The dry stone walls of the Aran Islands off the west coast of Ireland serve 2 major roles. Firstly they separate the tiny fields and help keep in stock. Secondly, it is where the numerous stones which would have littered land can be stacked. Walls can be built of rounded stones, flat flags, or a rough ashlar, but all are of the limestone that comprises these islands. Most have large holes to allow the strong prevailing winds off the Atlantic to blow through without blowing the walls down. Over the centuries, farmers have built up the sparse soil by hauling up seaweed from the shore and spreading it on the ground to compost. Most of the fields do not have gates. Instead openings are made between uprights placed in a wall. When the gate is closed, stones are stacked between the uprights. To open it, these stones are removed. The stock can then be moved, and the "gate" closed with the stones. Nowadays, only cattle are found on Inishmore (the largest of the Aran chain) as sheep have been deemed too difficult to keep in these fields. The walls comprising Dun Aengus, the Iron Age cliff-fort crowning Inishmore, are built of roughly ashlared limestone.
Category:Architecture and Structures
Keywords:Aran Islands, Dry stone walls, Inishmore, Ireland