We took a ferry to the largest of the Aran Islands, Inishmore. The island is covered with small fields outlined by rock walls. Actually a good bit of the parts of Ireland that we have seen so far are this way. The 4th picture shows why. Most of the land in this part of Ireland is/was covered in rocks left by glaciers. Hundreds of years ago, the farmers broke up the rocks, made walls to delineate their fields and used seaweed and sand to create a base layer of soil so they could grow crops.
The second picture is a pub that was along side the road that is a good example of the thatched roofs that are on a lot of the buildings. A long time ago, thatched roofs meant you were not well off, now they are extremely expensive and show that you are wealthy. The tops of the roofs have different patterns that are the signature of whoever thatched the roof.
The main reason for our visit was to see Dún Aonghasa (pictures 3 – 10), the most famous of several prehistoric hill forts on the Aran Islands. It is built on a 600 foot cliff overlooking the Atlantic Ocean. It is not known exactly when Dún Aonghasa was built, though it is now thought that most of the structures date from the Bronze Age and Iron Age. Excavations at the site indicate that the first construction goes back to 1100 BC. Although clearly defensible, the particular location of Dún Aonghusa suggests that its primary purpose was religious and ceremonial rather than military.
We also stopped at the Seven Churches and Cemetery (picture 11) which underscores the long history and far reach of the Catholic Church. Saints and scholars in the 7th and 8th centuries (including 7 Romans – the only Romans to come to Ireland) came from many countries to study here.
Everyone on the Aran Islands speaks Gaelic. This is one of the few places where all the signs have no English on them (picture 13). We had an adventure walking on the beach back to the ferry — Don had to stop a boat that came too close to us (we have been around the Irish humor for too long).