aran islands, ireland 10.2011

The Aran Islands (Oileáin Árann) are a group of three islands located at the mouth of Galway Bay, on the west coast of Ireland. They constitute the barony of Aran in County Galway. From west to east they are: Inishmore, the largest; Inishmaan and Inisheer, the smallest. Irish is the main spoken language on all three islands.
On the cliff tops, ancient forts such as Dún Aengus on Inishmór and Dún Chonchúir on Inishmaan are some of the oldest archaeological remains in Ireland. A lacework of ancient stone walls (1,600 km in all) enfolds all three islands to contain local livestock. Also found are early clocháns, dry-stone beehive huts from the early-Christian period. Enda of Aran founded the first true Irish Monastery near Killeany. In time there were a dozen monasteries on Inishmór alone. Many Irish saints had some connection with Aran: St. Brendan, Jarlath of Tuam, Finnian of Clonard, and St. Columba.
The islands were first populated in larger numbers probably at the time of the Cromwellian conquest of Ireland in the mid 17th century, when the Catholic population of Ireland had the choice of going "to hell or to Connacht". Many fled to the numerous islands off the west coast of Ireland where they adapted themselves to the raw climatic conditions, developing a survival system of total self-sufficiency.
The islands' geology is mainly karst limestone, most obvious in the construction of the walls around the fields. The limestones date from the Visean period, formed as sediments in a tropical sea approximately 350 million years ago, and compressed into horizontal strata with fossil corals, crinoids, sea urchins and ammonites. Glaciation following the Namurian phase facilitated greater denudation. The result is that the Aran islands are one of the finest examples of a Glacio-Karst landscape in the world. The effects of the last glacial period (the Midlandian) are most in evidence, with the islands overrun by ice during this glaciation. The impact of earlier karstification (solutional erosion) has been eliminated by the last glacial period. So any karstification now seen dates from approximately 10,000 years ago.
Solutional processes have widened and deepened the grykes of the limestone pavement. Pre-existing vertical joints contribute to the formation of extensive fissures separated by clint slabs. The rock karstification facilitates the formation of sub-terrainean drainage.
Huge boulders up to 25 metres above the sea at parts of the west facing cliffs have been shown to be sometimes an extreme form of storm beach, cast there by giant waves that occur on average once per century, though more are the consequence of glacial erratics. - wiki

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