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Definition: Aran Islands from The Columbia Encyclopedia

(ăr'Әn), 18 sq mi (47 sq km), Co. Galway, W Republic of Ireland, in Galway Bay. The three islands are Inishmore (the largest), Inisheer, and Inishmaan. The islands are barren; farming and fishing prevail economically, and the knitting of woolen sweaters is an important cottage industry. Gaelic is the everyday language of most islanders. Many early Christian and prehistoric remains are there, and the islands have become a tourist attraction.


Summary Article: Aran Islands
from The Hutchinson Unabridged Encyclopedia with Atlas and Weather Guide

Group of three limestone islands in the mouth of Galway Bay, which is about 32 km/20 mi wide. They lie 48 km/30 mi from Galway, on the west coast of the Republic of Ireland; the principal town is Kilronan on Inishmore. The islands form a natural breakwater, and comprise Inishmore (Irish Inis Mór), area 3,092 ha/7,637 acres; Inishmaan (Irish Inis Meáin), area 912 ha/2,253 acres; and Inisheer (Irish Inis Óirr), area 567 ha/1,400 acres; population (2002) 5,050. The chief industries are tourism, fishing, and agriculture.

The earliest architectural remains on the islands may date back to the late Bronze Age (c. 700 BC). There are ruins of a number of early churches, of which Teaghlach Einne, ‘the house of St Enda’, near Killeany on Inishmore, was the most important religious centre on the islands. The ruins are now largely submerged under sand. The islands are also noted for a number of well-preserved early fortifications, of which the largest is Dún Aengus on Inishmore, a semicircular stone fort on the cliff top, possibly dating from the Bronze Age.

There is another island named Aran, situated off the county of Donegal, Northern Ireland, but it is usually called Aranmore to avoid confusion.

Ancient sites On Inishmore, Killeany is also the site of the remains of Teampall Bheanain, dating from the 10th century, and reputed to be one of the smallest churches in the world. Dun Duchathair is a promontory fort of great antiquity (c. 2,500 years old), and there are remains from early Christian settlements, including beehive huts, at Cill Chorna. Inishmore is also the site of one of the best-preserved clochans (dwellings), Clochan na Carraige. Places of interest on Inishmaan include Dun Conchubhuir, an oval stone fort containing a number of hut Foundations; Leaba Dhiarmuid, a collapsed neolithic wedge tomb; and Dun Fearbhai, a stone fort dating back to the 1st century. Inisheer boasts O'Briens Castle, which dates to the 15th century; Cnoc Raithni, a Bronze Age mound dating to c. 2000 BC; Teampall Chaomhain, a 10th-century church; and The Plassey, a freighter wrecked on the rocks and washed ashore in 1960.

Traditions Since the 19th century, great interest has been shown in the islands because of their continued use of the Irish language, the preservation of cultural traditions, and the wealth of folklore passed down orally through the generations orally in songs and stories. J M Synge wrote about the customs and life of the islanders in his plays and his book The Aran Islands (1907). Their way of life was portrayed in the 1934 documentary film by Robert Flaherty, Man of Aran.

Tourism The islands are now to a large extent economically dependent on tourism. Tarred, canvas-covered currachs (wickerwork fishing boats) are still used by a few fishermen. The traditional crios (woollen belt), báinín (knitted sweaters, originally an undyed woollen coat, the intricate patterns for which were passed down through family lines), and pampootie, or brógaí urleathair (a heelless hide shoe) are produced for the tourist market. The islands are now accessible by short plane rides as well as ferry crossings.

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Aran Islands

Aran Islands

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