From the air, Dun Aengus appeared a neat semi-circle. “We are not sure if the fort was ever circular, like Dún Eochla (also on Inishmore) or whether it was D-shaped with a wall on the cliff-side”, says O’Flaherty. Either way, a substantial part of the fort has surely collapsed into the raging Atlantic below, during an earthquake or tsunami at some point in the past.
For the last 100 metres of the hike, I clamber over some rough naturally formed stone steps, to enter the inner enclosure of the fort. In its heyday, Dun Aengus was probably the political, economic and ritual centre for a tribe. Elite members of the tribe would have certainly lived inside the fort. Foundations of seven houses, with paved floors and stone hearths, have been found in the inner enclosure. Pottery shards, bronze rings and fragments of clay moulds have also been excavated. At the centre of the enclosure, close to the edge of the cliff stands a natural rock platform. “The platform was likely used for religious ceremonies, as a horde of bronze rings was found at this spot, probably a ritualistic offering”, elaborates O’Flaherty.
I walk towards the edge of the cliff; there is no protective barrier, just uninterrupted views of the North Atlantic. I lie down on my stomach (a precaution against being blown away by the wild wind) and crawl over to the edge to look down upon the vertigo-inducing sight – a perilous drop of 100 metres straight to the craggy rocks below, against which the foaming sea beats mercilessly, much like it did during Celtic times.
Getting there: There are no direct flights to Ireland. Fly Etihad via Abu Dhabi to Dublin. Travel by road to Connemara Airport in Inverin (240 km) and take an Aer Arann flight to Inishmore.
The 3-star Aran Islands Hotel
is a great base to explore the islands. Its balcony rooms offer a stunning view of the Kileaney Bay and Kilronan Harbour.
Cyril O’Flaherty runs Aran Walking Tours
, which give an in-depth introduction to the island’s history & culture.