Irish Rail Tours: Aran Islands
The Aran Islands are a cluster of three islands located off the coast of Ireland. Our Irish Rail Tour package provided us with the opportunity to visit Inis Mor. Inis Mor is the largest of the three Aran Islands and measures 11.97 miles in length. Accessing the islands requires visitors to take an hour ferry ride to and from the mainland from the islands. Our guides told stories of incredibly awkward and uncomfortable ferry passages they had experienced. We were fortunate to have perfect weather for our ferry crossing and a tour of the island.
Aran Sweater Market
We arrived at the island in a timely manner and headed to the Aran Sweater Market to begin our hop-on-hop-off island tour. The first stop of our tour was the original Aran Sweater Market which sits in the tiny town square of Inis Mor. Our guide shared with us that island knitters island knitters specifically created patterns that represented family seals and heritage. Island knitters then took these patterns and the traditional Aran sweaters. The island legend continues to share that knitters gave Aran sweaters to fishermen to keep them warm during their time at sea. The traditional Aran sweater could be used to identify the bodies of fishermen when accidents occurred.
After leaving the Aran Sweater Market, we headed towards Dun Aonghusha. Dun Aonghasa is a pre-historic fort built high up on a cliff. Historians have estimated that the structures of the wall date back to the Bronze and Iron ages or 1100 BC. Our guide insisted that the hike from the Dun Aonghasa visitor took 10 min, however, the hike was more difficult than I anticipated and took us 30 minutes. But, the hike was totally worth it! We were able to delight in unspoiled views of the ocean and cliffs.
We enjoyed lunch at a small cafe across the street from Dun Aonghusha and enjoyed visiting the Kilmurvey Craft Village. One of the local shops sold locally sourced Aran sweaters at a discounted price. The day we visited the islands, I wore a knitted cape I had made the summer before. The cape was a fantastic conversation starter with the shop keeper. We talked at length about Irish knitting verses American knitting styles. And, she even encouraged me to attempt to make my sweater when I returned home.
Our guide picked us up promptly from the Kilmurvey Craft Village and took us to our final stop, the Seven Churches (Na Seacht Dteampaill). Surprisingly, there are only two churches on the Seven Churches property. Early Aran Island inhabitants dedicated Seven Churches to Saint Brecan, a 5th-century Irish saint.
Inis Mor is a magical place where time has stood still and inhabitants stay true to their Irish roots by speaking their native tongue. Don’t fret, they also speak English! Leap Year (2010), The MatchMaker (1997), and the Man of Aran (1934) used the islands as their movie backdrop. If you find yourself in Ireland, you must make visiting the islands a priority.
- Amanda is a native of Richmond, VA. She enjoys writing, blogging, traveling, shopping, and spending time with friends and family.