Visiting the Aran Islands – the cradle of Irish culture

Think of a remote island. Isolated. Rugged. Untouched. Got it? Now, make that even more remote. THAT’s the Aran Islands. Located a few miles west of Galway in Western Ireland, this small group of three limestone islands has seemingly stood still against the current throughout the centuries, and by looking at it you’d could be fooled into thinking it’s actually a movie set depicting 1800s rural Ireland.

But on the contrary; the Aran Islands are very much real and even though you’d be hard-pressed to find mobile reception it’s still a place I highly recommend to those exploring the famous Wild Atlantic Way.

I spent a half day there as part of my All Ireland Rocker tour, and I’m so happy I got to see this special part of Ireland.

About the Aran Islands

Aran Islands 1

Perhaps because of their isolation and their profound ties to ancient traditions, the islands retain an extremely strong sense of Irish identity – in fact, the majority of locals, although fluent in English, speak Gaelic among themselves. Take a few minutes to converse with them and it might just end up being the highlight of your trip; Islanders are notoriously entertaining storytellers (and, for some reason, I suspect their stories’ cadence grows in inverse proportions to the amount of Guinness left in their pint).

As you expect them to be. This is Ireland, after all.

If I’m honest, there’s actually very little to do on the island; it’s definitely not a “bring your bucket list to tick off as you go” kind of place. This is the kind of place where you close your eyes to breathe in the fresh Atlantic air and hear lullaby of the waves crashing against the limestone.

It’s a place where you visit Bronze age and UNESCO-registered stone forts like Dun Aengus, where you shop for handcrafted Aran sweaters (the iconic Irish fisherman sweaters) at the Kilmurvey Craft Village, where you walk amongst celtic ruins at Na Seacht dTeampaill, and where you visit Teampall Bhean’in, alledgedly the smallest church in Ireland. I can definitely see the appeal in that.

How to plan a day trip to the island

You can get to the Inis Mór, the main island, by ferry from Ros a’ Mhíl, 23 miles west of Galway. Allow a solid hour and a half to get to the port and check in. Ferries leave Ros a’ Mhí every morning at 10:30 am and get back at 5 pm, with journey time being roughly 2 hours. and Be aware, however, that schedules are subject to change due to inclement weather conditions. A return trip costs €25.00. It is advisable to book online well in advance. Same goes for getting to Inis Méain and Inis Oírr: ferries leave Ros a’ Mhí every morning at 10:30 am and get back at 4:30 pm.

You can also get to the Aran Islands from the Cliffs of Moher with Doolin Ferries in the village of Doolin. A return trip costs $37. Note that it is possible to combine this trip with a Cliffs of Moher cruise. It’s also the only operator to offer inter-island transportation, if you’re planning on visiting more than one island.

Inis Mór is the most popular island. This is where you’ll see the big-ticket attractions pertaining to Celtic mythology and prehistorical times. Inis Méain is the least visited, but it boasts the best unobstructed views of the Cliffs of Moher and unique scuba diving opportunities. Lastly, Inis Oír is famous for its sandy beaches and Caribbean-like turquoise waters; it retains an strong “Irish village” feel  thanks to a striking lighthouse, a small but lively post, and a popular shipwreck.

The best way to get around the islands is by bike or on foot, as they are quite small.

Where to sleep on Inis Mór

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