My time living in Ireland is something I’ll always treasure, so forgive me if I repeatedly say “this was my favorite trip” in various Ireland posts because truly, I couldn’t just pick one.
The Aran Islands are a group of three islands, Inishmore (Inis Mór), Inishmaan (Inis Meáin), and Inisheer (Inis Oírr), located off the coast of Galway. I traveled to the largest island, Inis Mór, and it was a sight to behold.
I was visiting Galway with some fellow international friends, and we did a day trip to the Aran Islands. My one regret was not picking up an authentic Aran sweater. The islands are famous for their knitwear and are beautifully handmade. I was so poor when I was studying abroad, I couldn’t bring myself to purchase one but I still regret it to this day. If you go please bring back one for me! I already have it all picked out 🙂
The journey to Inis Mór was quite rough on the ferry, but once we got there the light began to peek through the clouds. I’m sure there was much to do on the island (which I will cover in a moment), but since we were traveling in February during the off season we spent hours just sitting on the cliffs near the Dun Aengus fortress soaking up the scenery. The stark, vast beauty of the cliffs juxtaposing the ancient fort is something you can’t quickly take in and those hours just hanging out on the cliffs are some of my fondest memories in Ireland!
My camera died that day, but thank goodness one of my friends captured some beautiful moments.
Coming from Galway, you can drive about 45 minutes along the coast to the ferry terminal in Rossaveel (Ros a’Mhíl). For a small fee (about 13 euros I believe) you can also take Bus Éireann number 424 which takes a little over an hour to get to the ferry terminal. Alternatively, you can fly seasonally to the Aran Islands from the Connemara Airport in Inverin (Indreabhán).
Arriving to Inis Mór
Once on island, there are various options for transport around the island. I arrived to Inis Mór on a very wet and rainy morning so we hopped in a small car for hire that drove us to see the cliffs which we ended up hiking to part of the way. If you find yourself in better weather, renting bikes is a popular choice to explore the island at your leisure. It is a small island so if you have plenty of time walking is also an option. And if you’re feeling particularly quaint, horse drawn carts are apparently an available option in the summer!
Being the largest of the three islands, Inis Mór also has the largest population at around 800 people. (Makes me appreciate the 10,000 year-rounders here on Nantucket!) Inis Mór is part of the Gaeltacht regions of Ireland where Irish is still the main language spoken, but you’ll be able to get by with English just fine.
Sites to See
Inis Mór is home to the ancient stone fortress Dun Aonghasa, dating roughly from the Stone or Iron age. Located on the south side of the island, the fort sits along sheer cliffs that reach almost 100 meters high that overlook the vast Atlantic ocean. I spent most of my day here and can’t recommend it enough. You can’t come to Inis Mór and not see this!!
Dun Eoghanacht is another fort, located on the west side of the island south of the Sruthan village, which some believe also dates back to the Iron Age.
If you are looking to spot some Currach’s, traditional boats, look no further than the bustling fishing village, Kilronan. This is where you will find the Aran Sweater Market… I must go back for a sweater! Seriously, to this day I wish I had one! Here you can recharge with a cup of coffee or a hearty pint, only 6 kilometers from Dun Aonghasa!
On the west side of Inis Mór you will find The Seven Churches (Dísert Bhreacáinone) which was one of the largest monastic foundations for hundreds of year.
Now that I live on an island myself, I have a new appreciation for those who live on the Aran Islands. I hope to return again one day for my Aran sweater!
How about you, have you been to any of the other Aran Islands, Inis Meáin or Inis Oírr? If so, what was it like?