The islanders, with a curious mixture of sneer and pride, tell us that these windswept lands were always far from the control of the British crown. Isolation and difficulties in responding to any outbreak of discontent on the part of the natives lead to the removal of the small garrison which maintained its British majesty in this small territory. They also assure the locals, talkative and friendly, that the flag of the Republic of Ireland waved in place long before the rest of the country “got rid of the English.”
Proud. Pure-bred Irishmen find themselves alternating between that particular West English they use when talking to a stranger and Gaelic, which is still the mother tongue to the natives of this part of the country. Scrambled hair, thick wool jerseys, ands hands hardened by years of plow, salt and rowing.
Although it is full summer, it is cold in Kilronan. Shivering from the cold breeze that comes from the heart of the North Atlantic, we seek refuge in the American Bar. Boiling chicken soup, an imposing lamb stew and the omnipresent Guinness, the most famous stout in the world. The natives drink, talk and play billiards. Drops of water hit the window panes violently. The day alternates between electric lights coming from the sky and echoes of storms still far away that only say that the worst is yet to come.
Inishmore is the largest of the three islands forming a small archipelago of the Aran Islands, a kind of gray limestone barrier that protects the Bay of Galway from the ever raging waves of the Atlantic Ocean. It is barely fourteen kilometers long and four at its widest point. Some 1,300 souls live in this rock covered with green bar-shaped meadows; Most of it in the small and charming village of Kilronan, a modest set of one-story or two-story houses with black slate roofs around the bay of Cill Eine. A place where green meadows come to die on beautiful beaches of fine white sand.
But the sea here is cold. Inhospitable and brutal. A sea that has marked the character of people who have lived in ‘the rock’ since time immemorial forging this race of tough guys and strong women. Paisanos and paisanas who have managed to extract from the sea and the stony land a livelihood until a few decades ago.
“Now it’s something else,” says old Thomas.”Before, it was hard to fill the stomach, but now with tourism everything is different,” he says. “This is what we are,” he says. “It’s what you have come to see,” he says emphatically.
These landscapes, crossed in all directions by gray stones are, next to the archaeological remains, the main attraction of a piece of land that, in summer, sees its population multiply sixfold Take the visitor up by sea or air from neighboring Galway and await small coaches, pony-carts or representatives of companies that rent bicycles on foot from the ladder. The latter is not a bad option if you leave with time. But one is exposed to the fury of the elements. The variable Irish climate is in these lands even more capricious than in the ‘big island’, as they say here.
Prehistoric Forts and Churches
The first neighbors of the islands set foot in the place about 2,000 years ago and left curious stone structures that experts have identified as powerful strong stone defensive. The most celebrated is Dun Aengus (Tel: (+353) 996 008; Hours: LD 9.30 – 16.00; e-mail: email@example.com), an impressive system of defensive rings built with loose rock that takes advantage of one of the Highest cliffs of the island to guard its south flank.
There are other ‘Dun’ (those of Eoghanachta, Eochla and Dunchathair) throughout the insular geography, but none reaches the spectacularity of the known dwelling of King Aengus. Close by, one finds the other great reality that shaped the history and identity of the islanders: Christianity. From Na Seacht d’Equipe (the seven churches) today there are only walls that leave the old rooms exposed to the normally gray and weeping skies. Arches that lead nowhere, remains of Celtic crosses and omnipresent headstones are all that remains of this monastery which, we are told, dates back to the 8th century.
Venerable ruins. Like those located a few meters from the coquettish airport, just two kilometers from the capital. In this part of the island, you can see the neighboring islands of Inishmaan and Inisheer, the other members of the Archipelago. Killeany is the third population of the island. It is just a street that runs through a spectacular cove in which the English located the first jetty and Arkyn Castle, symbol of the British occupation on the island.
But there is much more than stones, of course. Nature at its best in places like Port Chorruch, in which it is not difficult to see some of the colonies of sea lions that live in the island. Rude nature that conditioned the lives of the inhabitants of Aran. A people attached to their traditions that, for years, attracted the attention of anthropologists or filmmakers such as Robert Flaherty, author of the memorable ‘Men of Aran.’
All that and more. Like rain and pubs, pints, and chicken soups, and traditional Irish music to let the imagination run wild.
How to get there:
By sea – a good option is Islands Ferries, with several daily connections from the Port of Rossaveal. Aer Arann also offers several connections per day although by air from Connemara Airport
- Ostan Oileain Árainn Hotel-The best hotel on the island with comfortable and well-stocked rooms (Kilronan).Www.aranislandshotel.com
- An Crúgán – Comfortable and with the best views over the bay of Cill Éine (Kilronan).Www.pierhousearan.com
- Kilronan Hostel. Simple but correct (Kilronan).Www.kilronanhostel.com