Inis Meain is one of Ireland's best tourist attractions, a hidden gem, easily reached and just out of the way of the really busy sister island Inishmore.
Of the three
Aran Islands, this is the least visited although there are direct boat
trips to there from both Rossaveal and Doolin, and flights with Aer Arann from Inverin.
For those that want a quiet getaway, and a glimpse of old
traditions when older island folk dress up in traditional clothing at weekends,
Inish Meáin is the perfect place.
The landscape is at its’ most
extreme here with fields of pure rock all over the island, covered by a maze of
high stone walls.
came to fame through the Irish writer J.M. Synge who stayed on Inis Meáin for
long periods of time between 1898 and 1902 and drew a lot of inspiration from
the island culture. Synge is the author of the plays ‘Riders To The Sea’, ‘The
Playboy of The Western World’, and of the moving account of life on the islands
‘The Aran Islands’.
The main character in his world famous play ‘Playboy of the
Western World’ was inspired by a man who was hiding from the authorities and
had sought refuge on Inis Meain living in one of the local forts before taking
a boat to America.
The small museum ‘Teach
Synge’ (The House of Synge) at the old house where Synge used to live is
dedicated to the writer and worth a visit for anyone who is curious about Irish
history and/ or literature.
The house is a quaint Irish cottage, the
kind everyone would have lived in back then. It is thatched and whitewashed,
with a central hearth. Some of the original furniture and household equipment
are on display.
will find the Mary Immaculate Church
with stainglass windows from the Harry Clarke studio. The altar also has a
claim to fame having been built by Padraig Pearse's father James.
Of all the
seven forts on the Aran Islands, the small Dún
Fearbhaí on Inis Meain is my personal favourite. Granted, it’s much less
spectacular than the cliff top forts.
It’s the unusual shape that did it for
me; the fort is rectangular with rounded corners and it is built so neatly. I
also like that it is a compact fort which makes the walls seem higher than they
really are, and really makes it seem like a protected homestead. I always like
to imagine what these places were like back then and I think I would have felt
safe living here.
Some people say that forts of shapes other than a circle
are younger structures. The theory goes that with the coming of Christianity the building of circular structures as often built by indigenous cultures, gradually vanished. Some even say these new shapes in forts might be as young as Early Christian
times. There is evidence though of rectangular and
oval shape forts being excavated elsewhere with findings dating back as far as
the Bronze Age.
I guess we won’t know for sure until they’ve all been examined,
but personally I like to believe that Dún
Fearbhaí is older.
comparison, Dún Chonchúir at 300
feet at the highest point of Inis Meain is huge. The walls are absolutely
massive, 5 metres high and 6 metres wide. Imagine the effort and the amount of
time and the craftsmanship it took to
Like with so many pre-historic monuments, the views from up there
are stunning. You can see right around Galway Bay, Connemara hills on one side,
the Cliffs of Moher on the other. Sometimes you can see as far as Mount Brandon
in County Kerry when the skies are clear and when there isn’t too much moisture
in the air. What a perfect place for a look out to guard the islands!
Bike rental and a mini bus service are the ways to get around on Inishmaan, both accessible
directly at the pier.
For accomodation there is a smaller selection than on the
other islands. There is a small island hotel Óstan Inis Meáin (099- 73020), and
a handful of B and B’s, such as An Dún (099-73047) and Tig Chonghaile (099-73085) both with
restaurants serving delicious local seafood. There is no campsite, but it is
okay to camp in the dunes near the beach.
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Thanks a million and warmest regards from Ireland from Susanna and Colm.
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