In recent years the Aran Islands have become one of Ireland’s major attractions. It is windswept and starkly beautiful, and apart from its natural beauty is has some of the country’s oldest Christian and pre-Christian ruins. There are three main islands in the group and close to only 1,200 people living on the islands. A lacework of ancient stone walls 1,000 miles in all encloses all three islands to contain local livestock. Visitors come in great quantity, particularly in the summer time.
O’Brien’s Castle on Inis Oirr was built in the 14th century. The castle was taken from the O’Brien’s by the O’Flaherty clan of Connemara in 1582. Teampull Bheanáin is considered the smallest church in the world. Teampall an Cheathrair Álainn has a holy well which inspired J. M. Synge’s play, The Well of the Saints.
These islands have had a worldwide fashion influence. The Aran jumper is a style of sweater that takes its name from the Aran Islands where it originated. It is sometimes known as a fisherman’s jumper. It is what we know as the classic fisherman’s sweater, the bulky garment with prominent cable patterns and often cream-colored.
On Inishmore the land slopes up from the relatively sheltered northern shores of the island and plummets on the southern side into the raging Atlantic. The islands have an unusually temperate climate. The island has one of the longest growing seasons in Ireland or Britain, and supports diverse and rich plant growth. Late May is the sunniest time of the year and the best time to view flowers. The islands support arctic, Mediterranean and alpine plants due to its unusual environment.
Inishmore, known as the big island, has four impressive forts of an uncertain age, but the guess is approximately 2,000 years old. The best known of the four is Dun Aengus; it is perched on the edge of the sheer southern cliffs. Dun Eoghanachta and Dun Eochla are much smaller but perfectly circular ring forts. Dun Duchathair is perched on a promontory south of Kilronan, a small town. Ionad Arann is located just off the main road to Kilronan and introduces the landscape and traditions of the island to visitors for a nominal price.
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