Inisheer (Inis Oírr: the Eastern Island)
It is the nearest Aran island to the mainland, about six miles from Doolin, Co. Clare. It is also the smallest of the three, roughly two square miles, with a population of approximately 300 people. It has been inhabited for 5,000 years. Inisheer is very popular with people who want to experience island life for a day.
What do see and do in Inisheer?
The island is 3km by 3km wide with small hills, little valleys and hundreds of small fields with high dry-stone walls. Due to its size, it is easily covered by foot or by bike – you can hire bikes in Inisheer and Inishmore, or bring your own along with no extra charge.
Inisheer is the smallest of the three Aran Islands (1,400 acres) and is an outcrop of the famous Burren landscape in Co.Clare. Having an abundance of flora, fauna and nesting birds, it is a haven for botanists and nature lovers. The everyday language of the island¬ers is Irish and their songs and stories enshrine much of Ireland’s folklore and ancient culture. It boasts one of the most beautiful beaches on the western seaboard.
Places of Interest – overview
- 1 O’Brien’s Castle: 15th century castle built within a cashel (Dun Formna) thousands of years old. Superb views.
- 2 Cnoc Raithní: Bronze age tumulus (mound) dating from 2000B.C.
- 3 Teampall Chaomháin: 10th century church located within the graveyard. St. Caomhán is patron of Inisheer.
- 4 Cill Ghobnait: Small 9th century church.
- 5 Tobar Éinne: The holy well of St. Enda, patron of Aran.
- 6 The Plassey: Freighter wrecked on the rocks and washed ashore in 1960.
You can walk/cycle from the pier to the east of the island in a loop that will bring you to Teampall Chaomháin (St. Cavan’s Church, 10th century) which regularly had to be dug out of the encroaching sand, and the saint’s grave. Today, there is a wall around it to keep the ancient structure safe.
From there, you can take the scenic route to the shipwreck of the Plassey made famous by a TV programme called “Father Ted”.
The ship has been thrown high and dry onto the shore 40 m away from nomal high tide in 1960 by a terrible storm, and it seemed like a miracle that all 11 crew members were saved.
From there, the lighthouse is not that far away. You can make a loop on the roads or walk along the rocky shoreline.
From the shore you can go to the highest point of the island where you will find a castle and a signal tower next to each other. O’Brien’s Castle was built in the 14th century. The castle was taken from the O’Briens by the O’Flaherty clan of Connemarain 1582. It is situated in a stone age ringfort called Dun Formna. The 18th century signal tower was built in Napoleon’s times to warn of a French invasion which never happened.
On the western side of the island, there is Cill Ghobnait (St. Gobnait’s church, 12th century) which features two bullaun stones and a clochan (hermit’s cell).
Tobar Einne, an unusual holy well dedicated to St. Enda, is a short distance away to the south-west of the church.
At the northern end of the island and a 5 minute walk along the shore from the pier you arrive at the Fisherman’s Cottage, a lovely restaurant with a half-door and flower gardens overlooking the sea. The restaurant uses mostly organically produced foods as well as locally caught wild fish and other produce from the island. Next door to Fisherman’s Cottage is the South Aran Centre, another cottage style building where pilates and relaxation classes take place.