Look out any window of the Park Lodge Hotel and bear witness to some spectacular views. The famed Galway Bay with its ever-changing coastline is framed by the rugged splendour of Conemara's stone walls and windswept trees and bushes. Stand at the front of the hotel on a clear day and looking straight ahead you see the hills of Clare and the Burren, to the right is the group of islands that constitutes the Aran Islands.
The famed Aran Islands are a group of three islands:Inis Mór [the big island] , Inis Meáin [the middle island] and Inis Oirr [the eastern island]. All three islands are easily accessible from Park Lodge Hotel either by air or by sea.
also known as Árainn, the largest of the three islands has a full time population of almost 950 inhabitants. It is approximately 9 miles long and no more than 2.4 miles wide running north—west to south—east. The principal village is Cill Rónáin; this is where the ferries dock and is the ideal starting point when exploring the island. The island is just the right size to explore by bicycle, or you can choose to travel by horse and cart or mini-bus. The horse and cart normally travels between Cill Rónáin and Dún Aonghas [and early Christian ring fort] while the mini-bus offers a hop– on / hop—off service across the island.
There is an excellent visitors' centre, Ionad Árainn, in Cill Rónáin. It offers an insightful introduction to the landscape and culture of all three islands, as well as a regular viewing of the award-winning documentary ?Man of Aran
No visit to Inis Mór is complete without having seen the famous Dún Aonghas. This early Christian ring fort is perched on the edge of a cliff with a sheer drop of 300 feet into the Atlantic Ocean below. Be careful!
Dúchathair, or the black fort, is less well known but equally spectacular. With it's entrance less than a foot away from the cliff face it has lost it's eastern gateway to the sea!
Teampail Bheannáin is a 6th century church, believed by many to be the smallest church in Europe.
Other places of note are:
the middle island, is approximately 2 miles east of Inis Mór, measuring 3 miles by 2 miles. It has a full time population of 300 and is the least visited of the islands as in the past it was the most difficult to reach however the new pier has changed this.
In the art world Inis Meáin is well known for it is here that John Milton Synge wrote his famed ?Playboy of the Western World?. Teach Synge is worth a visit as is Cathaoir Synge. In recent times Martin McDonagh, film and playwright known for films such as ?In Brugee? has once again put the spotlight on the island with his work ?The Cripple if Inis Meáin.
Inis Meáin's main attraction is the impressive Dún Chonchúr, a massive circular fort built approximately 1500 years ago. Unlike Dún Aonghas on Inis Mór Dún Chonchúr was constructed inland and provides a stunning view of the island. Dún Fearbhaí is a smaller stone fort that stands on the island's high ground.
The eight century chapel of Cill Cheannach is the major religious site on the island. There is also a chamber tomb known as Leaba Diarmaid & Gráinne dating back 2000 BC which refers to an ancient Irish legend.
In the last few years Inis Meáin has developed a small wind farm and water distillation plant to provide drinking water for the island.
the eastern island is approximately 2.5 miles of Inis Meáian and 5 miles northwest of Doolin. It is the smallest of the islands with a full time population of 300. The island has a lovely beach and can easily be explored by foot in one afternoon.
Caisleáin Uí Bhriain dates back more that 600 years and stands on the island's only hill. Due to the weather conditions it and the nearby Teampaill Chaomhín is periodically covered by sand due to the stormy winters. The sand is dug out each year by the islanders so that Mass can be celebrated in Teampaill Chaomhín on 14th June, the feast day of St. Kevin.
Probably the best known site on the island is the wreck of the ship Prassy which went to ground in 1960 and was featured in the hit TV comedy Father Ted.
Park Lodge Hotel is an ideal base for your day trip to the Aran Islands.
Conemara Airport is just 9 miles west of the hotel in Na Mianna. Aer Arann provides daily flights to and from the island, call 091-593034 or check www.aerarannislands.ie for schedules and more information.
Rós an Mhíl harbour is located 15 miles west of the hotel, there are numerous ferries offering services to and from the islands, ask at the hotel reception for more information.