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Aran Inspired

Castle Archdale Islands

In the northeastern part of Lower Lough Erne, just off the coast of Archdale Country Park sit a group of tiny islands. They are actually the tops of small hills, or drumlins, created during the formation of Lough Erne. The islands are a beautiful sight, especially in autumn when the rare spindle trees appear with dark red leaves and bright pink fruits, accented by the golden aspens. Garden warblers make their homes here, rare birds nesting within the dense foliage. The most common trees in the park are the oak and ash, and they stand out from the surrounding forests, which contain an abundance of conifers. These islands once had a rich agricultural potential, but are now long deserted, as evidenced by old irrigation ditches and the ruins of what were once farmhouses.

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Church Island

 Church Island, also known as Shrine Island, is located in the northwest portion of Lough Carra. According to local folklore, it was initially used as a burial place for kings. Archeological data indicates that human life existed here as long ago as 3000 B.C.

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The Aran Islands

Over the centuries, these barren limestone islands, located about 30 miles offshore in Galway Bay, have been transformed into beautiful but isolated farmland communities. There are three islands – Inishmore, Inishmaan, and Inisheer. The presence of Iron Age Forts on two of the islands indicates that humans lived here from around 3000 B.C. In the 1800’s, the population was decimated by famine and emigration. Early in the following century, novelists revived interest in the Arans, and American film director Robert O’Flaherty filmed the classic documentary, Man of Aran, on Inishmore.

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Lough Key Forest Park and Castle Island

Lough Key is one of Ireland’s most beautiful lakes, which can be reached by boaters on the River Shannon via the Boyle River. The Forest Park surrounding it comprises approximately 800 acres of varied woodland. The lake’s name derives from the Druid of the Silver Arm, also known as Cé (pronounced kay). The druid was said to be the king of the Tuatha de Danann, the mythical ancient people who, according to oral tradition, first inhabited the island of Ireland. Legend has it that he was drowned when the lake’s waters erupted from the earth.

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Inchcleraun Island / Quaker Island

Just off the shore of Lough Ree, the peaceful island of Inchcleraun. Known locally as “Quaker Island”, it is one of the largest (albeit only 1 mile / 1.5 km long!) and more historically interesting islands of the many on the lake. With the remains of seven churches, including monastic settlements, Inchcleraun is an example of how Ireland got its nickname of "the land of Saints and Scholars". In the middle ages, Inchcleraun was a place of pilgrimage and religious learning. Today, the island is something of a hidden gem, since very few locals, let alone tourists, have visited its shores. Between 800 and 1300 the island and its churches were repeatedly plundered and burned by invaders, so the buildings are in ruins today.

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Achill Island

The largest island off the coast of Ireland, Achill Island in County Mayo is linked to the mainland by a swing-bridge and is easily accessed. It is considered one of Ireland’s beauty spots, with a total of five blue flag (awarded by the EU for cleanliness and safety) beaches. At the western tip of the island lies Keem Bay – a beautiful, secluded valley located at the western tip of Achill Island, where one of these beaches can be found.

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Scattery Island

Scattery Island is located in southwest County Clare, at the mouth of the River Shannon. Historical records indicate that the islands original inhabitants were members of a monastery, founded by St. Senan in the 6th century. Legend says he first banished a sea serpent from the island, and that he forbade the presence of women on the island. One of his famous pupils was St. Ciaran of Clonmacnoise.

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Saltee Islands

Take a day trip from Kilmore Quay to the Saltee Islands and prepare to be dazzled by the sheer numbers of birds and other wildlife taking sanctuary here. Huge colonies of sea birds such as gulls, puffins, cormorants, and many other species, will mesmerize birdwatchers and nature-lovers alike. The sister islands – Great Saltee and Little Saltee – are empty, except for two small buildings owned by the Neale family, who generously allowed the islands to become Ireland’s largest bird sanctuary.

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The Skelligs

On a clear day, from Valentia Island in the northwest part of the Ring of Kerry, at the Iveragh Peninsula, you can see two conical rocks pointing toward the sky from amid the waves of the Atlantic. The Skelligs are unique and dramatic rock formations located about five miles off the southwestern coast of Ireland. The name "Skellig" comes from a Gaelic word meaning "rock in the sea". Many visitors claim that their boat tour to explore these wonders up close is the most unexpected pleasure of their entire vacation. The Skelligs are not accessible to foot traffic, but boat tours come reasonably close to the islands, weather permitting..

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Tory Island

Tory Island, the northermost outpost in Ireland, has been populated for thousands of years, and is rich in history and heritage despite its tiny size. Also known by its Gaelic name of Toraigh (same pronunciation) this small and barren land mass is situated nine miles (13km) off the shore of Ireland’s northern peninsulas. It is about three miles (5km) wide and one mile (1.2km) long. Up until the mid 20th century, the island was extremely isolated, receiving only rare visitors. Today, the daily ‘Tor Mor’ ferry carries passengers from Donegal coast on the mainland to and from Tory Island.

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