An Charraig is an Aistir.
A Spiritual Centre in the Celtic Tradition

An Charraig the house is at present lying fallow awaiting its next usage.

An Charraig, the building in the photo above, was built from 1993 to 1995 by Tess Harper and Dara Molloy with the help of many friends.

Between 1997 and 2011, An Charraig was a household of about thirteen resident people at any one time. This household was made up of:

  • a family with husband/wife and four children
  • 1 - 5 volunteers on European Voluntary Service staying up to one year
  • possibly one or two Wwoofer volunteers, willing workers on organic farms
  • a student or two, following their own course of study while resident here
  • a person on sabbatical, taking time out to reflect and re-orientate, up to six months
  • up to 6 guests, staying short-term

An Charraig (the idea) was conceived of as an Aistir. The word Aistir (pronounced 'ashter') is suggestive of 'journey'. Journey in Gaelic is 'aistear'. The word has its roots in 'aisling' meaning 'vision' or 'dream', and 'mainistir' meaning 'monastery'. It also has suggestions of 'ashram'. All of these connotations point to what an Aistir really is. It is a coined word, not to be found in the dictionary. Click here for more on Aistir.

An Charraig is owned and managed by Tess Harper and Dara Molloy. As a concept, it has evolved since the time in 1985 when Dara first and then Tess came to live on Inis Mór. Both of them were following a dream, to live a consciously spiritual life close to nature and rooted in their own cultural and spiritual tradition. The Celtic monasteries of Aran became a deep source of inspiration for them, and they began to live a life modelled on many of the insights of that time.

The original An Charraig was a rented thatched traditional cottage in Eochaill next to the church.

The key elements of life in the Aistir An Charraig have been the following:

  • A structure that is non-institutional and of a limited size – An Charraig has resisted the temptation of becoming a large institution. The ideal size is that taken from Celtic monasticism, that is, twelve monks and an abbot. If other Aistirs were to be founded, we would encourage them to be independent of An Charraig, and of each other.
  • Ritual and ceremonies integral to the lifestyle –regular ceremonies were held every Sunday at 12 noon, open to the public. Other periods of coming together for ritual or ceremony were more spontaneous and centred around the Celtic Festivals, Solstices, Equinoxes and full moons. A meditation hut provided a space for those who needed it for private time.
  • Self-building – most of the people of the world, until modern times, have built their own homes. All of the buildings at An Charraig have been built by the residents and volunteers. The buildings respect the traditional methods and materials used in building on the island and we have developed these traditions.
  • Self-sufficiency in food – at An Charraig a number of gardens are dedicated to organic vegetable growing. An Charraig also has a plastic tunnel, chickens, ducks and geese, and bees. All bread is home-made. Fishing is done off the rocks and in a small boat. Small amounts of meat are also produced, although the house has been mostly vegetarian. A number of methods of food-preservation are used to maintain a supply of food throughout the winter.
  • The conscious practice of hospitality – An Charraig has offered hospitality to a wide variety of people who, for one reason or another, sought to make a connection here. Tess and Dara are also responsible for Killeany Lodge, situated on another part of the island, which can hold up to 26 guests and is available for group programmes, workshops and retreats.
  • A centre for creativity, learning and personal development – many people came to An Charraig with a clear intention to learn particular subjects, or to experience a different way of life. Living at An Charraig was a transformative experience for many people. The volunteer programme, which took volunteers through EVS (European Voluntary Service) and through WWOOF (Willing Workers On Organic Farms), was a structured way through which people can learn and develop. An Charraig accommodated students following their own course of studies. The four children of Tess and Dara learn and develop in this environment and have not been attending school. See the YouTube short documentary made in 2007 .
  • A force for positive transformation in the local community – residents at An Charraig have contributed in many ways towards the quality of life in the local community. A significant number of former An Charraig residents have settled on the island, some of them rearing a family, all of them offering their gifts to the local community. An Charraig has been very active in promoting a preservation and celebration of Aran's spiritual and cultural heritage - Celtic spirituality, the Irish language, traditional crafts, Irish music, singing and dancing. Dara has been active in the Comharchumann, a community co-operative, and through it has promoted many projects such as organic growing, a waste recycling plant, and an old people's home. Dara is now active in promoting local renewable energy generation, greater energy efficiency and a carbon neutral future for the islands. See Aran Islands Energy Cooperative.
  • A force for positive transformation nationally and globally – An Charraig has had a number of structures through which it engaged with the world in dialogue, and presented to the public its viewpoint and ideas. These structures included: its facilities for hospitality, its publication of The AISLING Magazine, its other publications, its website, and Dara's work with pilgrimages, tour groups, ceremonies and through the media, lectures and talks. Residents at An Charraig also engaged politically in many campaigns. Dara has been chairperson of Kairos Europa, a European network of base communities, activists and intellectuals.

Visitors and Guests At 'An Charraig'

An Charraig is not taking guests at the moment.

Volunteers at 'An Charraig'

click here


The project house at An Charraig half-built

The team at work

A close-up of the double-walled form work

Getting the levels right

Rethatching in traditional Aran style

Planting the potatoes

Laying the footpath outside the family home at An Charraig

The first lettuce of the season

^ Back To Top

©Copyright 2012 Dara Molloy. All rights reserved.

Site designed and developed by Justin Staley Designs.