Guide to The Black Fort (Dún Dúchathair) of Inis Mór

Suggested time – 2 – 4 hours with a bike inclusive of stopping time

Highlights at a glance

  • Easy to get to
  • Long Ocean Vista
  • Perfect for sunset views
  • Variety of surfaces and things to see
  • Stunning Cliffs
  • A clear view of a Pagan Fort
  • A stopping point for a longer walk
  • Views of Birds and wildlife
  • Stunning view of Kilronan on the way back
  • Perfect picnic spot
  • Very isolated with few tourists

Features of the Black Fort

There is a fort situated on the idyllic island of Inishmore, the largest of the three Aran Islands off the west coast of Ireland.   Unlike the more visited Dun Aonghus fort on the island, it is truly a jewel on the island’s crown.  Personally, it is one of my favorite places to go.  Relatively easily accessed by bike and on foot, it is one of Inishmore’s better-kept secrets… of which there are many.  On a practical note, and like all treks on the island, one should carry fresh water and a few snacks in a day-pack.  The local SPAR can assist in this regard.  Finally, sturdy footwear is highly advisable, as is a packable umbrella (‘brelly’)..  After all, you’re about to encounter the wild Atlantic!

Transport to the Black Fort

Visiting the Black Fort is relatively easy.  After disembarking from the ferry at the port village of Kilronan (the largest of the island’s towns/villages), one may wish to rent a bicycle at the Aran Islands Bike Hire for the day.  The cost for a single bike rental is only 15 euro for the day, with a ten euro deposit returned to you after the return of the bike(s).  It’s a good investment for travel on the island.  Of course, one can travel by foot (as I have), but depending on your party’s intended length of stay and travel itinerary whilst on the island, biking is a wise choice.

Directions to the Black Fort

Getting to the Black Fort from Kilronin is fairly straightforward.  As the fort is only about four (4) kilometers from Kilronin, it’ll take an adult couple less than an hour by bike to arrive at your destination (add about 20 minutes if you’re traveling with a couple of kids).  If traveling by foot, allow for a travel time of about ninety (90) minutes.  

Step One – The Sweater Market Turn off

To get to the fort, one can use the handy map provided by Aran Islands Bike Hire and proceed to the main intersection of the town (near the Aran Island Sweater Store).  From there, turn east (left at the main intersection) and travel along the main asphalt/paved road.  

Step Two – The Big right turn off to the Ocean Vista

After about 300 meters, you’ll see a signpost on the road to the fort on your right side. 

 A short ride (or slow walk) up the winding road brings you to the main fort road.  From here the paved road continues, but only for a few hundred meters.  Thereafter, it becomes a bit rockier.  This is known as a ‘oolies’ road.  After a few hundred more meters, it’s best to leave your bike (if you’ve hired one) on the side of the road and proceed on foot.  

Soon you’ll be mightily rewarded for your efforts.  The road will rise for a short distance, and you’ll notice a metal-lattice gate (with a walk around).  

Step Three – The Ocean Vista to the fort walk

Once your cross this threshold, both the view of the ocean vista (and near-continuous thrum of the ocean) will be apparent.   You are now in a wild place, with only about a kilometer to go!  

Signposts to the fort are clearly visible, and you and your party will cross a few stone fences en route.  You’ll soon see the fort’s westward-facing promontory on the left   As you approach the fort, you may linger near the edge of rocky cliffs, where the views are spectacular!  (Safety Note: You should mind yourself (and especially small children) along the cliff’s edge.  In the past, individuals have fallen to their demise from the cliff’s edge.)

Arriving at Dun Duchathair – The Black Fort

Dun Duchathair (or its anglicized Doocaher), simply means “black stone ringfort”.  The fort was reportedly dubbed ‘black’ because of the peculiar darkness of the limestone which is unique to this part of Inishmore. 

 Possibly as old as the larger Dun Aengus fort (ie. 3500 BC) on the western side of the island, it consists of a series of stone terraced walls reaching approximately six meters (about 20 feet) high and about five meters (15 feet) wide.  Archaeologists report evidence of a cheval de frise (defensive obstacle) protecting the entrance; 

However, unlike some ring-forts on the mainland, there are no souterrains (underground passages) onsite. From the walls and at ground level, one can view various stone-walled rooms within the ramparts of the fort. 

 These were likely family dwellings or, as some have conjectured, stone clochans (beehive cells); however, since the fort predates the arrival of Christianity, the identity of the inhabitants remains a mystery for now.  

It may have been inhabited by numerous groups at various points of time over the centuries.  Upon completion of your visit, you may wish to linger in the area to enjoy the landscape and seascape.  To return to Kilronin, or to continue exploring the remainder of the island by bike or on foot, simply retrace your original route back to the main asphalt/paved road.  

My overall take on this experience

Whether one is interested in the archaeological or historical relevance of the fort, or simply interested in a bit of rural exercise, what is indisputable about the locale of Dun Duchathair are the fantastic views of the cliffs along the shoreline together with the vistas laid out over of the wild Atlantic Ocean.  Here an individual (or family) can hear (and feel) the ancient antiphon of the ocean in all its elemental wildness.  In doing so, one truly engages with what it means to be human and to become fully alive.  And however one travels there, you’ll find it was well worth the effort.

My Rating of the Black Fort   9/10