Saturday, June 30, 2007

The Aran Islands

Not much tatting done this weekend!
We celebrated our 40th Wedding Anniversary on Sunday last 24th June. Daughter and son in law (of the wedding at the start of this blog) took us away for the weekend to the Aran Islands. The islands are just a stones throw from their house, well a long stones throw as it takes about an hour by ferry. This is Inis Mor from Spiddal, Galway where they live.

The islands lie in the outermost part of Galway Bay and are of course the home of the famous Aran Sweater. If you want to see where they are located go to for maps and more info.

Of the three islands we went to Inis Meain (Inishmaan) meaning middle island. Although bigger than Inis Oirr (Inisheer, east island) and way smaller than Inis Mor (Inishmore, big island) it is the least populated. There are now only 170 permanent residents on Inis Meain. Repopulation is being encouraged by the government.

There are a couple of small hotels with restaurants a pub, and a sprinkling of Bed and Breakfast establishments to stay at. The one we stayed at was excellent, lovely room with panoramic views of the island, the best full Irish breakfast you could wish for and a very good evening meal if desired, highly recommended.

This is the view from our bedroom window at the top of the house.

Each family on the islands had their own distinct pattern of cables and diamonds etc. on their sweaters. As most families were fishing folk should anything bad happen to them they could be identified by their sweaters.
The island has a modern Aran knitwear factory producing stunning pieces.

On arrival at the island it was 'shank's pony' for the walk of over a mile to the B&B reinforcing the old adage 'never take more than you can carry!! I'm sure that we could have been met at the ferry terminal if we had wished, but as it wasn't actually raining (well not all the time!! )we were OK.

The island is three and a half miles long and two miles wide and we were centrally located with shortish!! walks going in all directions. Our first walk was to the west to the most inhospitable part of the island taking the brunt of the Atlantic weather.

The Aran Islands are a continuation of the limestone pavement found in the Burren Region of County Clare cut off from the mainland at the end of the last ice age by rising water levels.

The fields in this exposed area are just a thin covering of soil on the limestone.
We had taken our own picnic fodder including the bubbly for the occasion as shopping is limited to a couple of small shops selling basics and snacks for tourists. We ate our picnic in the shelter from the wind given by a dry stone wall, just before the rain came down again.

Another walk led to a pre Christian ring fort. Within the tiered stone walls would have been a group of dwellings, with lookouts posted on the walls prepared for invasion.

Contrasting sharply with this was a modern church with beautiful stained glass windows by Harry Clarke great shelter from another rain shower.

A mix of old and new, in general it was like going back in time a hundred years. This house was almost next door to our B&B. It's garden wall covered in sweet smelling honeysuckle.

An after dinner game of Mahjong while watching the many bonfires on the island and mainland,(it was midsummer bonfire night when traditionally one is allowed to burn freely). Next day we were greeted by morning sunshine so headed down to the beach.

This relatively unspoilt island is like Ireland used to be and how many tourists still think of Ireland.Heading east this part of the island is much more sheltered and hospitable. We heard many birds including a cuckoo, the wild flower meadows were a delight with wild orchids in abundance. Cinnabar moths were everywhere and a field of Pearl Bordered Frittillary butterflies found only in the Burren and parts of Britain was a rare treat. We had never seen this butterfly before.

The long black sandy beach was a magnificent foreground to the ever changing sea and sky. The weather changed every few minutes, we got soaked and sunburnt in the same day!

Overhead the Terns were divebombing us indicating that there were nests nearby.

There in a small depression in the middle of the beach totally exposed was a nest with two eggs.

Alan was sitting on the edge of the dunes also being mobbed and when he got up not more than a foot away was a small chick! I suppose that exposure of the nests like this allows the parents to see when predators approach and they certainly did their best to see us off zooming within inches of our heads.

All too soon out time in this haven of peace was over and it was time to roll the suitcases back downhill this time to the ferry.

Was the rain approaching faster than the ferry? We just made is before another downpour.
Sad to say goodbye to this beautiful island, a harsh life in the winter months,we were not tempted to move there. An experience to be remembered for a long long time.

I hope you have enjoyed this little glimpse, so many photos had to be reduced to just a few.


  1. Pamela, You must have had a wonderful time on your 40th Anniversary. The pictures of the island and countryside are just beautiful! If I could travel anywhere outside the USA, it would be Ireland. Thanks for posting these breath taking pictures

  2. So Ireland here you come!!!!

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