There are few places in the world today that can boast of pristine life like the three Aran islands. Learn more about these unsullied sites of Ireland’s cultural significance. When you imagine a place that embodies the rich Irish culture, customs and native way of life think of the Aran islands. The Aran islands comprise three islands whose names are quite unimaginative for most people outside of Ireland. They are; Inis Mór, Inis Meáin and Inis Oírr. These names are given to reflect the geographical qualities of the islands. Inis Mór, pronounced as Inishmore, is the biggest of the three and is reputed as a site for several Christian and mythological monuments. Inis Mór has a population of about 800. Inis Meáin, pronounced as Inishmaan, is the second largest of the islands. Its hilly landscape features interesting sites that symbolize core Irish traditional values. Inis Meáin is however the least visited of the three islands with an average of 200 residents. Inis Oírr, also pronounced as Inish Sheer is the smallest of the Aran islands, and pushes more Eastward. It is for this reason commonly called the ‘East island’. Inis Oírr also referred to as the ‘little sister of Aran’ has a population of about 300.
The three Aran islands are spread out along the fringes of Galway Bay on Ireland’s West coast and stretched across 18 square miles of land. The islands are a sublime representation of the autochthonous culture of the Irish people and serve as a prime reference for Irish traditional history. The reason for the intriguing sustenance of the Irish culture on the Aran islands is because the islands had largely existed without much external interference for thousands of years. This helped to preserve the unique way of life of the natives and conserve the islands’ ecosystem.
Not much can be said about the inhabitants of the three Aran islands if we exclude their occupation. The natives of the Aran islands are popularly known as farmers and fishermen. The agricultural life of the Aran island locals is largely subsistent. They are known for cultivating potatoes and oats on temperate soil that support long growing seasons. Some farmers also raise cattle on their land, most of which are sucklers of the beef shorthorn breed. Asides from farming, the locals also engage in fishing on the Atlantic bordering the islands for days at a time. Coastal areas and pristine beaches of the island also serve as casual fishing areas for the island fishermen.
As unceremonious as fishing on the Aran islands sounds it birthed one of its most significant characteristics, Aran sweaters. To cope with the harsh cold during fishing trips, Aran sweaters knitted from sheep’s wool are worn by the fishermen. The Aran sweaters make for cozy, comfortable wear, especially during the winter. They became widely popular and fashionable even today due to their appealing intricate designs which are mainstreamed into voguish styles like the cable stitch, diamond stitch, zig-zag stitch, honeycomb stitch blackberry stitch, and many more intriguing patterns. The occupational history of Aran sweaters has earned it the ascription of fisherman’s sweater. This does not however derogate from its vogueishness and has been notable wear for celebrities like Steve McQueen, Chris Evans and Taylor Swift, among many others.
Due to its sheer unsullied nature, the Aran islands are a popular tourist destination. The islands present a beautiful spectacle of stone walls running across the rugged grass-filled landscape. From an aerial view, they make the scenery appear like a mini-sized maze. History has it that these stones were littered all over the island and were piled up to form stone walls by the locals. Other tourist attractions on the islands are resplendent of the individual histories of each island. For instance, popular tourist sites on Inis Oírr include a buried ruin of an old church, a shipwreck swept to the shore by the Atlantic waves, a holy well, a tomb from the bronze age, and many more. What more can you learn about the Aran islands? Let’s discover.
How do you get to the Aran islands?
The Aran islands record the most tourist visitations in the summer period. Getting to the islands can be as pleasurable as viewing their epic sites. All you need to do is to be properly guided. The first thing to know about getting to the Aran islands is that your car cannot get you there. Ferries are the major transportation options to get to your destination. You can board the Aran island ferries from the Galway city docks and sail for the next one hour and a half through the beautiful Galway bay till you arrive at the Aran islands. While on your journey, you can whet your tourist appetite by learning from the resourceful stories and insights shared by the crew members.
Another exciting transportation option to the Aran islands is by air. Traveling by air to the islands gives you a bird’s-eye view of the astonishing scenery of Inis Mór, Inis Meáin, and Inis Oírr. The journey by air takes about 40 minutes to the Aran islands from Galway city. Aer Aran Islands provides flight services for tourists interested in air travel to the islands.
Can you stay on the Aran islands?
Accommodation services are provided for tourists on all three Aran islands. Each island has accommodation facilities that cater to varying needs and budgets. There are hostels, bed and breakfast hotels, guesthouses, holiday homes, walkers lodge, and camping and glamping facilities. It is advised that you book ahead of your stay to make your accommodation on the islands smooth and distress free. If you intend to stay on the islands it is necessary to know that a bike is the best way to move around within and across the islands. You can visit any of the several bike-renting services on the islands.
Facts about the Aran islands
Whether you plan to visit the Aran islands in the nearest future or you simply like to know bits about places, these amazing facts about the rocky Aran islands will get you interested.
- The islanders settle in clusters referred to as ‘Clachán’. Each ‘Clachán’ is typically a village with a maximum of 15 houses. This settlement reinforces the islanders’ security and survival during hard times
- In the ‘Clachán’ land is not owned individually. The family landholding is more common on the Aran islands.
- Clothes worn on the Aran islands are typically knitted and homespun. This includes the Aran sweaters that are globally in vogue today.
- The stitch patterns on Aran sweaters are representative of particular families.
- The stone walls on the islands are not only used to demarcate but also serve as cattle enclosures
- Legend has it that Christianity was introduced to the islands by Saint Enda, who they thought to have mystically landed on the shores of Inis Mór.
- The shipwreck on Inis Oírr is the remnant of an Irish cargo vessel whose crew members were saved by the islanders back in 1960.
- The Aran islands’ national monuments are 38 in number
- The Aran islands are famous for lacking trees.
- The major sources of income for the islanders are seafood and tourism.
The historical, cultural and traditional relevance of modern Ireland finds roots in the rocky Aran islands. Experiencing the islanders’ way of life gives you a clue into the islands’ esteemed significance.