Today we want to give you some information on the three Aran Islands and things to do on each one to help maximise the quality time you spend on our Island home – so if you are searching for the best guide to the Aran Islands and an adventure - you have come to the right place.
The three islands are called Inis Mor (the largest of the three islands) Inis Meain (known for its authentic escape from the contemporary world we live in today) & Inis Oirr (smallest of the three and known for its incredible charm).
Photo credit: AranIslands.ie
Some of the reasons the Aran Islands are a must see are the incredible historic displays, sacred sites, and homely feel. These islands are a perfect getaway location for anyone who would like to switch off from today’s societal chaotic world and bring yourself back to fresh air and simple, blissful living. These islands leave so many memories as the fascination with jaw-dropping sights will leave you thinking about their beauty for months after a visit. The deep historic feeling on these Islands would make anyone feel connected to our history in some way. With the Aran Islands being a Gaeltacht, meaning Irish language or Gaeilge is still spoken as a community language, makes it even more special. For us, the Aran Islands are a harmony of tranquillity, culture, beauty, and comfort.
If you're planning your trip to the Aran Islands and your starting point is Inis Mór, the first thing to consider is how to get there. You can travel to the Islands from Galway or Doolin (Co. Clare) - you can take a ferry from either. To get the most out of your visit we recommend going as early as you can - there is so much to do on Inis Mór the more time you have to explore the better.
One of the first recommendations is to travel the island by bicycle. This way you can stop where you like to take a break, have some lunch, and spend time exploring the picturesque displays and amazing views.
Renting a bike on the islands is easily accessible, they are available on the pier on Inis Mór which is where you will arrive when you first dock on the island. Renting a bike on the island for the day is €10 or you can get an electric bike for €30. There is something quite peaceful about pedalling along mile after mile of hand-built stone walls with the Island's fresh breeze keeping you cool all the while admiring the unspoilt beauty with not a care in the world.
Taking a break from cycling you can stop off in search of wildlife if that is something you would enjoy. The ruggedly beautiful Inis Mór shores are home to Seal watching which is unique to experience. This will be marked on Google Maps as “Seal Colony Viewpoint” for you to find easily and takes 10-15 minutes to cycle to from the bike hire point.
Continuing cycling along the coastal route you will come to Kilmurvey beach 8-10 minutes after the seal watching which is perfect for a refreshing swim while taking in the views around you. With white sandy beaches and turquoise clear water, it would be difficult not to take a quick break to sunbathe or take a refreshing dip in the Atlantic Ocean.
After cooling off from cycling you have no doubt built up an appetite, less than a mile up the road you will find a cosy little café called “Teach Nan Phaidi” which has five stars on TripAdvisor and is well known for its delicious home cooked food that is perfect to fuel you for your busy day.
Amidst the stone walls there are some stunning displays of history on the Island, shortly after this café you will find the Dun Aengus fort – this historic creation is over three thousand years old and was originally constructed in 1100 BC. It is the biggest of all the prehistoric forts on Inis Mór – located on the Cliff edge of the Island just one hundred meters above the sea, it is quite the attraction and a definite must see as the dramatic views will blow you away.
Another gorgeous spot to check out is the famously known Poll na bPéist or wormhole driving spot. The fact this limestone pool is made by natural elements only adds to its aesthetic. If you fancy another swim this is a unique experience that we would highly recommend checking out while visiting Inis Mór.
The next part of the island to explore and awe over the fascinating views is Dun Eoghanachta. Another stunning historic ruin on the cliff edge of the island. As this will be your last stop off before coming back to the base you can spend it if you like resting here among this unique creation.
Once you head back to Kilronan you can check out some local pubs/restaurants for a refreshing drink of Irish beer or a fresh Irish cuisine to refuel after all that exploring. We would suggest Joe Watty’s Pub & Seafood bar or The Bar.
Be sure to stop by and say hello to our team in our Aran Islands Store. Taking in the last of the summer sunshine and the longer evenings here on the Aran Islands and preparing for Autumn at the Aran Sweater Market.
Now that we have covered all the best bits of Inis Mór, we will take you to the next island and guide you to the best attractions there.
Inis Meain (also called Inishmaan)
Inis Meain is the middle Island and is popular for its mighty views and beautiful loop walks.
This island gives you the best chance to acquaint yourself with the sanctuary of Irish traditional culture and is a wonderful way to escape from the modern world as this would be the least visited Island of the three making it even more peaceful. This island has a population of two hundred, with Irish being predominantly spoken and farming and fishing traditionally done in a currach. The island has a landscape consisting of hills which makes the sight of the views even more significant & can be enjoyed by foot or by bicycle whichever your preference.
The first thing on our list is the Lúb Dún Fearbhaí Looped Walk, this takes 4-5 hours to walk depending on your stop-offs and rests along the way. There are plenty of stunning views to take in along with the way including a clear view of the Cliffs of Moher and is well worth getting out in the fresh crisp island air for. The three main routes of this walk are purple (the longest) or blue and green routes which are shorter if you're caught for time. The arrows go from the pier so you will be guided by these along the way. During this walk you will reach Synge’s Chair, Cill Cheannannach Church, Dun Fearbhai Fort, Tra Leitreach and Teampaill na Seacht Mac Ri. If you are not a fan of long walks then not to worry, there is a direct route from the pier to Cathaoir Synge and the cliffs.
Here is a little information of the attractions on Inis Meain -
Dún Fearbhaí (Ferboy’s Fort) -This fort (which dates to the first-seventh century) is still standing strongly and was used for defensive and ceremonial purposes – traditionally these were circular in shape however this one was made in a square style.
Leaba Dhiarmada agus Ghrainne/The Bed of Diarmuid and Grainne - take in some Irish folklore as this is a wedge tomb that is legendarily known as the bed of Diarmuid who a soldier in the Fianna army and Grainne who was as the daughter of the high King of Tara, Cormac Mac Airt. This is a Celtic love story and so the legend goes that Diarmuid and Grainne slept at this site while they travelled around Ireland on their quest to escape Fionn mac Cumhaill and the Fianna.
Teach Ósta is a thatched cottage that was converted into the local pub in 1895 & is 200-yrs-old. It is well worth wandering in for a refreshing drink.
Conor’s Fort (Dun Chonchuir) - Dún Crocbhur is at the highest point of the Island offering amazing views to its visitors. It is the largest oval stone fort on all the Aran Islands and measures up to seven meters in height.
Synge’s Chair and the Cliffs -The cliffs are quite striking as you get views of Inis Mór and the Cliffs of Moher. During the winter months the waves here can exceed 150 feet high that have formed the cliff face. This is also home to Synge's chair which was built by Cathoir Synge. During turbulent weather conditions you would see water blown out of these blow holes which can be amazing to experience the power of nature's elements.
Photo credit - Christopher Tierney
Onto our final Island, the stunning Inis Oirr
This island is the smallest of the three but that does not take away from the fact it is well worth experiencing its distinctive charm. This island has a real feel of a classical isolated fishing village with a strong community still adhering to traditional way of life. While the island is only 3km by 3km in size - there is still lots to see and explore here such as long walks to beaches, taking in the history of the remaining old forts, great places to eat and much more, we have picked the best things (in our opinion) you should check out while visiting the island. To this day Irish is the main language used on the island by the 260 permanent residents.
Firstly, we recommend exploring by bicycle if you can as this is the best way to take in the stunning scenery all around you – this will be easy to get once you arrive there will be plenty of bike hiring opportunities. The roads on the island are high-quality making it comfortable to get around.
If cycling is not an option for you then you can also get around the island by horse and cart. This is a fantastic way to take in the views and unique setting around you while you relax and listen to the soft sound of the horses’ shoes on the roads – getting a great feel for island life with your very own driver taking you to the best attractions on the island.
If you are lucky enough to visit on a warm summer’s day, then we would suggest cooling off for a dip in An Tra beach. This is one of the most highly recommended things to do on Inis Oirr during the summer as its white sand beaches and clearest waters make it perfect for a swim making the island immensely popular among the summer months.
After your swim you will have worked up an appetite to experience the wonderful food on this island. Spoilt for choice you can decide where to grab some food from three stunning restaurants or plenty of cafes to choose from for a lite bite. We would recommend trying Tigh Ned as this restaurant constantly ranks as one of the finest on the island known for its delicious food including locally sourced fresh seafood.
Once you have refuelled and are ready to explore more on the island the next place, we would visit is the MV Plassey Shipwreck which is quite the site to behold with the history of this cargo vessel in the Irish Merchant service being washed onto the shore of Inis Oirr after hitting off a rock. All the crew were rescued by a local fisherman and brought to safety. The wreckage is a popular spot for tourists to visit today.
To the next picture-perfect spot located on the far side of the Island, we would recommend looking at the Inis Oirr lighthouse, dating back to the 19th century. This location on the island is a beautiful spot to take in the unspoilt views of the rugged coastline and take some pictures to capture the special, keep-sake memories of your visit.
If history is your thing, then you will be pleased to see some of the other historic sites here such as Teampall Caomhan and O’Brien’s Castle which offers some breath-taking views of the island.
Teampall Caomhan is the church of the Patron saint of the Aran Islands, Saint Caomhan and is located at the site of his burial on the island. This stunning ruin dates to the 10th century and is the perfect way to indulge yourself in religious history and folklore.
O’Briens Castle is another special appeal to set your sight on being perched on a hill - the views here will simply blow you away. The O’Brien Clan back in the 13th century helped keep Galway Bay clear of pirates and a clear shipping route. This was taken over by the O’Flattery Clan in the 1580s. It can be easily accessed by foot, and you will have a lovely view of the Cliffs of Moher.
We hope this guide helps you to plan your well-worth visit and makes it a little easier for you to see the best parts of the islands. We look forward to meeting you and would be happy to help in any way to guide you on your visit.
To us, these amazing Islands hold great history and heritage of which we are extremely proud, as we continue to hold on to the Irish traditional ways of life. We hope upon your visit you will feel right at home and enjoy all the stunning views that they offer. The Aran Islands are the heart of us and are our home - We are Aran.
Until next time, slán go fóill….