Aran Islands, Ireland

 

After a wild storm last night, the day gave us clear skies for our visit to the Aran Islands. The islands are a highlight on the Wild Atlantic Way.  We took a forty minute ferry ride to the island where we boarded mini buses for a ride to  Dun Aonghasa, a stone fortification that has some evidence of existence back to 1100 BC and subsequent colonization as late as 1000 CE. It appears to have been built over several different eras and was slowly abandoned as hill forts became peripheral to social and economic development.  The first photo shows the long climb to the top which is over very rough terrain. The remaining photos are taken inside the fort and also show views from the fort of the cliffs and surrounding area.

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Our second stop was at the place known as Seven Churches. In fact there are not seven churches on the site as the photos show.  There are in fact only two churches with a number of other buildings. The title seven is possibly an allusion to the pilgrimage circuit of Rome which incorporated seven churches. It was also known was for centuries as one of the biggest monastic foundations and centres of pilgrimage along the west coast of Ireland. 

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The remainder of the tour was spent looking at the scenery and the remains of smallholdings on the island. The island is essentially rock. Loose stones were cleared from the land and used to make fences. Layers of seaweed and sand were placed on the fields over the centuries to grow food. It is exceptionally good for potatoes. During the potato famine, people from the mainland emigrated to the Aran Islands to farm as the potato blight did not spread to the islands. At one time there may have been 5000 occupants on the island but now there are only about 500 people living there.  The occupants also used to fish until the EU placed a moratorium on fishing around the islands. There are five sandy beaches on the islands. People were in swimming today though it was only about 15C.

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