Exploring the Aran Islands was one of those “off the beaten track” trips that I had taken while traveling through Europe. They are not resort style islands with sandy beaches, and vacationers tanning on beach towels. The Aran Islands were rocky, cold, and windy. The ferry ride from Galway was frigid, and far from being smooth.
So what was the allure? These islands are internationally known for its Celtic mythological heritage, prehistoric sites, and Medieval ruins. It is not everyone’s cup of tea, but for this traveler who has an interest in prehistoric and ancient sites, it was a worthy journey.
My friend and I traveled from the western coast of Ireland in Galway to Inis Mor, which is the largest of the Aran Islands. We booked a room at the Pier House B&B, which was right at the docks and made for a very comfortable and convenient stay.
Once we settled in, we hopped a shuttle bus that we saw in front of our hotel, which took us around the island and to Inis Mor’s historic sites. We honestly had no idea how to get to Dún Aonghasa, but asked the driver where he was going and he said to the tourist sites. My friend and I looked at each other, shrugged our shoulders, and said “Let’s do it!”
There are several interesting sites on Inis Mor with the most significant one being Dún Aonghasa. It is the best known of the prehistoric hill forts on the Aran Islands that date back to 1100 BCE. Its name means the “Fort of Aonghas”, and may refer to the pre-Christian god of the same name of Irish mythology.
Dún Aonghasa was described as “the most magnificent barbaric monument in Europe” by the 19th century artist George Petrie. I will agree with him on it being one of Europe’s most extraordinary pre-historic monuments, it was an amazing site.
The fort is built on a high rocky cliff, about one hundred meters above the sea. It was a tremendous site and feeling standing on the high cliffs, while looking down at the unforgiving sea; with the cold bitter wind hitting your face. Then knowing that you are standing at an ancient stone fort built by a pre-historic culture, who once found protection on this harsh island. It truly was one of those great moments for me as a traveler, and as a person who appreciates the evolution of mankind.
Inis Mor is also home to an incredible landscape that is hewn from limestone, which has eroded for centuries by the harsh Atlantic winter storms. There have been generations of families who have tended the fertile land, and built a patchwork of dry stone walls that run across the island. They are a massive part of the landscape of Inis Mor, and I found them beautiful and fascinating.
Since islanders have been living on Inis Mor for centuries, there are impressive ruins that date back to the early centuries including the Seven Churches Ruins, and Teampall Bhreacain.
- The Seven Churches constructed in the 7th or 8th century, were known as one of the largest and most significant monastic foundations in the west of Ireland.
- The Teampall Bhreacain is a great example of a large multi period church (8th – 13th centuries), with massive masonry features; an arch, nave, and chancel.
Exploring Inis Mor can be a rewarding experience, especially if you are looking to do something different along the west coast of Ireland. It is worth spending a night or two on the island at one of the hotels, with my recommendation being Pier House B&B. Make sure to dress warm and casual, wear comfortable trekking shoes, and bring a waterproof jacket- you never know about the weather.
For visiting information, please visit: Inis Mor – Aran Islands
Travel is never a matter of money but of courage…– Paulo Coelho
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