“If Ireland is intriguing as being an island off the West of Europe, then Aran, as an island off the West of Ireland, is still more so; it is Ireland raised to the power of two.“
– Author Tim Robinson
The Aran Islands are located in Galway Bay and are part of County Galway. Only 6 miles separates Inis Oirr from Doolin, it is the closest mainland point to the islands. The sounds (or sea areas) between the islands are about 1.5 miles wide, and 10 – 12 miles separates Inis Mor from Connemara.
The islands are one of Ireland’s Gaeltacht areas, which means the people living there speak Irish as their first language. Most of the inhabitants can now switch to and fro between Irish and English, but some of the older residents can only speak as Gaelige (in Irish).
Each of the three islands have extensive ancient and religious sites worth exploring, including a Bronze Age mound and a “sunken” church on Inis Oirr and reputedly the smallest church in the world on Inis Mor.
Between 800 AD and the early 12th century, there was a frenzy of pilgrim activity in Ireland. The Aran Islands very popular, due to the hardship required to get there in the first place – the pilgrims endured a suitable penance en route!
The islands have been long held as a source of inspiration for poets, painters and writers. The landscape and unique culture has attracted many famous artists and authors over the years, including J M Synge, who wrote his play “The Playboy of the Western World” while he lived on Inis Meain.