Wednesday, 24 May 2017

Island 367 - Inishmore/Inis Mór, Aran Islands, County Galway

Inishmore (Inis Mór in Irish) is the largest of the Aran Islands and the name means "big island".  In 2011 the population was 845.  The only settlement of any size is the village of Kilronan/Cill Rónain, which is where the ferries from Rossaveel and Doolin dock.

Like Inisheer, Inishmore is very geared up to visitors and as soon as you step off the ferry you are bombarded by minibus drivers offering tours of the island for €15.  However they operate as a cartel and all offer exactly the same tour of the island (Dún Aonghas, the 7 churches and the seal colony).  I would have thought it made sense for them to offer different routes to see other sites on the island.  What I really wanted was either a return journey to Dun Aonghasa or just a one way trip.  I did eventually manage to negotiate a one way trip to Dun Aonghas for €5 with a minibus driver who was taking a family of Americans on a tour.  It is also possible to hire a bike for €10 a day or a horse and trap (price unknown).  It isn't possible to fully explore all the ancient sites on the island in one day by any means of transport.  Most of the day visitors stick to Kilronan, Dún Aonghas and the main road.  The rest of the island was pleasantly quiet and I hardly saw anyone at all while exploring it.

Kilronan has a bank, post office, tourist office, several bars and restaurants, a public library and a couple of shops selling Aran knitwear.  There is also Spar shop, which is well stocked and has a hot drinks machine. I visited on a Tuesday in mid May and was unable to find a café that was open in Kilronan.  The public toilets near the harbour weren't great on the day I visited - one was blocked, one had no flush and the third had no lock on the door.

There were a few cows grazing in some of the fields but most of the fields were overgrown and unused. 

The main places of interest on Inishmore are:
  • Dún Aonghasa (Dun Aengus): this is the most famous site on the island.  It is located on the south coast of the island about 4 miles west of Kilronan.  It is a semi-circular fort at the edge of a large sea cliff.  There is an admission charge, which I didn't have to pay, as I have an English Heritage membership card.  There is a walk of about 900 metres from the visitor's centre/café to the fort.  It is uphill and rocky in places but not particularly steep.
  • Dún Eochla: this fort is located on the highest point of Inishmore (123 metres) and in the middle of the island.  It is a 400 metre uphill walk from the road.  I had the place to myself when I visited. It is small but well preserved with an inner citadel and strong outer defensive walls.
  • Dún Duchathair (The Black Fort): this is possibly the oldest fort on the island. It is located on the south coast 1.5 miles south of Kilronan.
  • Teampall Bheanain (Church of St Benan and Round Tower): ruins of an ancient and very small church at the south east end of the island in the village of Cill Éinne.  Only the bottom of the round tower has survived.
  • Dún Arann: ruins of a signal tower and lighthouse.  The signal tower was built in 1799 to protect the west coast of Ireland from attack by the French or Spanish. The lighthouse was built in 1818 but proved to be badly sited, as it couldn't been seen from some directions.  It was replaced by lighthouses on Straw Island in Killeany Bay and Eeragh Island at the north western end of the Aran Islands.
  • Poll na bPeist (The Wormhole): this is a natural rectangular shaped hole into which the sea ebbs and flows.  It is located on the south coast between Dún Aonghasa and the village of Gort na gCapall
  • Teampall Mhic Dhuach: this early Christian church is located near the Dún Aonghasa Visitor Centre but I don't think it gets visited by many of the visitors, although it is signposted off the drive leading to the visitor centre along a tree lined path.  There is a carved cross outside it and on the outside wall there is a relief carving of a horse.  I couldn't see it but a local man who was giving some other people a guided tour pointed it out to me.
  • Na Seacht d'Teampall (The Seven Churches): these are located close to the north coast at the western end of the island. There are actually only two ruined churches there.
  • Seal Colony: this is on the north coast in the middle of the island
  • Caislen Aircin (Arkins Castle): this was built in 1587 and later occupied by Cromwell's troops who used the stone from other nearby monuments to repair it.
  • Teaghlach Einne (St Enda's Monastery): this is located at the south east end of the island in the village of Cill Éinne
  • Puffing Holes: these are natural blowholes at the south east end of the island.
  • Dún Eoghanachta
  • Clochan na Carraige: this is an ancient dwelling made of dry stone with a beehive roof.  It is located in a field to the north of the beach at Port Mhuirbigh.
Horse and Trap in Kilronan

I thought this sign looked like the horses and carriages used by the Amish in the Pennsylvania

Looking north west from Dun Aonghasa

Looking east from the entrance to Dun Aonghasa

Dun Aonghasa

View from Dun Aonghasa looking south east

Port Mhuirbigh Beach on the North Coast

Port Mhuirbigh Beach on the north coast

Traditional thatched cottage with white pony grazing in front of it

One of several Catholic churches on the island
This one is in the middle of the island

A house for very small people perhaps?
On the track up to Dun Arann

Dun Arann and Old Lighthouse

Disused Lighthouse

Dun Arann and Old Lighthouse

Dun Eochla

I was puzzled by what the circular building is - a covered reservoir perhaps?
Teampall Mhic Dhuach
Teampall Mhic Dhuach
If you look very carefully you can just make out the relief carving of a horse
Carved Cross at Teampall Mhic Dhuach
Superfluous road signs given that this is a track used only by local residents who must all know it very well

Perched boulder and limestone pavement

Spar Shop and Café - the café was closed when I visited
Bank of Ireland in Kilronan

 Pier House Restaurant and B&B - this was closed to non-residents on the day I visited
Kilronan Public Library

Kilronan Post Office

The Bar

Mural on one of the Aran Knitwear Shops in Kilronan

Bayview Restaurant, Kilronan
Cross in Kilronan with The Bar behind

Ruined Protestant Church in Kilronan

Tourist Office in Kilronan

Aran Sweater Market, Kilronan

Stone commemorating John Ridgeway and Chay Blyth's row across the Atlantic in 1966

RNLI Lifeboat in Kilronan Harbour

Fishing Boat in Kilronan Harbour
Beach at Kilronan
Sculpture at Kilronan

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