The Essential Guide To Exploring Ireland’s Aran Islands
Go Back In Time on Ireland's Aran Islands
Remote. Isolated. Rugged. Untouched. Beautiful.
Located in Galway Bay, the three Aran Islands: Inis Mór, Inis Meáin and Inis Oírr, are the last lands to the west of the Ireland coast before reaching America. This small group of limestone islands has seemingly stood still against time and have maintained many aspects of traditional Irish life.
Without a doubt, the islands fascinate thousands of visitors who make the journey to the islands every year.
When John and I arrived by ferry, we initially thought we had landed on a rural Irish island that was very much unchanged since the 1800s. We spent half of a day on Inis Mór,(‘mór’ meaning ‘big’ in Irish) with a population of around 800. Considering that it’s 7.4 miles in length and 1.8 miles wide, it’s hardly big by American standards but it’s the largest of the Aran Islands.
Perhaps because it was so different than anything we knew back at home in the U.S., we were very happy we got to see this special part of Ireland.
Possibly because of the isolation and the inhabitant’s deep ties to ancient traditions, the islands retain an extremely strong sense of Irish identity. The majority of locals, although fluent in English, speak Gaelic among themselves.
If you take a few minutes to converse with them, the conversation might end up being the highlight of your trip! Islanders are notoriously entertaining storytellers and I suspect their stories grow 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 really 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. But it is the perfect kind of place to breathe in the fresh Atlantic air and enjoy the lullaby of the waves crashing against the shore.
Still, there are many cool things to fill your Aran Island day. You can visit Bronze age and UNESCO-registered stone forts like Dun Aengus,
shop for handcrafted Aran sweaters (the iconic Irish fisherman sweaters) and in my case, Aran baby blankets, at the Kilmurvey Craft Village,
walk among celtic ruins at Na Seacht dTeampaill, and visit Teampall Bhean’in, allegedly the smallest church in Ireland.
There is definitely a lot of appeal in that!
How To Plan The Perfect Day Trip To The Aran Islands
You can get to Inis Mór, the main island, with Aran Island Ferries from Ros a’ Mhíl, 23 miles west of Galway. From Galway center, allow at least an hour and a half to get to the port and check in. Ferries leave Ros a’ Mhíl every morning at 10:30 a.m. and return at 5 p.m., with travel time being roughly 2 hours total.
Be aware that schedules are subject to change due to inclement weather conditions. A round trip ticket costs €25.00 for adults, and €13.00 for children. It is advisable to book online well in advance. You will receive a 10% discount for online booking too. Total win/win there!
For travel to Inis Méain and Inis Oírr: ferries leave Ros a’ Mhíl every morning at 10:30 a.m. and return at 4:30 p.m.
You can also travel to the Aran Islands from the Cliffs of Moher with Doolin Ferries the village of Doolin. A round trip ticket costs €25.00 for adults and €15.00 for children. Note that it is possible to combine this trip with a Cliffs of Moher cruise. Doolin Ferries is also the only operator to offer inter-island transportation, so if you’re planning on visiting more than one island, this would be the best operator for your itinerary.
Inis Mór is the most popular of the Aran Islands. This is the place to 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 a strong “Irish village” feel thanks to a striking lighthouse, a small but lively art center, and a popular shipwreck.
The best way to get around the islands is by bike or on foot, as all of the islands are quite small.
For additional info on the islands, check out: The Aran Islands.
See our 7-Day Road Trip Itinerary here.
Have you visited the Aran Islands? I would love to hear about your adventures in a comment below!