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Visiting Inis Meain (Inishmaan)

Inishmaan Pub

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.

Aran Islands, Inishmaan, one of the many high stone walls on this rocky island.

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.

Places to Visit

The island 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.

Nearby you 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.

Aran Islands, Inishmaan,  traditional old style Irish cottage.

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.

In 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 build that.

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!

More About The Aran Islands

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Other Things To Do On Inis Meain

  • Visit the Knitwear factory which produces local handmade knitwear such as Aran Sweaters. They export to the top of the High Street in London, Tokyo and New York, but here you can buy directly from the makers at a discount.
  • Go diving with the local dive centre during the summer season.
  • Make sure to drop into a local pub and check out the atmosphere. You might be lucky enough to walk into an Irish Music session.
Aran Islands, Inishmaan, characteristic rocky landscape.

Getting around and staying on Inis Meáin

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.

If you enjoyed this article on Inis Meain and like what we do on this website, please give us a social shout out! You can use the options we provide both top left and at the bottom.

Thanks a million and warmest regards from Ireland from Susanna and Colm.

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