Perhaps the most iconic of all the Irish islands, The Aran Islands, comprising of Inis Mór (Inishmore), Inis Meáin (Inishmaan), and Inis Oírr (Inisheer), are stunningly located in wild Atlantic waters at the mouth of Galway Bay.
The largest of the three, and furthest west, is Inis Mór, also known as Aranmore. The middle island, both in terms of size and location, is Inis Meáin, and the smallest and most eastern of the three is little Inis Oírr. Irish is the principal language on all three Aran Islands, and it’s use is jealously guarded by the islanders who understand its importance to both the revival of the Irish language, and to the survival of their own economy.
But, more than anything else, The Aran Islands are simply stunning, with their breath-taking vistas, extraordinary cliff scenery, wonderful music, traditional cottages, and their many many reminders of times past. For cyclists and walkers The Aran Islands are a paradise. As you make your way across their stony landscapes your mind is cleansed by the great silence which fills the space between sea and sky. The Aran Islands have an abundance of wildlife and some 437 varieties of wild flower. And if cycling is your thing, and lets face it you won’t be driving, you can hire a bicycle in lovely Kilronan village and meander wherever you wish and will. On the other hand you may be more the “pony and trap” type, or you may wish to take a guided tour in one of the islands few minibus’s.
The travel time to Inis Mór from Galway City Docks is 90 minutes. From Rossaveal it is 40 minutes, and from Doolin it is 20 minutes. Alternatively it is just 10 minutes by air from the Aer Arran Airstrip just east of Rossaveal. On arrival you can swim in crystal clear seas, study rare flowers and wildlife, write, paint, fish, or simply relax, unwind and learn some words of Gaelic in this great repository of spoken Irish. And when the evening twilight comes, drop in for a quiet pint, and enjoy a wealth of Irish music and dance, or join in one of the spontaneous pub music sessions.
No trip to Aran would be complete without visiting the ancient fort of Dun Aengus. Dun Aengus is an extraordinary fort situated on the edge of a cliff at a height of 100 meters above the Atlantic on Inis Mór island. It consists of a series of concentric circular walls, the innermost, the citadel, enclosing an area of approximately 50 meters in diameter. The relentless Atlantic Ocean has been hammering away at the cliff face since 1100BC when the first fort constructions were built at Dun Aengus, and the fort is now half eaten by the sea, a most extraordinary and unique sight! Enjoy with care!
Getting to the Aran Islands
By aircraft, ferry, or car. Aer Aran Islands provides regular flights to all three Aran Islands from Rossaveel. Alternatively you can access the Aran Islands from Galway, Rossaveel, or Doolin.
Where to stay
The Aran Islands have a great selection of comfortable and friendly places to stay including small hotels, hostels, self-catering holiday homes, guesthouses and B&B's.
The Aran Islands are accessed by way of Doolin which is itself surrounded by beautiful coastal destinations. Don't miss The Burren and Ballyvaughan if you are travelling north, and Liscannor, and Lahinch, if you are travelling south.
Things to do in The Aran Islands.
Firstly, rent a bike, by far the best way to get around the Aran Islands.
The normal conventions of polite reticence do not apply on Irish islands. You can talk to anyone you wish, and don’t be surprised if they talk to you!
Visit Synge’s Chair. At the desolate western edge of the island, Synge’s Chair is a lookout at the edge of a sheer limestone cliff with the surf from Gregory’s Sound booming below. The cliff ledge is often sheltered from the wind, so do as Synge did and find a comfortable stone seat to take it all in. On the walk out to Synge’s Chair, a sign points the way to a “clochán”, hidden behind a house and shed.
Pay a visit to Tobar Einne. Locals still carry out a pilgrimage known as the Turas to the Well of Enda, an ever- burbling spring in a remote rocky expanse in the southwest. The ceremony involves, over the course of three consecutive Sundays, picking up seven stones from the ground nearby and walking around the small well seven times, putting one stone down each time, while saying the rosary until an elusive eel appears from the well’s watery depths. If, during this ritual, you’re lucky enough to see the eel, it’s said your tongue will be bestowed with healing powers, enabling you to literally lick wounds…..Good luck with that!