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What can the Microcosmos of the Aran Islands teach us about Place Making?

A few weeks ago I returned to Inishmore the largest island of the three isles making up the Aran Islands, situated a one hour (choppy !!) boat journey on the Atlantic Ocean from Rossaveel on the Galway coast line.

Aran Islands is one of the most beautiful and special places. The rugged limestone landscape, the never ending stone walls, the wind, the waves and the ancient heritage sites makes you feel removed from the stress of life and in a protected bubble of something serene and authentic.

Aran Islands oozes 'Sense of Place'. From the narrow roads, the cyclability, the little square in the islands only town of Kilronan which is enclosed by pubs and woollen Aran knitwear shops. It is the feeling of community in the local pub and the breath taking views of the harbour and the sea from the outdoor pub seats. It is the scale and close walking distance between the pubs, the shop, the hotel and the B&B’s and the beach, the closeness of the landscape, the historic authenticity, not to forget the close proximity to public transport – the Aran Island Ferry!

All these essentials makes the Aran Islands a little Microcosmos of close-to-perfect 3000 year in the making place making.

It had been 10 years since I had last been to Inishmore and not much had changed, however I did notice one thing - an influx of cars!

One of the best things about the Aran Islands is renting a bike and cycling along the coastal road to the ancient site of Dun Aonghasa, the bikes always had priority on the Aran roads, or maybe they used to have? An increased number of mini busses makes the journey for the tourists less inclined to cycle and it is clear how this has put even the cycle friendly roads and village centre under some pressure.

Some places have understood and insisted that cars destroy people friendly places and taken measures to protect spaces, other areas have not quite realised the impact that the staggering increase in car journeys impact our lives in a major way.

There is a lot to learn about how to create extraordinary places from the Aran Islands. Being an isolated community has clearly made it easier to hold on to the essence of the place, and with a little focus on how not to let the cars domineer the island, the Aran Islands holds all the essentials to continue being a special place for the next 3000 years.

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