Wish You Were Here: Inishmore, Ireland, A Once Barren Island Fertilized with Seaweed and Sand

by Owen James Burke


(Photo: Yann Arthus-Bertrand 2)

Once little more than rocky, baron cliffs, Inishmore Island (a member of the Aran Islands) off the coast of Ireland is fertilized by locals with sand and algae regularly to create a thin layer of humus, which allows flowers and rare, delicate ferns to grow. In order to keep the wind from eroding their land and beating their crops to death, an intricate 7,000-mile grid of walls divide the land, looking like a mosaic from above.


(Photo: Yann Arthus-Bertrand 2)

Inishmore island is small–about 12 square miles (31 square kilometers)–but is home to the Aran Islands’ largest population (about 840), who are mostly subsistence fishermen and farmers who are proud purveyors of an old life and culture otherwise faded into time.

Precious in many ways to Ireland, the 90-meter-high cliffs of Inishmore protect Galway from the harsh north Atlantic (and offer up some incredible climbing and cliff-diving opportunities, if you’re so intrigued). Without them, it’s likely Galway wouldn’t be there either (not in the sense that it is today).

Facing out into the north Atlantic brings tempestuous weather, but it also creates for a unique climate, thanks to the far fetching Gulf Stream which brings warm water up from the Caribbean. As a result, Inishmore is able to play host to a diverse array of flora and fauna of the arctic, Mediterranean and alpine varieties, side by side.


(Photo: Tuoerman/Wikipedia)

The island is also home to some of the oldest Christian and Pre-Christian sites, including Don Aengus (above) and Don Eochia (below).


(Photo: Yann Arthus-Bertrand 2)


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