Map of Inis Oirr
Inis OirrInis Oirr (pronounced – “inish ear”) is the smallest of the three Aran Islands, the others being Inis Mor, and Inis Meain. They lie in a northwesterly line across the mouth of Galway Bay, with their backs to the Irish coastline, and their faces across the Atlantic Ocean towards America . In the Irish language the word “inis” means island, “ meain ” means middle, “mor” means big, and “oirr” means easterly, so Inis Oirr is the island that is the most easterly of the three Aran Islands. These islands are magical places, populated originally by hardy seafaring people whose ancestry goes back into the mists of Gaelic history, and where even today, the first choice language of everyday life is Irish, with English used only with visitors or mainlanders who have lost their mother tongue.
Today the islanders are an integral part of the modern successful Ireland of the new millennium, and are likely to be as familiar with high technology as they are with traditional crafts. However, one part of their past culture that remains strong, is their music, which is the same Irish music that is now played and enjoyed all over the world. Inis Oirr is approximately 2.5 miles long and 1.5 miles wide, and has a permanent population of around 300 people. There is a basic network of very narrow roads/tracks, but motorised transport is limited, and largely unnecessary as everywhere can be conveniently reached on foot or by bicycle. The islanders are well used to visitors and are incredibly welcoming.
Many streams run mysteriously underground, appearing at the shoreline as streams of fresh water. There are many wells and springs around the island, the most famous being Tobar Éanna, St. Enda’s holy well which is said to have healing powers.
Clothed in a thin layer of soil and grass, the bare limestone Klint and grikes can be seen everywhere. Stone walls are built by hand and divide the fields between the islanders land. Houses are built in clusters on the north side of the island because of it being sheltered. There are five villages Baile Thiar, Lurgan, Seipeal, Caisleán agus Formna.
Amenities include an arts and cultural centre, a craftshop, general store, post office, camp site, bike hire, health clinic, library, church, cafes and restaurants, hotel and B and Bs, two schools a Co- operative and most importantly two pubs.. Land is still “made” by the islanders by putting sand over the limestone and planting grass and crops in it.
There are no banking facilities on the island, and credit cards are not generally accepted, so visitors are wise to bring sufficient cash for their stay.
A stonewall surrounds each field and visitors can find that these walls are like mazes. The walls in past years were a way for an islander to get rid of loose stones from his land so he could farm it. The walls also protect and shelter the crops within. The walls are built so that the wind can pass through them freely and in this way the wall can withstand the fierce force of the South Westerly gales. The island although small is amazingly beautiful, with a sheltered beach that is ideal for swimming. It has many ancient ruins, particularly O’Briens Castle, The Church of Saint Gobnait, and The Well of Saint Enda.
Island weather during June/July is changeable. It can be warm and sunny (20-25C) all week, but is more likely to be a mixture of sunshine and showers, so clothing to suit these varied conditions is advisable.
Because of its compact size, it is easy to use your time after classes to explore the island, or to take one of the guided tours by pony and trap. Inis Oirr has so much to offer any visitor, and its people, landscape and atmosphere will surely enhance your Craiceann experience.