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Stones of Aran: Pilgrimage (New York Review Books Classics) by Tim Robinson">Stones of Aran: Pilgrimage (New York Review Books Classics) by Tim Robinson
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Aran's first green roof in centuries starts to bloom

Aran Islands

Thumbnail image for Green Roof 09.JPG                  
Beautiful yet rugged,
the Pabshsaer Barr Aille, aka the Sea Pink, clings to a crack in the limestone cliff near Synge's Chair. Now hundreds of cultivars of this wild Inis Méain plant are growing on the first green roof to be built on the Aran islands in centuries. The Clochán, built in the bronze age which a few feet behind our green roofed studio still has an intact green roof on it. Its a reminder that there is nothing new under the sun.  We have plenty to learn about becoming sustainabile from looking at the past. Read more about the living roof here here

INIS MEÁIN - Is Dún Crocbhúr an ancient crematorium?
The environs of Dún Crocbhur showing archeological evidence of various early settlement
By Feargal OP
From the general layout of the structure it is difficult to suggest what purpose the Dún (fort) has. The name Dún implies that it had a military or defensive purpose but I find it hard to believe that an island, that is six miles square, mostly rock and in possession of two large forts and a third one that has been dismantled, could have sustained a population that would have needed such elaborate defences. Landing an army on Inis Meain would not be an easy feat either as the island is naturally defended by high cliffs and strong currents.

There is one cell big enough for human habitation. I have marked this with the letter A.
There are two cairns marked B. Cairns generally marked burial sites but we must remember that the Celts practiced cremation. There is a thrid cairn due north of the fort's entrance making a triangle. That third cairn is still used as the site of the annual bonfire on Saint John's night.
There are two warrens of tiny chambers marked C. These rooms are too small for habitation but could have been storehouses.
The tiered wall provides a natural amphitheatre and the rows are visible at D.

If Dún Crocbhur was not a military fort it could have served as some early form of crematorium. People could have come from the mainland in order to cremate their dead. The biggest problem would be the lack of firewood. There are very few trees on the island now but it could have had a good selection of mountain ash in the past.

But if it is a burial site; the hut at A could have some priestly purpose, the cairns at B could have been the sites of pyres; the chambers at C could have been storehouses for the ashes of different families and the amphitheatre at D would have given all the tribe a view of the funeral rites.

There is a rectangular structure due north of the gate that also has standing stones and some sort of a stage set into the eastern wall. This could possibly be a smaller crematorium for less important people? 
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Inishmore - Signal Tower

A CONTROVERSIAL plan to turn a historic 19th century Lighthouse at the highest point of Inis Mór in the Aran Islands into a teahouse has been approved, despite seriolus concerns about the plans.

The lighthouse is one of the dominant landmarks of Aran, beside Dun Eochla, a major prehistoric monument of the island. Eochaill ( Oughill ) derives its name from Dún Eochla, a late Bronze Age ring fort. The name means Yew wood "Eo Choill".

This fort commands some of Aran's most spectacular views. From here, on a clear day 5 counties can be seen, Kerry, Limerick , Clare, Galway and Mayo.

To the west is the old signal tower; built in 1799 after the 1789 rebellion to protect Ireland's west coast from Spanish or French invasion. Similar buildings can be seen on Golam Island and Inis Oirr. Signals were sent by light and semaphores - flags.

Lighthouse and Signal Tower Beside this is the island's first lighthouse which began its short working life on a May Day 1818. Unfortunately the lighthouse was ill positioned and was blind to ships in the Gregory Sound and when rounding Earrach Island to the west. It was decommissioned when new lighthouses were constructed in Killeaney Bay and on Earrach Island to the west, though it was manned during both world wars. Hat tip Aran Pony & trap Tours

Dun Arann Lighthouse & Signal Tower

An appeal against the development by An Taisce, the national trust for Ireland has failed, and An Bord Pleanála has given the project the go-ahead.  A report by the planning inspector Louise Kiernan on 9 April last said "the proposed development would be contrary to the proper planning and sustainable development of the area."

Lighthouse and Signal Tower

As often happens in Ireland, political pressure led to Galway county council granting permission for the controversial plan last yea. An Taisce then appealed the decision only to be overruled by An Bord Pleanála last week.

 Dun Arann Signal Tower and Lighthouse, both of which are National Monuments and Protected Structures are close to the development which is located in a designated Natural Heritage area and Special Area of Conservation. The archaeological fort of Dun Eochla, which is also a National Monument is close by. There is also a wedge tomb located between the subject site and Dun Eochla Fort. 

Inishmore - On The Road

An Bord Pleanála  previously ruled that "'The introduction of a modern house on the site of the Lighthouse and located in close proximity to Oghil Fort which is a National Monument, would be out of character with and seriously detract from the historical importance of the
Lighthouse and from the archaeological significance, natural setting and
tourism potential of Oghill Fort. "

It went on to say it would "would seriously injure the visual
amenities of the area and be contrary to the proper planning and development."

In her report Ms Kernan noted that the "Aran Islands by their nature are rich in archaeological finds. As such it is a very sensitive archaeological site.

The Serpent's Lair versus the Worm Hole

Inis Mór's lair

To the editor of The Irish Times

Madam, - I'm disappointed to learn that a geological feature on Inis Mór is now known locally as "the Serpent's Lair" (Page 1 and Page 3, "World Champion takes 26m somersault dive off Inis Mór, April 28th). When I spent a week on Inis Mór in 1968 it was known locally as "Poll na bPeist". If asked to translate the term, though I had no wish to, I would have rendered it "the Monster's Hole". But, tempus fugit , and fashions change, and perhaps to escape censorship or censure, Curley's Hole, as celebrated by Joyce, is now called "Curley's Lair". - Yours, etc,


Belmont Avenue,



Madam, - I note your report gives a new name for Poll na bPéist as well as a new myth to enhance it.

Tim Robinson in his magnificent Stones of Aran: Pilgrimage writes, "One of the most curious features of this, Aran's most striking natural curiosity, is that there is no legend attached to it. The writer Tom O'Flaherty pointed this out 50 years ago and if there had been any traditional tale about the place he would certainly have known it, as a native of Gort na gCapall. He adds that it is time someone invented a story. But since it seems that even the most voluble of folk traditions has been left speechless by the place, perhaps it is fitting that this void, this abstract exemplification of Aran's elements, should remain emptiness without an explanation."

As Tim Robinson also explains, the Worm-Hole "is what it is called for English-speaking visitors". Yours etc.


Inis Meáin, Árainn,

Cuan na Gaillimhe.

Archaeologist: Human life on Aran 9,000 years ago...

June 8 (ANI): An archaeologist has said that a number of significant finds in the Corrib catchment area in Ireland suggests a large human presence in the region 9,000 years ago.

According to a report in Irish Times, the finds include two stone axes in Galway city and county, which point to a "major" hunter-gatherer presence on the Corrib catchment up to 9,000 years ago.

The axes were found in Ballybane and in the garden of a private house in Clifden, Co Galway, and are the latest in a number of significant finds recorded by archaeologist Michael Gibbons in the last couple of months.

Gibbons has recently recorded a large court tomb overlooking Streamstown Bay in Connemara, where the earliest evidence for human settlement in west Connemara has been unearthed.

He has also located two previously unmapped stone forts and a fulacht fiadh, or ancient cooking place, between Leenane and Croagh Patrick; a stone fort near Ballynahinch and an oyster midden at Ballynakill bay, both in Co Galway; a cashel near Casla, Co Galway; and a number of arrowheads on Inishbofin island.

The Ballybane green stone axe is "an important find from the Corrib catchment area and is one of a whole series of axes that have been discovered over the years in and around lower Lough Corrib and the Corrib river itself," said Gibbons.

"Dating of the axes is both mesolithic and neolithic, he said.

"It is clear that there was a major mesolithic (hunter-gatherer) presence on the Corrib catchment between 6,000 and 9,000 years ago. It makes perfect sense, given the range of resources that were accessible from a base camp in or near the present Galway city," he added.

According to Gibbons, resources for the hunter gatherer camps would have included migrating salmon, large stocks of eels, and fish, seals and shellfish in and around Galway Bay as far as the Aran Islands.

"The Corrib river system would have provided easy access up-country into the mountains of Connemara and up into the Turlough belt in the limestone land between Cong and Tuam, via the Clare river," he said. (ANI)

What became of the dead?

Buried treasure?

In Ireland there is some evidence of cremation dating from around 9000 years ago, around the time it became cut off from Britain. On the Scottish island of Oronsay in the Inner Hebrides, human bones dating from around 5000 years ago have been found in shell middens, or food rubbish dumps. These bones show signs of exposure, suggesting they were tossed aside rather than ritually disposed of.  read more in the New Scientist 

Clare Island's rich archaeological heritage


ISLAND CHILDREN from Co Mayo walked in the steps of famous Edwardian naturalist Robert Lloyd Praeger after members of the Royal Irish Academy (RIA) launched two volumes of the new Survey of Clare Island at the weekend.

Speaking in the island's community centre, before the field trips, RIA president Nicholas Canny observed that Praeger - who was the academy's first president - had travelled the entire country before choosing Clare Island as the place to carry out the ground-breaking "microscopic study of how things worked in the environment".

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