The Aran Islands

16 Apr

Unfortunately, the weather was not in our favor when we embarked to the Aran Islands, though the experience was still worthwhile.  The Aran Islands, is one of the few places where the Irish language, or Gaeilge, is spoken at all.

Seeing the cliff was a fantastic experience, I have never seen anything like it.  The stone cliff was a dark grey color and the sea as blue as the sky, and where the water met the stones, was a line of marble white foam.  It was great, and the wind which was previously debilitating, made the experience feel epic.  Next to the cliff, or directly behind you when looking at it, was an ancient fort called Dún Dúchathair. Dún in Irish means fort, and the islands are famous for their stone forts. They are thought to date from the late Bronze Age (1100BC) through to the Iron Age (300BC-500AD). These stone structures can be found all along the west coast of Ireland from Donegal in the north to Kerry in the south. Over the past decade a number of these forts including Dún Aonghasa on Inis Mór have been excavated as part of ‘The Western Stone Forts Project’. What the function of these forts is unclear, though some suggest as well as being habitation sites they may also have been used for ritual purposes.  I am astounded that people came to the Aran Islands so long ago and that people were living there during the rise of the Roman Empire.

After the cliffs, Donal Casey our tour guide, took us to an ancient grave yard.  This grave yard was very fascinating, the bodies under the graves were literally a foot under the ground do to the fact that the Aran Islands terrain is primarily all rock.  Donal took us up to one of the oldest graves and told us that a Roman soldier is most likely buried here.  I was amazed by this possibility, seeing is that the outreach of the Roman Empire actually stretched to this great distance.  After the grave yard, we went back to town for lunch and to attempt to hear some native Irish speakers.

I only heard the language spoken in one instance, a mother yelling at her son for going too far ahead on his skate board.  It was a rather interesting experience, seeing this instance play out in front of me, it was then that I realized Gaeilge is just like any other language, no matter how uncommon it is.  Before I came to the Aran Islands, I was under the impression that the people living there were secluded and strange people, by being cut off from the English speaking world.  Not only was I wrong, but I am also partly ashamed with my assumptions.  We would later find out that there are news stations that broadcast in Gaeilge, and whole TV shows and movies that are made in Gaeilge.

The Aran Islands was an utterly fantastic trip and one I would certainly do again later in life, but the next time will in better weather.

 

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References

Aranislands.ie. 2014. Cliffs of Aran – Aran Islands Galway Ireland. [online] Available at: http://www.aranislands.ie/inis-mor/features/nature/Cliffs-of-Aran [Accessed: 16 Apr 2014].

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