Ireland 2019: The Aran Islands, Part One

The Day after our trip to the Cliffs of Moher (see here) we visited the island of Inishmore, the largest of the three Aran Islands in the Atlantic Ocean just off Galway Bay. The Aran Islands are recognized as the heart of Gaeltacht Ireland, where Irish is the primary language. A hundred years ago the islands were a remote outpost whose hardy inhabitants fought daily life-or-death battles against the elements. These battles continue today during the long Irish winters but in summer tourists board ferries and flock to the islands to see the ruins, listen to the locals and perhaps purchase a woolen sweater to keep warm when winter approaches.

Inishmore is the largest of the three Aran Islands. Inis Mor means “big island” in Irish. The middle island is Inishmaan (“Inis Meain”), which means “middle island.” Inisheer (“Inis Oirr”) means “east island” and is the smallest of the three islands and the closest to the coast of County Clare.

Click on any photo to see a larger version of that photo.

Our day began with a walk through Eyre Square to Queen Street to catch the shuttle to the ferry in Rossaveal 34 kilometers away.

Four members of my family took over the first two rows on the right side of the bus.

Four more claimed the first two rows on the left.

It was a 45 minute ride on the shuttle bus from Galway to Rossaveal and a 40 minute ride on the ferry from Rossaveal to the harbor at Kilronan Village on Inishmore.

Our view of Kilronan as our ferry pulled up to the pier.

The population of Inishmore in 1851 was 2312. In 2011 it was 845 but it had gone back up to a tad over 900 by 2016. Inishmaan is the least populated island, going from 503 in 1851 to 157 in 2011 and 183 in 2016. There were 518 people on Inisheer in 1851 and 249 in 2011 and 260 in 2016.

Inishmaan is the least visited of the three islands. There are ferries available to Inishmaan from the other two islands but none from any port on the mainland. It takes 30 minutes for a ferry from Doolin in County Clare to reach Inisheer six miles away. Inisheer is so small that you can walk around the entire island in four hours.

Another view of Kilronan from the pier.

We walked down the pier to Kilronan Village.

I think the Village Queen has been stuck here for a long time.

Many tourists rent bikes for their self-guided tours around the island.

Some choose a horse and trap to take them around. We chose a mini-bus for our island transportation.

Kilronan offers a few choices in B and Bs and restaurants but most tourists leave the island by the last ferry back to Rossaveal. There are also ferries that will take you to the other islands and to Doolin in County Clare.

We walked from the pier past the Pier View Apartments to the Aran Sweater Market on the other side of the bay. That’s where our guide said he would meet us with his mini-bus.

The Aran Islands are famous for their woolen sweaters.

Inside the sweater market.

Shortly after disembarking from the ferry we negotiated a deal with a local named Rory Conneely who would be our driver and guide for the rest of the day. After a brief look-around at the sweater market we piled into Rory’s white mini-bus and off we went to tour the island.

A solitary tombstone with Galway Bay and the Connemara hills in the background.

The present day Catholic church.

A thatched roof showing its age.

This roof seems to be rather recent.

A local resident wonders why all of these tourists are cycling around his island.

I wouldn’t bet on this roof lasting much longer.

uh-oh.

There are church ruins all over the island. Rory drove us to one that acts as a local cemetery. That’s our mini-bus on the left and that’s my wife in the front seat. She decided to skip walking on rocks.

Teampall Bhreacain was built in the 8th century. It is named after St Breacan who is thought to have been a follower of St Patrick and came here around the same time as St Enda, in the late 5th or early 6th century.

The entire site is called The Seven Churches (Na Seacht d Tempaill) but there are really only two churches here. The other buildings are dwellings of the monks.

Rory told us that some members of his family are buried here.

Another view from the same spot as the previous photo.

My granddaughter enjoyed the tour.

So did my grandson.

Ditto my daughter in the background.

My son-in-law takes a photograph from the church chancel (a 10th century addition to the small church) while I opt for a view further back from the nave.

Ooh, that’s 29 pictures. I think I have 22 or 23 more. So I will break it off here and continue tomorrow with Part Two of our Aran Island adventure.

Irish Music BonusSong for Ireland by Mary Black

English folk singer and songwriter Phil Colclough (1940-2019) and his wife June (1941-2004) wrote Song for Ireland after taking a holiday trip to the Dingle peninsula. The song has become a modern classic and has been recorded by many artists including Mary Black, Enya, and Luke Kelly of the Dubliners.

Mary Black comes from the musical Black Family and she has performed with her sister Frances and brothers Shay, Michael and Martin. She also sang with the Galway-based folk music band De Danann for awhile and has been singing on her own since the late 1980s. Mary has won several Artist of the Year awards and is renowned for her pure voice. Let’s listen to her rendition of Song for Ireland.

 

About crowcanyonjournal

I am a family man with interests in family history, photography, history and travel.
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12 Responses to Ireland 2019: The Aran Islands, Part One

  1. Kelly MacKay says:

    I love when I see new places. I never knew of these island. I look forward to next part. Cheers.

  2. Peter Klopp says:

    The island of Inishmore looks deceptively calm and peaceful during your stay on this pretty island. But I can imagine how the Aran islands can be a challenging place to live there in the winter when their inhabitants have to battle the storms.

  3. Amy says:

    A wonderful family trip. Thank you for sharing with us. πŸ™‚

  4. I’m sure I’d walk away with a sweater! It looks like a wonderful place to explore and learn about.

  5. A hundred years ago just about every household had a sheep or two and the women of the house spun their own wool, wove their own cloth and knitted their own socks. We drove around the whole island that day and we saw horses, ponies, cows, donkeys and goats but not a single sheep! I hear there are still a few elderly women on Inishmore who still knit sweaters, usually for special orders from shops in Galway. For a number of years now people on Trip Advisor have commented favorably about the sweaters they obtained from a woman named Sarah Flaherty who has a small shop near the Dun Aengus visitor centre which is close to the Kilmurvey Craft Village. All of the mini-bus drivers seem to know how to contact her in order for her to open her shop for a customer who may be calling that day. Most of the wool in the sweaters you see in the shops come from Merino sheep in New Zealand and most of the machine-made sweaters are made on the mainland all over Ireland. There is a company on Inishmeain who make luxury sweaters that are distributed to fancy stores all over the world. Hand-made sweaters can be very expensive. It may take more than 100,000 stitches to knit a man-size sweater!

    Yes, Inishmore is a wonderful place but you will need more than a day if you want to explore all three islands.

  6. mvschulze says:

    As I continue here and there on these alluring posts, (not always in order,) I wonder about the winters here on the Aran islands, as they must, if anything, benefit from the gulf stream effects of the North Atlantic, althoguh I have not specifially looked that up …yet. M πŸ™‚

  7. Pingback: Ireland 2019: Our Galway Girl | Crow Canyon Journal

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