There are some places in the world that are just special. It’s hard to put a finger on why, but as you stand there, you just know it. For me, the iron age ruins on Inis Mór fit perfectly in that camp. What wasn’t to love? A gorgeous windswept landscape and amazing ancient ruins? For an armchair archaeologist and artist, the Aran Islands tick all the boxes.
I read a little about the Aran Islands before I left for Ireland but it was simply on a tentative list of places. Once in Ireland, I read and heard more about how beautiful Inis Mór was and the mystery of the iron age ruins there. And once I found myself in Galway, well, it was a foregone conclusion I was heading out to that little island off the Irish coast.
I wasn’t rewarded with great weather for the most part. From a travel perspective, it was an interesting experience of what life is like on a sparsely populated island in the midst of winter storms. But finally one beautiful morning, I headed out to see what I could before the next storms came. I guess you could call the picturesque view in this print my true reward. I may have weathered storms, but it made me appreciate this gorgeous landscape even more. Look at those windswept gold and green grasses and that fantastic sky over the old iron age ruins on the horizon! It was absolutely a sight for sore eyes. And it was the moment when I truly felt how special this place was.
This is Dun Aengus (or Dún Aonghasa), one of several iron age ruins on the Aran Islands. I only managed to see one other ruin on Inis Mór, but Dun Aengus is widely considered to be the most impressive example. Example of what you may wonder? Well, that’s open for debate. Dun is the Gaelic Irish word for fort. That gives you some clue as to what these places were thought to be.
The thing is there’s no written record of why these 3,000 year old iron age ruins were originally constructed. No hint at who the builders were or even what the real name of this place is. In comparatively modern times, it was assumed these were defensive forts. The romantic notion was that these were the last refuge for people pushed from mainland Ireland by some more aggressive group. More modern examination of Dun Aengus has cast doubt on those beliefs. There are some who think these were actually places of spiritual significance.
We may never actually know. But standing on that amazing site, I had the incredibly unscientific feeling that this place was one of those special places like Avebury, Stonehenge, and a host of other mysterious ancient ruins. Perhaps these fortifications were intended to protect a special place rather than people?
Whatever the case, I had no regrets about my time on Inis Mór. I might not recommend a winter visit, but I wouldn’t trade my one beautiful day there for anything. It was absolutely a beautiful place as you can see in this print.
Have you also had the pleasure of visiting these ancient Irish ruins? Or are you another armchair archaeologist who enjoys ancient and sacred landscapes? This print of Dun Aengus definitely crosses the boundary between gorgeous landscape and incredible ancient ruins. A little something in this print for everyone to enjoy.