Aran Islands, the Ireland of magic

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Andrea Lessona shares his memories of a visit to the Aran Islands, the remote lands off Ireland’s west coast

Andrea Lessona, Managing Editor of, writes: “In the Atlantic Ocean, tears from stars are left in timeless rocks. It’s the Aran Islands, three isles off the coast of Galway, on Ireland’s west coast. They come from another world because it is another world.

I discovered them during my journey, which started on board a ferry from Rossaveal to Kilronan, the only town on Inishmore (Inis Mór in Gaelic), the largest of the Aran Islands.

With a pony and trap, I travelled the narrow and ancient roads of the isle and I arrived at Dún Aengus Fort (1,000 BC), known as “the most magnificent barbaric monument in Europe”.

From the edge of the sheer cliffs close to Dún Aengus Fort © Andrea Lessona
From the edge of the sheer cliffs close to Dún Aengus Fort © Andrea Lessona

From the edge of an approximately 100-metre-high cliff, I saw the Atlantic waves roaring on history. And I breathed a sense of infinity.

Inside Dún Chonchúir, the oval-shaped Fort © Andrea Lessona
Inside Dún Chonchúir, the oval-shaped Fort © Andrea Lessona

The day after, I took a new ferry to Inishmaan (Inis Meáin in Gaelic), the middle isle of the archipelago. From the harbour I walked up the hill where there’s Dún Chonchúir, an oval-shaped Fort (built between the 1st and 7th centuries).

It’s close to Synge’s Cottage, the old and humble house where John Millington Synge, one of the most famous Irish writers, spent four summers between 1898 and 1902 to learn Gaelic language and culture.

Near the fort, here’s his chair, simple stones where he sat and looked at the horizon during his stay. A gentle breeze brought me his memories written in his masterpiece “The Aran Islands” and quivered my Irish soul.

The cliffs of Inisheer © Andrea Lessona
The cliffs of Inisheer © Andrea Lessona

Just a few miles and another ferry, there is Inisheer (Inis Oírr in Gaelic) the smallest of the three islands. From the shore I saw the old curraghs rested in the sand. Yesterday, they sailed the sea for fish, today, they are only a memory.

The old curraghs and the O'Brien Castle © Andrea Lessona
The old curraghs and the O’Brien Castle © Andrea Lessona

On the line of the horizon I saw the O’Brien Castle, built on the ruins of Dún Fornma Fort. It’s encircled by old stone walls, similar to a fish net. On the other side of the island, just beyond Teampall Chaomhaín, an ancient church buried in sand, there’s the Plassy Wreck, the boat wrecked during a dramatic storm in the 1960s.

An Aran Islander walks down Inisheer's ancient roads © Andrea Lessona
An Aran Islander walks down Inisheer’s ancient roads © Andrea Lessona

Through its ruins I could hear the echo of the wind telling the Aran Islands’ history: tears from stars left in timeless rocks.”

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Author: Oonagh Shiel (3414 posts)

Content Manager at Cheapflights whose travel life can be best summed up as BC (before children) and PC (post children). We only travel during the school holidays so short-haul trips and staycations are our specialities!