Ireland golf vacation guide :
City and regional guide - Aran Islands
Situated across the mouth of Galway Bay, some seven miles from the nearest point of the Clare and Galway coast are the majestic Aran Islands. Comprising three separate islands Inishmore (Inis Mór), Inishmaan (Inis Meáin) and Inisheer (Inis Óirr), the Islands are a unique link to our Gaelic past and have inspired some of the finest writers and painters of this century. According to legend, Galway Bay was once a large lake known as Loch Lurgan, which in ancient times eroded its banks, leaving the Aran Islands forever battling against the mighty waves of the Atlantic Ocean.
The Islands are a twenty-minute flight or two-hour boat journey from nearby Galway, Rossaveal or Doolin. The pattern of life hasnt changed dramatically here over the years and besides arable farming, life is based mainly on sheep farming, cattle and fishing. Inishmaan got electricity on the island as recently as 1975, while the small patches of farming land, surrounded by mounds of stones, are still largely cultivated by hand. Fishing of course, was always a large part of life on the Aran Islands and this was carried out from small boats called Currachs, the construction of which comprised a wooden frame covered with animal skin or canvas. Modern Currachs are still in use on the islands today.
The largest of the Aran Islands is Inishmore, which is eight miles long and has a population of approximately 900, by far the most densely populated of the islands. The Iron Age fortress of Dún Aonghasa, situated on the western side of Inishmore, is perched on the summit of a hill that rises from the ocean to a height of 300 feet. And while tourists probably outnumber Inishmores residents on some summer days, if you can arrive early or late and be alone in Dún Aengus, staring into the vastness of the Atlantic, it is one of the most amazing feelings imaginable. Other major attractions on Inishmore include Dún Dubhchathair, one of the oldest forts on Aran; Dún Eochla, an excellently preserved fort with inner citadel; Caisleán Aircín, built in 1587 and later occupied by Oliver Cromwells troops, who plundered several monuments from around the island; and Teampall Bheanain, the ruins of an ancient church and one of the smallest in the world, measuring just 11 feet x 7 feet.
Approximately 200 people populate Inishmaan, the middle and second largest island of Aran. It is said that Inishmaan remains the most untouched of the islands. Due to its isolated location and lack of a harbour over the years, western culture never really took root here and the Gaelic language is still widespread in everyday speech. The author John Millington Synge is synonymous with Inishmaan and his famous plays The Playboy of the Western World and Riders to the Sea were both based on experiences and tales from Inishmaan. Places to visit on Inishmaan include Dún Chonchúir, a large oval fort dating from the 5th century; Teach Synge, the house where J.M. Synge stayed when on the island; Leaba Dhiarmuid agus Gráinne (The bed of Diarmaid and Gráinne), a collapsed Neolithic wedge tomb named after tragic lovers from ancient Irish mythology; and Inis Meáin Knitwear, offering locally produced knitwear (tax free to visitors from outside the EU).
Inisheer is the smallest of the Aran Islands and has a population of approximately 300 people, more than its larger neighbour, Inishmaan. This is another ruggedly majestic island and the many attractions include Caisleán Ui Bhríain, a large three-story castle built by the OBrien family in 1585; Teampall Chaomhain Caomhan, the ruins of a church built to honour the patron saint of Inisheer in the 12th century; Tobar Einne, the ruins of the holy well of St. Enda, the patron saint of Inishmore; and the Wreck of the Plassey. The cargo vessel "Plassey" was shipwrecked in 1960 and its crew saved by the islanders of Inisheer during storm force winds without the loss of a single life.
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