Hikes of the Aran Islands: Black Fort

Hikes of the Aran Islands: Black Fort

My husband, Kevin, and I went to Ireland for 10 days in Ireland 2014 for our honeymoon. We spent the whole time hiking, eating, drinking beer, and chilling out. We stayed for four nights on Inishmor, the largest of the Aran Islands.

Over oatmeal topped with a swirl of Irish whiskey, a splash of milk, and a touch of honey, our hostess Treasa told us about the Black Fort, Dun Duchathair. The fort is off the beaten path, no real trail leads to it, but it’s still not too hard to find so long as you watch your step.

Our host, Bertie, drove us to the foot of a trail that leads much of the way to Duchathair (pronounced doo-CAH-her) on the eastern end of Inishmor (ask your B&B host, the TI, or any local for exactly how to find it) and bid us good luck. We hiked uphill for awhile from where he left us, first along the road, and then along a trail marked only by the sign pictured above.

After about 20 minutes of walking, we reached the end of the trail, a low stone wall built straight across it, surrounding us on all sides except for the way we came. So we climbed over the wall and made for the cliffs. We met some cows up close, but they didn’t seem to mind we were in their field.

When we saw the cliffs we turned east and followed the cliffs as we’d been instructed. I took a moment to look back, away from the cliffs, think about how we might return to the trail and knew why we’d been told to bring a snack and plenty of water and be prepared to wander a bit. Rocks as far as the eye could see.

Duchathair was probably once a ring fort, but much of it has fallen into the sea as the ocean has worn away the cliffs. Now, the fort is a half circle ending at the edge of the ocean. You must be very careful if you choose to go inside, only two feet separate the stone wall from the cliff’s edge and that is the space you must cross. There is no entrance on the land side of the fort.

There are many hurdles to reach this spot, but once you’re inside the Black Fort, you’ll see the challenges as just a small part of the adventure. We felt as though we were the only people in the world as we stood inside the fort remains, nothing to look at but grass and stone and ocean and sky. No power lines, no houses, nothing but a stone wall on one side and wide open space on the other.

We rested awhile before returning to Kilronan for lunch, once again crossing over the two foot space between fort and cliff, the remains of the chevaux de frise designed to hinder attackers, and back along the cliffs to the trail.

We highly recommend this hike to anyone who wants to do a little something different and who brought sturdy shoes good for crossing rocky fields.


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