We were over the moon with the news yesterday that Ireland has been ranked number 5 in the top countries in the world to visit by the Lonely Planet Guide 2015.
To celebrate the fact that we will be welcoming even more visitors to our craggy shoreline in the coming year, we take a quick look at what draws people to our own home in the Aran Islands and what they can look forward to experiencing as part of their voyage of discovery through Ireland.
- The view from the coastline of Inis Mór
Landscape like no other
The Aran Islands, a name collectively given to the islands of Inis Óirr, Inis Mór and Inismeaín off the coast of Galway, provide some of the most rugged and scenic views that one can experience when visiting the west of Ireland. With little trees or hills and few sheltered places, the land lies low on the sea amidst great sweeping terraces of polished limestone.
- Inis Mór's Craggy Shoreline
Falling under the umbrella of the Burren region, the islands are also acclaimed for their unusual mix of flora including Mediterranean, Alpine and Artic plants. The stark contrast of the rocky landscape against such delicate beauty makes it a truly unique experience for nature lovers and explorers alike.
- Limestone pavements with cracks known as grikes. The isolated rocks are known as clints.
Its unique foundations are further defined by the formation of stone wall fences called Claí, which were built by the islanders to make use of the abundance of natural rock which was plentiful on the Island. They were also used as a method to divide land between farmers.
- Dry stone wall fences called Claí
Journey Back in Time
With a record of human habitabion that stretches back almost 4,000 years and inhabitants that throughout the decades have fought fiercely to protect it's iconic landmarks, the Islands are a worthy journey for those looking to connect with ancient Ireland. Relics from the past and nostalgic ruins linking to a time long forgotten are commonplace across the three Islands. From pre-historic Celtic ringforts and old monastic settlements to remnants of old Irish life, the Islands provide an vast array of historical and archaeological delights at every twist and turn.
- The ruins of an ancient temple on Inis Mór
- The O'Brien Stone Fort on Inis Oírr dating back to the 15th century
- A traditional thatched cottage on the Island of Inis Mór
An unspoilt countryside with little modern architectural influences add to the unspoilt beauty of these majestic lands.
- A magnificent stretch of countryside on Inis Mór
A Treasure-trove of Traditions
The Aran Islands itself holds the key to a wealth of Irish culture, history and heritage. For decades, the people of Aran have been renowned for their determination to carve out a life on a small group of islands that were never supposed to be inhabited. This is coupled with an admirable,(and some will say stubborn), conviction to retain an old way of life. Their keen sense of survival and devotion to craft (fishing, farming, knitting, weaving) differentiate them from their mainland counterparts and give the islands themselves a sense of preservation and nostalgia. Visitors can enjoy listening to the old mother tongue of the Éire,(Gaeilge), now seldom spoken and experience first-hand the passion for traditional Irish song and dance that spurs even the very best of Irish talent to partake in impromptu music sessions. Furthermore, festivals such as Patrún - which gathers locals from near and far to participate in age-old island traditions such as boat racing, tug o'war and singing and dancing, - provide a once in a lifetime opportunity for those wishing to experience the true culture and warm hospitality Ireland has to offer.
- A working fishing vessel on the Island of Inis Mór
- Old traditions such as the pony&trap is still one of the main modes of transport on the Islands
Do tell us if you have ever been to Ireland or our home of Aran and what you enjoyed most and in the meantime, we look forward to welcoming you again, cead mile fáilte romhat!