mine, called Niall some time ago and I could only say that Niall really is a man of Aran — he is a first class fisherman, a champion oarsman, a builder of walls or indeed anything, he is a tremendous father and husband and I know he’d agree with me when I say that one of his best ever decisions was in marrying the lovely Genie, who could only be described as ; as beautiful on the inside as she is on the outside.

Over the last 15 or 16 years since I’ve been separated, for one reason or another, I haven’t been able to make a “go” of any relationship.
I have received, (mostly from my friend’s wives and partners) — kindly words, support and even
understanding. Partly due to the fact that I am not a bullish fellow, am probably a romantic and am happy to admit that I am in love with the notion of being in love —

Anyway, I have had many the supportive conversation whereby it’s been pointed out that I just haven’t met the “one” yet and one of these days, she’ll step off the boat and ill know when I know.
So, I sat up in Niall and Genie’s house overlooking kileaney bay, was spreading real butter on the currently bread made by Genie’s fair hand and I was reasonably expecting her to tell me warm and kind things like —
What’s meant for you, won’t pass you by or some such thing.
Well she smiled, looked at me straight in to my two eyes and said
” did you ever think that you might just be a selfish bastard ”

Well, I burst out laughing and in fairness, as her declaration is possibly for others to judge but once again I found myself feeling blessed to be living in a small community with real friends who will call it as they see it.

I left their house , no wiser but alot happier after the candor and a good belly laugh.

These things only ever seem to happen to me on my beloved Island.

More soon.

Conor Meehan.

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


Interview with Author; Marcella Gemmell

How did you begin writing? Did you intend to become an author, or do you have a specific reason or reasons for writing each book?

I have always had a love of writing , but of verses and would write verses about all kinds of things, Love, Life, Friendship and aspects of the world, mainly in English and one or two (Aran Related) in Irish. This however is my first Story.

What authors do you like to read? What book or books have had a strong influence on you or your writing?

I love reading and I use it as an escape from the “real world”. I love Cathy Kelly , Marian Keys and Claudia Carroll. I did read 50 Shades of Grey , I admire EL James , the book may not be everyone’s cup of tea.. but she took a chance and has sold 70 million copies worldwide. If that is not success, then nothing is.

Tell us some more about your book.

My Book is call “Fate, Hope & Love” it is based in Galway city and the Aran Islands. It is a modern day fiction, romantic story that follows life , love and everything in between.

Give us an insight into your main character. What does he/she do that is so special?

My main character is a single girl called Jessica, She works and lives in Galway City but is originally from Kilronan in the Aran Islands. Jessica has been hurt in a previous relationship and is slow to trust anyone again. The book follows her story where she meets Sam Casey a stranger who’s act of kindness , might just be the start of happiness for Jessica.

Who do you see playing the lead character from your most recent book?

I could definitely see Kiera Knightley playing Jessica and possibly Channing Tatum as Sam Casey

Why do you write?

I write as relaxation, I work in the Emergency Services and I have a young family , so reading and writing are my “down time”.

Who inspires you?

I get inspiration from lots of places in life , of course the people who surround me , from situations and everyday living. I also get inspiration from the beautiful country we live in and love photography. I also am a hopeless romantic and love music… so my inspiration is a combination of everything put together.

Describe your writing style:

I have a quirky sense of humour.. I don’t take myself too serious and know for a fact that I am clumsy , quite self critical but with a heart as big as anything, so I write from my own experiences too. I think it comes across as light hearted, and quirky .. like me I guess.

What is your favourite place on the Aran Islands?

It would really be impossible to pick one – But if you really force me – I will narrow it down to two. If you had to find me in Aran, you would find me either sitting on the wall overlooking the pier in Kilronan , watching life go by or I will be at the top of Dun Aengus, crawling as close to the edge without falling over !.. camera in my hand and wonder at the utter beauty of the place in my mind.

Why did you go to the Aran Islands in the first place?

My first ever trip to the Aran Islands was on a school tour , I went back after that to find summer work in a Bed and Breakfast. While I physically left to work in Galway .. my heart never did.

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 :,

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 .

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

Guest Post on our Blog in 2015

The team at accept blogs from guest bloggers who have an interest in the Aran Islands or the region in general.

As one of the leading tourism websites in the West of Ireland, our blog has an established fanbase. We accept blog posts that have previously published as well as new unique blog posts.

Just email us at and we will take it from there.



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