Sunday, December 13, 2015

Aran Islands

executive summary by Darmansjah

The Aran Islands or The Aransare a group of three islands located at the mouth of Galway Bay, on the west coast of Ireland. They constitute the barony of Aran in County Galway, Ireland. From west to east they are: Inishmore , the largest; Inishmaan the second-largest; and Inisheer the smallest. The 1,200 inhabitants primarily speak Irish, which is the language used in naming the islands and their villages and townlands. Most islanders are also fluent in English.

The approaches to the bay between the Aran Islands and the mainland are as follows:

North Sound / An Súnda ó Thuaidh (more accurately Bealach Locha Lurgan) lies between Inishmore and Lettermullen, County Galway.

Gregory's Sound / Súnda Ghríoghóra (formerly known as Bealach na h-Áite) lies between Inishmore and Inishmaan.

Foul Sound / An Súnda Salach (formerly known as Bealach na Fearbhaighe) lies between Inishmaan and Inisheer.

South Sound / An Súnda ó Dheas (formerly known as Bealach na Fínnise) lies between Inisheer and County Clare.

Ferries operate to all 3 Islands from Rossaveal in Co. Galway (Year Round) and Doolin in Co. Clare (Seasonal). Flights operated by Aer Arann Islands also operate from Inverin.


The islands' geology is mainly karst limestone and is thus closely related to the Burren in Co. Clare (to the east), not the granites of Connemara to the north. This is most obvious in the construction of the walls around the fields.

The limestones date from the Visean period (Lower Carboniferous), formed as sediments in a tropical sea approximately 350 million years ago, and compressed into horizontal strata with fossil corals, crinoids, sea urchins, and ammonites. Glaciation following the Namurian phase facilitated greater denudation. The result is that the Aran islands are one of the finest examples of a Glacio-Karst landscape in the world. The effects of the last glacial period (the Midlandian) are most in evidence, with the islands overrun by ice during this glaciation. The impact of earlier Karstification (solutional erosion) has been eliminated by the last glacial period. So any Karstification now seen dates from approximately 11,000 years ago and the island Karst is thus recent.

Solutional processes have widened and deepened the grykes of the limestone pavement. Pre-existing lines of weakness in the rock (vertical joints) contribute to the formation of extensive fissures separated by clints (flat pavement like slabs). The rock karstification facilitates the formation of sub-terrainean drainage.
Huge boulders up to 25 metres (80 ft) above the sea at parts of the west facing cliffs have been shown to be sometimes an extreme form of storm beach, cast there by giant waves that occur on average once per century, though more are the consequence of glacial erratics.


The islands have an unusually temperate climate. Average air temperatures range from 15 °C in July to 6 °C in January. The soil temperature does not usually drop below 6 °C (the winter of 2010 recorded a prolonged period of snow, the first in living memory). Since grass will grow once the temperature rises above 6 °C, this means that the island (like the neighbouring Burren) has one of the longest growing seasons in Ireland or Britain, and supports diverse and rich plant growth. Late May is the sunniest time and also likely the best time to view flowers, with the gentians and avens peaking (but orchid species blooming later).

Traditional life and Irish language

On the cliff tops, ancient forts such as Dún Aonghasa (Dún Aengus) on Inishmór and Dún Chonchúir (Fort of Conchobar) on Inishmaan are some of the oldest archaeological remains in Ireland. A lacework of ancient stone walls (1,600 km or 1,000 mi in all) enfolds all three islands to contain local livestock. Also found are early clocháns (dry-stone beehive huts from the early-Christian period). Enda of Aran founded the first true Irish monastery near Killeany (Cill Éinne or Church of Enda). In time there were a dozen monasteries on Inishmór alone. Many Irish saints had some connection with Aran: St. Brendan was blessed for his voyage there; Jarlath of Tuam, Finnian of Clonard, and St. Columba called it the "Sun of the West".

The islands were first populated in larger numbers probably at the time of the Cromwellian conquest of Ireland in the mid-17th century, when the Catholic population of Ireland had the choice of going "to hell or to Connacht". Many fled to the numerous islands off the west coast of Ireland where they adapted themselves to the raw climatic conditions, developing a survival system of total self-sufficiency. Their methods included mixing layers of sand and seaweed on top of rocks to create fertile soil, a technique used to grow potatoes and other vegetables.[5] The same seaweed method also provided grazing grass within stone-wall enclosures for cattle and sheep, which in turn provided wool and yarn to make handwoven trousers, skirts and jackets, hand-knitted sweaters, shawls, caps, and hide shoes. The islanders also constructed unique boats for fishing, building their thatched cottages from the materials available or trading with the mainland.

The Aran Islands are an official Gaeltacht, which gives full official status to Irish as the medium of all official services including education. An unusually high rate of Irish-language monolingualism was found among senior natives until the end of the 20th century, in large part because of the isolating nature of the traditional trades practised and the natural isolation of the islands in general from mainland Ireland over the course of the Islands' history. Young Islanders can take their leaving examination at 18 on the islands and then most leave for third level education. Many blame the decline of Irish-speaking among young members of the island community on English-language television, available since the 1960s; furthermore, many younger islanders leave for the mainland when they come of age.


Year-round ferry services exist, but it should be noted that all ferries are passenger only, with no car ferry available. None presently operates from Galway Harbour, and only Aran Island Ferries operate a year round service from Rossaveal in County Galway, connected by a bus service from Galway city.
Aer Arann operate an air service from all three islands to Inverin which has connecting buses from Galway city. See Inishmore Airport.

Ferries are also available to the Aran Islands from Doolin in County Clare (Seasonal April 1–October 31).
A road network exists on each of the islands and a speed limit of 50 km/h applies. Cars on the islands are exempt from road-worthiness testing. Most visitors to the island hire bikes as it is the most convenient way to see the islands.


Visitors come in large numbers, particularly in the summer time. There are several Bronze Age and Iron Age forts and attractions on the islands, including:

Dun Aengus (Dún Aonghasa, Aran Islands Dialect: dūn aŋgəs) is a Bronze Age and Iron Age fort situated on the edge of a cliff at a height of 100 metres (330 ft) overlooking the Atlantic Ocean on Inishmore. It consists of a series of concentric circular walls, the innermost—the citadel—encloses an area approximately 50 meters in diameter with 4 m thick walls of stone Black Fort (Dún Dúchathair).

O'Brien's Castle on Inis Oírr in the Aran Islands was built in the 14th century. The castle was taken from the O'Briens by the O'Flaherty clan of Connemara in 1582.

Teampull Bheanáin is considered the smallest church in the world and is notable for its orientation: north–south instead of east–west.

Teampall an Cheathrair Álainn has a holy well which inspired J. M. Synge's play The Well of the Saints.

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