In recent years, there has been increasing interest in the use of automatic computer-based systems for the detection of eye diseases such as glaucoma, age-related macular degeneration and diabetic retinopathy. However, in practice, retinal image quality is a big concern as automatic systems without consideration of degraded image quality will likely generate unreliable results. In this paper, an automatic retinal image quality assessment system (ARIES) is introduced to assess both image quality of the whole image and focal regions of interest. ARIES achieves 99.54% accuracy in distinguishing fundus images from other types of images through a retinal image identification step in a dataset of 35342 images. The system employs high level image quality measures (HIQM) to perform image quality assessment, and achieves areas under curve (AUCs) of 0.958 and 0.987 for whole image and optic disk region respectively in a testing dataset of 370 images. ARIES acts as a form of automatic quality control which ensures good quality images are used for processing, and can also be used to alert operators of poor quality images at the time of acquisition.