Travel Journal April 22, 1999
The Aran Islands

The Aran Islands

My primary sightseeing goal for today was Dun Aengus, an impressive Iron Age fortress located on the Aran Islands. Geologically, these islands are an extension of the Burren, and if anything look even wierder.

The ferry boat was smaller than any I'd travelled on so far, and I had to stay below because passengers on deck got doused with spray. As a result, I got a little bit seasick (I always feel a little queasy on boats.) Fortunately, the trip was only about 50 minutes. The boat runs three time a day, so a day trip is quite doable.

As soon as we landed, we were assailed by various mini-bus drivers offering tours of the island. I accepted the offer of one of them, which turned out to be a good idea. My only complaint is that this particular driver was rather not very talkative - for example, when passing a school, he would say "Here's a school."

Near the port, the landscape looks almost normal.

The walkway to the fort.

There was a large group of German college students walking up towards the fort, and their guide seemed to be much more talkative and well-informed, so I fell in with them.

The landscape is very burren-like, with bits of limestone poking everywhere.

My first view of the fort. The guide mentioned that Dun Aengus is associated in legend with the Fir Bolg ("Men of the Thunder God"), the legendary rivals of the Tuatha de Danaan ("People of the Goddess Dana").

Between the inner and outer wall.

At some point in history, the people in this fort, who did not use horses, were struggling against a foe that did. This field of sharp stones pointing into the air surrounds the entire fort and is designed to break the legs of charging horses.

The fort is shaped like a horseshow, with the tips of the horseshoe right at the edge of the cliff. Unfortunately, it's hard to give a sense of the shape of it in pictures, except from aerial photographs.

I'm standing on a rocky shelf which sticks out over the ocean. 50 meters below me is the pounding surf. The wind is blowing hard, and in irregular gusts. Yes, it's kinda scary.

Here's a picture of the fort, taken from a little ways down the coast. You can see that the cliff upon which the fort is built is an overhang.

Facing away from the fort is another spectacular view.

Being burren-like, the rocks have lots of cracks. I can easily imagine that the whole section of cliff that I am standing on will go sliding into the sea.

An early monastic settlement on the Aran Islands, called the Seven Churches.

Back on the mainland. I've decided to drive to Donegal this evening. I'm skipping over a few sights, because I have already spent more time in Ireland than I had originally planned - there's a lot to see. On the way is some spectacular scenery.

I managed to get to Donegal Town around 9 P.M. I found a nice B&B called the Atlantic Guest House (It's listed in the Lets Go! book). Later that evening I went to a pub and had a long discussion with some fellows there, late into the night. It was mainly political, and had much to do with the situation in Serbia, violence in America, the Clinton impeachment trial, that sort of thing.