Aran Islands

Aran Islands

Location: Aran Islands, County Galway Map


Description of the Aran Islands

Map of Aran Islands

Aran Islands are situated on the Western side of Ireland in the County Galway outside of Galway Bay. You can travel to Aran Islands by ferry or air. The largest and most visited is the Inis Mor island. Other two include Inis Meain and Inis Oirr. These are smaller islands and less visited by the tourists. The Aran Islands are formed from a limestone ridge. The largest - Inishmore, is 13 km long and 3 km wide. The inhabitants of the islands, isolated from the rest of Ireland, have preserved their customs and culture. Farming, fishing are the main occupations of the islanders.



The most important sights of the islands are the numerous prehistoric testimonies as well as the traces of the monastic tradition originating from the Christianization by Saint Enda in the 5th century.

Worth seeing are:
Clochán na Carraige – the islands only surviving beehive hut
Dun Aengus, or Dún Aonghasa, Bronze or Iron Age stone fort
Dún Dúchathair (Dun Doocaher, English: "The Black Fort") - Promontory Fort
Dún Eochla – Ringfort near the highest point of Inishmore Island
Dún Eoghanachta – Ringfort on Inishmore
Poll na bPéist - perfectly rectangular, natural pool of water
the small town of Cill Rónáin on Inishmore with the Aran Heritage Centre
Na Seacht dTeampaill (English: "The Seven Churches") - former monastery
Teampall Chiaráin - 12th century church ruins

Dún Chonchúir on Inishmaan Iron Age stone fort
Dun Fearbhaí ring fort
Wedge Tomb by Carrownlisheen

Dún Formna, remains of a ring fort with O'Brien's Castle



The total size is around 51 km². The largest island, Árainn (Inishmore), on which the towns of Cill Rónáin and Cill Mhuirbhigh are located, is 13 kilometers long and 3 kilometers wide. In 2011 the population was 1251, down from 1225 five years earlier.

The Aran Islands are characterized by small gardens surrounded by stone walls. These gardens were painstakingly laid out on what used to be bare rocky islands. For this washed up seaweed and sand were spread on the ground. The walls prevented the ground that had been gained from being washed away or blown away by the next rain or storm.



The barren limestone islands geologically continue the formation of the Burren on the Irish main island.



In the 18th century about 5000 people lived on the islands. Today there are 1251 people who have their permanent residence on the islands (as of 2011); others work on the mainland and mostly spend the summer months on the islands.

For many years, the main source of income for the residents was fishing. However, this was almost abandoned in the mid-1990s. In return, there were generous support payments from the European Union. Numerous former fishermen switched to the tourism business, opened shops, became bus drivers or ran restaurants. Many residents left the islands.

Today there is a very strong age gap. There are around 80 students on the island. Many of them leave their homeland after their 18th birthday and never come back due to a lack of jobs. As a result, the majority of the population is over 50 years old and the number of residents is steadily declining.



Irish, a form of Gaelic, is the main language spoken on Inishmaan and Inisheer.

The Aran Islands are known for the local knitwear. The women's costume consists of a red flannel skirt and a crocheted scarf, while the men's costume consists of a sleeveless tweed jacket and a colorful woolen belt. For a long time, the traditional means of transport between the islands was the curragh, a flat boat made of tarred canvas, which is hardly used today.

The culture of the Aran Islands, particularly the use of Gaelic, continues to attract many visitors to this day. The writer John Millington Synge lived and wrote about the Aran Islands from 1899 to 1902. Documentary filmmaker Robert J. Flaherty shot the film The Men of Aran there from 1932 to 1934.



Today, the main sources of income for the residents are agriculture, manufacturing and trade in textile articles, as well as expanding tourism. Fishing, which has been the main source of income for the residents in recent decades, plays only a minor role today, as the islands ceded their fishing rights to the European Union (EU) in the mid-1990s. In return, the islands received subsidies from the EU.

Bus tours are available for tourists on Inishmore. The island can also be explored by bicycle. Cross-country hikes are difficult because of the many stone walls.

The islands owe part of their fame to the 1934 film Man of Aran, directed by Robert J. Flaherty. It is considered one of the first ethnographic documentaries. There are numerous depictions of the Aran Islands in Irish and Anglo-Irish literature, particularly from the Irish Renaissance period, such as John Millington Synges's The Aran Islands or his play Riders to the Sea. The Aran Islands are also mentioned in Nik Kershaw's pop song The Riddle.

Aran Sweater
The islands gave their name to the Aran Sweater. These traditional sweaters were initially made exclusively by hand on the Aran Islands. In the 20th century their popularity increased and they were exported not only to mainland Ireland but all over the world. Therefore, most sweaters were made by machines from then on.

Today a small proportion is still knitted by hand on the Aran Islands. They are popular with tourists and provide a good source of income for the residents of the Aran Islands.

The main island consists of a main town and 13 other settlements. A road network opens up the island. It has a supermarket, post office, bank, three churches, three primary schools and a secondary school. There are also plenty of accommodation options and there are numerous pubs and restaurants.

There are only diesel powered vehicles on Inishmore. Until 1975 there was no electricity.

All three islands each have a paved runway. They are served regularly by the Aer Arann Islands.



The Aran Islands are accessible by ferry from Galway City, Rossaveal in Connemara and Doolin in County Clare. There are also Aer Arann Islands flights from Connemara Airport to all three islands.