Ireland

  • The Complete Guide to Exploring the Aran Islands

    Aran Islands with Sundown

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    Planning a day trip or a vacation to the Aran Islands? These ruggedly beautiful islands welcome around 200,000 visitors every year, all keen to catch a glimpse of real Ireland, escape from the busyness of the modern world, experience traditional culture, and of course, take in the desolate windswept beauty of this unique location.

    About the Aran Islands

    The Aran Islands are a group of three islands in Galway Bay, off the west coast of Ireland. Theyre home to some of the oldest archaeological sites in Ireland and have a fascinating history.

    Isolated from the mainland until the 20th century, traditional island life continues in many ways as it has for hundreds of years, with most residents making a living through subsistence farming and fishing. The islands are also the home of the world-famous Aran knitwear.

    Gaelic is the official language of the Aran Islands and is the first and preferred language of most of the residents. These days everyone speaks English too, but if you try out a couple of phrases youre sure to get a smile. If you stay overnight, its a must to hang out with the locals in one of the local pubs, where you can enjoy a pint or two and listen to traditional live music.

    Inis Mor (Inishmore) Island

    The cliffs of Mohar at sundown
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    Inis Mr is the most westerly and the largest of the three islands. Its only around 9 miles long and less than 2.5 miles wide at its widest point, which makes it easy to travel around the whole island in a day. Its the most popular with visitors and offers the most amenities such as shops, cafes, and accommodation options.

    The island is home to around 1,000 people and there are fewer than 100 vehicles. Most visitors rent bikes to get around, and you can also take a tour in a pony and trap, which is a popular activity with many tourists. There are minibus tours available, which can be handy if youre on a day trip and want to see as much as you can in a short time frame.

    Where to Stay

    Kilronan Hostel A cozy budget accommodation option with small shared dorm rooms.

    Aonghasa's Walker's Lodge A comfortable mid-price option thats great for solo travelers and serves up a good breakfast.

    Ard Einne House Good value for money guesthouse with amazing views.

    Ard Mhuiris B&B A family-run B&B in an excellent location with free ferry transfers.

    Pier House Guesthouse Great location close to the pier, and with a nice restaurant.

    Aran Islands Hotel A traditional island hotel with an attached pub that offers regular live music.

    Tigh Fitz A family-run guesthouse with clean rooms and friendly hosts.

    What to See

    Kilronan village This is the only village on all three of the islands and is also the only place on the island with a supermarket and ATM, so its essential to stop here for supplies. Its also a quaint little village thats fun to explore with several cafes, gift shops, and traditional Irish pubs where you can meet the locals.

    Dn Aonghasa A 2,000-year-old Celtic fort on the edge of a massive limestone cliff. This is the most famous tourist attraction on the Aran Islands and is definitely a must-see.

    Seven Churches Another archaeological site containing the ruins of several ancient chapels and monasteries.

    Wormhole An impressive natural rectangular-shaped tidal pool accessed by a cliff-top walk south from Dn Aonghasa. Its part of the Red Bull Cliff Diving World Series

    Seal Colony Theres a natural seal habitat that you can see off the coastal road on the way to Kilmurvey beach. Just next door is also a small lake where you can see wild ducks, swans, and other birds.

    The Black Fort A ruin set atop the cliffs on the southern side of the island with impressive views. Its much less popular than Dn Aonghasa, which makes it ideal for a more peaceful excursion.

    Dun Eoghanacht A ruined Iron Age fort surrounded by a double circular wall with the remains of several stone houses inside.

    Inis Mein (Inishmaan) Island

    aran island stone walls
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    Inis Mein has a population of only 200 people and is the quietest of the three islands. Its a great place to take a deep dive into traditional Irish life and culture, with many residents still choosing to wear traditional Irish clothing, and various cultural courses on offer such as dance and poetry.

    What to See

    A sign to synges chair

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    SyngesChair A viewpoint on the most western point of the island, where you can see the waves crashing in Gregorys Sound below. This is where the playwright Edward John Millington Synge would sit for inspiration while writing.

    The Puffing Holes They're holes in the ground at the top of the cliffs that create a spray of seawater similar to a whale when the waves are high.

    The Heritage House A traditional thatched cottage housing various historical artifacts relating to the island.

    Inis Mein Knitting Co Traditional knitwear factory where you can purchase Aran Sweaters at discounted prices.

    Where to Stay

    An Dun B&B and Restaurant Located in the middle of the island, this B&B offers a steam room, sauna, and delicious home-cooked meals.

    Inis Mein Restaurant & Suites A boutique hotel experience on the islands with five modern apartment-style suites.

    Tig Congaile B&B A simple B&B with sea views and organized activities.

     

    Inis Orr (Inisheer) Island

    The smallest of the islands, Inis Orr is a traditional Irish fishing island with stunning sandy beaches. Less than 2 miles long and wide, the island is easily walkable, and you can explore its valleys and sights by foot or by bicycle. The island may be small but it has a fascinating history and like the other islands is dotted with ancient ruins including a buried church that lies six feet below the surface.

     

    What to See

    ThePlassy A shipwreck that ran aground on the island after a storm in March 1960. A nearby pub, Tigh Ned, displays photographs and documents detailing the rescue of the people onboard, all of whom miraculously survived.

    Obriens Castle A ruined castle dating back to 1585, that was built on the highest point on the island. After climbing the 100m to the top youll be rewarded with stunning views that are particularly spectacular at sunset.

    St Kevins Church The ruins of the 10th century St. Kevins church are below the surface of the earth, as sand has blown over the site and covered it up over hundreds of hears. Hoever, its been uncovered so you can climb down and explore.

    Where to Stay

    An Creagn B&B Comfortable rooms with great views in this modern and clean B & B.

    Inisheer Hotel Clean and friendly hotel on the beach with a popular bar.

    Tigh Ruairi A friendly pub with a cozy B&B attached.

     

    What to Do on the Aran Islands

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    Apart from the main tourist attractions on each island, the Aran Islands offer a wide range of activities for solo travelers, couples, and families alike.

    Surfing

    The swells generated in Galway bay make the islands a popular spot for surfers

    Hiking

    The islands are relatively flat, making some walks accessible to all fitness levels, with stunning scenery. A popular walk is The Ring of Aran on Inis Mr starting at Kilronan village, visiting the standing stones, Kilmurvey beach, the seal colony, Dun Aonghasa, the Wormhole, and the lighthouse, the walk takes around 3-6 hours and youll be rewarded with panoramic views as well as seeing many sights on the island.

    Weddings and honeymoons

    The Aran Islands have become a popular place for romantic trips due to their secluded location and moving scenery. Some of the hotels offer wedding packages and you can even have a traditional Celtic wedding ceremony with hand fasting or blessing as the holy well.

    Fishing and boating

    Fishing is part of traditional life on the Aran Islands and is also a popular yachting locating, particularly in the summer months.

    Cycling

    Due to the small number of motorized vehicles on the island and the flat geography, cycling is the most popular method of transport for visitors. The 30-minute bike ride from the Pier on Inis Mr Island to Dun Aonghasa is regarded as one of the most popular cycling routes in Ireland.

    Yoga and meditation

    There are a few parts of the world where you can relax and focus in absolute silence, but the Aran Islands is one of them. There are regularly arranged meditation retreats and you can, of course, enjoy your own practice theres certainly plenty of space to find solitude. There is a natural spiritual energy on the islands that has to be experienced to be understood. The Aran Islands have been a place of pilgrimage for thousands of years, and you can visit these sacred pilgrimage locations all over the islands.

    Beaches

    All three of the islands boast white sandy beaches with turquoise water that rivals the Caribbean islands. They may be a little cooler, but if youre lucky you can get the whole beach to yourself.

    Wildlife

    The Aran Islands are home to a wide array of wildlife with habitats unspoiled by human habitation and modern progress. You can see many different types of seabirds, seals, lizards, over 400 species of wildflowers, and butterflies.

    TedFest Are you a fan of the cult TV series Father Ted? The Aran islands are the original Craggy Island and Inis Orr is pictured in the opening sequence. The annual father ted festival Tedfest (not to be confused with a TEDx event of the same name) is held annually on Inis Mr.

     

    How to Get There

    how to get to the aran islands by plane

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    Aran Island Ferries sail from Rossaveal Ferry Terminal to all the islands year-round several times a day, and the crossing takes around 40 minutes. You can reach the ferry terminal by shuttle bus from Galway. Ferry crossings may be canceled in rough weather.

    Doolin Ferries and OBrien Line also run ferries in the busier season from March to November from Doolin, County Clare

    If you prefer to arrive by air, Aer Arann Islands flies to all the islands from Connemara Regional Airport. The flights take only around 10 minutes and you get the bonus of seeing the spectacular scenery from above.

  • The Day The Irish People Take Over the World [Infographic]

    Emigration is embedded within the Irish DNA - it's our relationship with other countries that have allowed Ireland to become one of the most loved nations.

    For one day a year, Ireland manages to imprint itself on more countries around the world than any other country in History.

    St. Patricks Day this year will see 287 globally recognised monuments turn green. This is up from just two buildings back in 2010.Sweater Shop investigatesthe Irish connections abroad and has illustrated this connection for some of the most Iconic buildings around the world.

    The day the Irish Take Over the World

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    Ireland and France, A Love Affair

    A french Love Affair

    Ireland and France share a long-standing, lovable history that began in 18481. A group of French women gifted the Irish with their national flag.

    This affair is not all taking. The Irish returned the favour by gifting them with their most famous spirit, Hennessy2.

    And recently the French awarded Ireland with a medal for our Sportsmanship and Outstanding Contribution at Euro 2016. An event, the Mayor of Paris called a unique moment for Ireland in France. The Irish certainly raised the spirits of a country that had a tough year.

    The French continue to host the largest Irish cultural centre in Europe, and we continue to adore their language, teaching it to 180,000 of our youth each year2. Long may the relationship continue, one set to strengthen further in light of the impending, Brexit.

    Ireland and Brazil, an Educational Collaboration

    Brazil Christ Monument

    Ireland and Brazil enjoy excellent relations, politically, culturally and economically. New links are being built, between these two countries.

    Eight years ago in 2012 Ireland signed a milestone agreement with Brazil relating to education3. Today, Brazil tops the league of non-EU students studying in Ireland, which is more than China and the U.S combined. Brazilian students claim to love Ireland, leaving with a little bit of Ireland in their hearts.

    The Irish Community living and working in Brazil also continues to grow and includes business people, students on university exchanges and Irish people who have decided to call Brazil home.

    Its said the Irish communities vibrant and unique contribution continues to make a positive contribution to Brazil.

    Ireland and Italy, creating culinary masters since 1880

    Leaning Tower of Piza Illustrated

    There is strong historical and cultural bond between the Irish and Italian, both sharing a mutual respect for each others traditions.

    The Irish and the Italians are probably the most like each other. Nations of laid-back people with a sunny disposition, who are extroverted and gentle but also very proud.

    Strong historical ties between these nations go back as far as the European Dark Ages, which began around 500 AD. Pope Paul V helped the Irish Earls in 1608 after they were forced out of Ireland by the British.4

    They are now buried in the church of San Pietro in Montorio which indicates the high esteem the Italians had for our Gaelic chieftains.

    The two countries have helped each other out a lot since then, efforts resulting a little Italy in Ireland, Irish-Italian chippers, that have been popular since 1909.5

    Ireland and Egypt, Inspiring their Nation

    The Egyptian Pyramids that go green on St Patricks day Illustrated

    Celtic Warriors in Egypt, during the third century, acted as a support for the Ptolemaic dynasty in Egypt. It is history, where many mysteries remain, but Egyptian archaeologists have found many figurines of Celts presented in Ptolemaic style.6

    Known, as mighty warriors, offering the most critical support to Mediterranean armies, more than 4,000 reportedly fought under the reign of the Cleopatra, the Queen of Egypt. As a result, many Irish settled in Egypt. It is said that the children of Celtic-Egyptian marriages were known by the slang term e pigovoi.6

    Further exciting and, surprising similarities - are found in Passage Tombs. Ireland has a passage tomb in Newgrange - that was constructed in 3200BC - making it more than 600 years older than the Giza Pyramids in Egypt (while lacking the architectural grandeur, that's quite impressive).7

    Ireland and USA, From Rags to Riches

    World Trade Centre green st patricks day illustrated

    The Irish American Population is seven times larger than Ireland itself, with a quarter of Bostonians claiming Irish heritage.8 The Irish influence is dominant in American history.

    Nine signatories of the Declaration of Independence were Irish. In fact, the Irish have more influence on American politics with twenty-two American presidents boasting Irish roots.

    Irishmen built the White House. And it's no surprise that thirteen towns in America are named after the capital of Ireland, Dublin.9

    America was introduced to one of their most loved sports boxing from the Irish. Probably born from the Irish reputation of hot tempers and fervent pugilism.

    It could be argued that the Irish take over on St Patrick's Day is a direct result of the American celebrations for Ireland as the first St Patricks Day parade took place in New York City, 1762.9

    Even the world-famous Irish saying, The Luck of the Irish came from Americans branding the Irish immigrants mining success as luck, rather than skill.

    Ireland and Australia, an Engineering Masterpiece

    Sydny Opera House Green Illustrated

    The Irish have been prominent in early the history of the development of Australia and shaped Australias early cultural, social and political attitudes. To this day, Australia remains one of the most Irish countries in the world, outside Ireland. 10.4% of their population or 2,087,800 residents identified themselves as having Irish ancestry either alone or in combination with another ancestry.10

    The Irish had design involvements in one of Australia's most recognisable buildings, the Sydney Opera House. Peter Rice, from Dundalk, Co. Louth, a structural engineer mastered geometry for the complex roof design.

    Ireland and Mexico, A Combative Alliance

    Angel of Independence Illustrated Mexico Green

    An Interesting relationship, and one that has been less publicised over the years. The Irish Mexican bond is one dating way back to 1611. Irishman, William Lambert born initially in Wexford was the first person to propose the independence of Mexico.

    Saint Patrick Battalion Irish soldiers also fought for Mexico during the Mexican-American War. In what has been lauded as one of the highest honours ever, because they were fighting for an adopted nation - and they died for an adopted country.

    Mexico remembers the soldiers as heroic martyrs and their sacrifices are still honoured today. A commemoration is held each year in the Plaza San Jacinto. Both the Mexican and the Irish national anthems are played with an honour guard of elite Mexican soldiers saluting the deceased.12

    Today, between 300,000 and 600,000 people of Irish descent are living in Mexico, mostly in either northern Mexico Mexico City.13

    Ireland and Canada, A Shared Culture

    Canada Monument Green St Patricks day

    The Irish and the Canadians have a love, love relationship. Toronto is a city that was shaped in many ways by the Irish people who immigrated in the 1840s and the impact is still clear to see today.

    St Patricks Day is a public holiday in Canadian provinces: Newfoundland and Labrador. The residents here dont like being called Canadians, but you can call them Irish, and the area is often dubbed the most Irish place outside of Ireland.14

    The Montreal city flag includes a shamrock. Irish is spoken in a certain part of Ontario in Canada where the Gaeltacht Thuaisceart an Oilein ir is based (or the North American Gaeltacht). Its also the only Gaeltacht that exists outside of the island of Ireland.

    Famously, St Patricks day was celebrated in Space by Canadian Astronaut Chris Hadfield who photographed Ireland from the ISS and performed an out-of-this-world rendition of Danny Boy. Today, 4.5 million Canadians claim to have Irish ancestors - 14% of Canada's population.15

    Ireland and China, A Prosperous Relationship

    Great Wall of China St Patricks Day Illustrated

    A bond that was born from a story largely unknown, reaching back to more than 100 years ago. From a time of epic events at an extraordinarily turbulent but fascinating period of Chinese history. A time when hundreds of Irish men and women made their way to China as missionaries to work in social and disaster relief services.

    Today the Irish are helping shape the Chinese Dream. The promise of a moderately prosperous society, combining a growing economy with a genuine improvement in the quality of life. It seems there are very few economies that have achieved this transition, with many Chinese analysts believing Ireland is a successful benchmarkable example.16

    Ireland and Jordan, Sharing the Struggle for Peace

    Petra goes green st patricks day

    One based on empathy, compassion and respect. Ireland and Jordan are two countries that have unfortunately experienced similar conflict and the struggle for peace. Ireland today continues to help Jordan through their refugee crisis and the development of bilateral relations, to date making a financial contribution of 70 million.17

    There are also 336 Irish troops from the 109th Infantry Battalion who are currently serving with the UN peace-keeping force, UNIFIL, continuing Irelands long and proud tradition of participation in UN peace-keeping missions. With understanding like no other and love in their hearts, they are committed to making a difference in Jordan.

    Ireland in the UK, A Historic Shift

    London Eye Green St Patricks Day Illustrated

    Ireland, and the UK. A history of rivalry from neighbours, with Ireland always the underdog. The relationship is shifting, In 2017 alone, 162,251 individuals applied for Irish Passports from the UK.18No doubt Brexit has influenced this, but a favourable reversal to whats documented in the history books.

    With Ireland now also the Gateway for the UK to the EU, we hope our friends across the pond continue to be kind to us as a nation we majorly rely on the UK for exportation of goods.

    A FINAL THOUGHT

    To conclude on why the world will light up green this St Patricks Day, we believe this is due to our positive influential relationships around the world. As an Irish, family owned and run business, we are proud to be recognised globally, we are proud our country.

    Be sure to join in on the St Patricks Day fun this Saturday, and celebrate in true Irish style with your nearest and dearest.

    To view the list of all 287 Monuments lighting up green on the 17th check out this list from Tourism Ireland.

    Sources

    1. https://www.thelocal.fr/20160625/five-things-you-didnt-know-about-france-and-ireland
    2. https://ie.ambafrance.org/Did-you-know-10-facts-about-Franco
    3. https://www.irishtimes.com/news/ireland/irish-news/brazil-tops-league-of-non-eu-students-in-ireland-1.2981494
    4. https://toscana.ie/irish-italian-connection-history/
    5. https://www.dfa.ie/irish-embassy/italy/our-role/irish-relations/
    6. http://www.ancient-origins.net/history/exploring-little-known-history-celtic-warriors-egypt-005100
    7. https://mythicalireland.com/ancient-sites/101-facts-about-newgrange/
    8. https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/wonk/wp/2013/03/17/the-irish-american-population-is-seven-times-larger-than-ireland/?utm_term=.120ac8f8c283
    9. https://www.nycstpatricksparade.org/about/history/
    10. https://www.theguardian.com/world/2013/mar/17/ireland-australia-land-of-plenty
    11. https://www.irishtimes.com/news/ireland-s-mexican-wave-1.601082
    12. https://www.irishcentral.com/roots/how-many-dublins-are-there-in-america
    13. https://www.pri.org/stories/2015-03-17/st-patrick-s-day-mexico-remembers-irishmen-who-fought-mexico-against-us
    14. https://www.irishtimes.com/life-and-style/travel/the-most-irish-island-in-the-world-1.1538579
    15. https://www.space.com/20257-space-st-patricks-day-astronaut.html
    16. http://www.thejournal.ie/readme/relationship-between-ireland-and-china-1522090-Jun2014/
    17. https://www.dfa.ie/news-and-media/press-releases/press-release-archive/2017/february/minister-mchugh-visits-jordan-and-lebanon/
    18. https://www.independent.ie/business/brexit/surge-in-irish-passport-applications-from-uk-36450675.html

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