Aran Islands

 Inis Oírr / Inisheer

Inis Oírr / Inis Oirthir / Inis Thiar (“East / Rear Island”) / Inisheer (winter pop. 300) is the smallest and most easterly of the three Aran Islands, most often approached from Doolin in County Clare.

Despite its size Inis Oírr has a hotel, several pubs, B&Bs and a campsite, and there is plenty to do and see.

The island is small enough for everywhere to be easily accessed on foot. Jarveys have ponies and traps for hire, and bicycles are available for rent.

Cill Ghobnait / Saint Gobnait’s church is a small C9th structure, now in ruins.

Teampall Chaomhain / St Kevin’s church is a ruined C12th church, sunk deeply into a hill close to the shore. It was built to honour Saint Caomhain / Kevin, the island’s patron, whose feast day is celebrated on 14th June each year.  Buried by sand and forgotten for centuries, it was uncovered by a storm in the 1890s. (Photo by Mike Brown)

Cill na Seacht nInghean (“the church of the Seven Daughters”) is another ruin worth visiting.

Tobar Einne, the Holy Well of Saint Enda, the patron saint of Inis Mór, is greatly respected by the islanders, although now derelict.

Caisleán Ui Bhríain / O’Brien’s Castle

 

Caisleán Ui Bhríain / O’Brien’s Castle is a large three story C15th Tower House standing within an ancient stone fort called Dún Fhormna.

 

From here a predatory branch of the O’Briens alternately preyed on local shipping and ran a lucrative protection racket; there are medieval records of payments of wine by the Galway city authorities to the  head of the family to keep the Bay pirate-free!

 

The castle was taken by the famously ferocious O’Flaherty clan of Connemara in 1584, but the subsequent takeover of the Aran Island by English authority soon saw the structure abandoned.

Lonely horse on Inis Oírr. Other animals on the island include cattle, donkeys, sheep and visiting seals, a number of interesting butterflies, dragonflies, bees etc. and a wide variety of avian life, from sea gulls to songbirds.

Inis Oírr, like the nearby Burren, has a surprisingly wide variety of plant life, with Arctic, Mediterranean and Alpine species growing side by side. Dwarf shrubs can be found next to gentians, avens and orchids.

The Inis Oirr lighthouse (34m), erected at Fardurris Point in 1857, and automated in 1978, stands in a windswept stonewalled enclosure together with two former keepers’ houses.

The Plassey

 

The Plassey is the name of the cargo vessel shipwrecked on Carraig na Finise in the 1960s.

 

The islanders rescued the entire crew during storm force weather using Breeches Buoy without the loss of a single sailor.

 

In later years strong Atlantic Oceans waves threw the wreck up on the rocks, well above high tide mark.

 

The wreck became familiar to millions of television viewers as part of the opening credits for the BBC comedy TV series Father Ted, set on the fictional Craggy Island.

 

Identification with Craggy Island has led to bad feeling in recent years, with Inis Mór‘s hosting of annual Father Ted-related events such as inter-island football matches leaving locals feeling cheated.

Inis Oírr  has an exceptionally beautiful long sandy beach with crystal clear waters. This beach is safe for swimming during the summer months, when there is a lifeguard on duty during the day.

Rod fishing from the main pier or along the coast line at high tide is a relaxing pastime. Mackerel are an easy catch in season (during the summer).

County Clare’s Cliffs of Moher seen from Inis Oírr.

Áras Éanna Arts & Heritage Centre was established in 2000 in a converted weaving factory. In addition to courses in traditional island crafts such as basket and quilt making, this contemporary arts centre runs a residency programme for visiting artists from Ireland and abroad, who stay for up to 4 months and exhibit their work. There is also a theatre where films, concerts and plays are shown regularly. Archive films are shown during the day in summer.

 

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