The Aran Islands, in Galway Bay off the west coast of Ireland, are a unique geological and cultural landscape, and for centuries their stark beauty and their inhabitants’ traditional way of life have attracted pilgrims from abroad. After a visit with his wife in 1972, Tim Robinson moved to the islands, where he started making maps and gathering stories, eventually developing the idea for a cosmic history of Árainn, the largest of the three islands. Pilgrimage is the first of two volumes that make up Stones of Aran, in which Robinson maps the length and breadth of Árainn. Here he circles the entire island, following a clockwise, sunwise path in quest of the “good step,” in which walking itself becomes a form of attention and contemplation.
Like Annie Dillard’s Pilgrim at Tinker Creek and Bruce Chatwin’s In Patagonia, Stones of Aran is not only a meticulous and mesmerizing study of place but an entrancing and altogether unclassifiable work of literature. Robinson explores Aran in both its elemental and mythical dimensions, taking us deep into the island’s folklore, wildlife, names, habitations, and natural and human histories. Bringing to life the ongoing, forever unpredictable encounter between one man and a given landscape, Stones of Aran discovers worlds.
Robinson’s voyage continues in Stones of Aran: Labyrinth
This is a heart-felt and informative micro-history, and a eulogy and an elegy as well….A fine addition to a fertile genre.
— The Times (London)
A loving anatomy of the largest of the Aran Islands off the West Coast of Ireland, in which the point where nature and culture meet in the island is observed with great beauty and precision.
— Colm Tóibín
Tim Robinson’s maps and books honor the landscapes they describe. As invitations, they irresistibly beckon the archaeologist, botanist, geologist, bird-watcher, folklorist, student of the Irish language, or just plain tourist.
— Chet Raymo
Robinson takes the reader on a meditative walking tour of Aran….[He] seeks the essence of an increasingly distant Celtic past…like a visitor peering through the warped and colored glass of an ancient church window.
— Los Angeles Times