Roughly 40 minutes sailing from Galway City, the Aran Islands are a picturesque getaway to Irish tradition and culture. The three islands that sit at the mouth of Galway Bay have a remarkable history that stretches back thousands of years and are teeming with astonishing coastal scenery.
During my time in Galway, I took a day trip out to the largest of the Aran Islands, Inis Mór (Inishmore). Here is a recap of my experience and some handy tips to make your trip to these gorgeous islands one you will never forget.
Sailing to Inis Mór
Even if you are spending only 4 days in Ireland, as my friends were, Galway and Inis Mor should be on your list. Galway City is the prime launching pad to reach any of the three islands but the ferries that provide daily service are located at Rossaveal, roughly a 45-minute drive from Galway. Ferry services provide commuter bus service from Galway and can be added to your ticket to the islands. I booked a round trip ticket with Aran Island Ferries departing Rossaveal at 10:30am and taking the last ferry back to the mainland at 5:00pm.
Arriving on Inis Mór
The mesmerizing boat ride offered beautiful images of Ireland’s rugged terrain and jagged shores. The mountains from Connemara National Park stood proudly overlooking the charming seaside cottages beside the bay. As the boat trekked further out to sea, you could feel the waves of the Atlantic Ocean intensifying with every passing moment. The boat swayed back and forth like an amusement park ride forcing passengers to cling tightly to railings.
Upon arrival at Inis Mór, we were greeted with a gorgeous white sand beach and docked alongside the pier was a rusty ship with the word ‘GALWAY’ etched into its stern. Just beyond the beach, there were dozens of van tours, horse carriages, and bike rental shops waiting to whisk tourists away to the island’s mystical wonders.
Be prepared to bring cash! Bike rentals and guided tours only accept cash payments and there is only one ATM on the island (at the Spar Supermarket).
If you have no cash and are unprepared to get money from an ATM, you will be in for a scenic stroll on the island like me!
The main highlight of Inis Mór is the ancient stony fort Dún Aonghasa which sits atop stunning cliffs. There are two roads to reach the scenic cliffs with the easier being the coastal route.
You feel like you have been transported back in time with breathtaking views of stone walls, ruins of medieval huts, and signs purely in Irish Gaelic. Enchanting fields decorated by gorgeous flowers in bloom overlook the rocky coastline and adorable farm animals can be spotted along the peaceful trail. Make sure to stop by the seal colony viewpoint for a sighting of these incredible sea creatures.
Just past the seal colony, you can take a dip at Kilmurvey Beach. The glowing white sands and turquoise waters will make you think you are in the Caribbean. Brace yourself for a colder swim though!
Right before the Dún Aonghasa visitor center, you will have the chance to purchase authentic Aran Island sweaters, knitwear, and jewelry. The steep and rocky climb to the top of the cliff is a rewarding challenge that surveys the crevices indented into the landscape.
When you reach the top of the staircase, you will feel like you have reached the ends of the Earth. The brutalizing wind sheer pummels you while standing mere inches from the edge of the cliff. Your heart races while surveying the mighty Atlantic Ocean 100 meters below.
The ancient ruins of the fort are astonishing when you realize they have stood the test of time along this towering cliff for upwards of 3,000 years. One of the most magnificent archaeological sites in western Europe!