The Aran Islands were on my radar for a long time. Donal and I are always around the west coast, in County Clare, where the boats to the islands depart. But, we always postponed going there. I guess it’s normal that we always leave places such as these near us for another time. There are so many places on our own doorstep, and too often we forget to pay them a visit.
Last August was my 3 year anniversary in Ireland and I thought it was a good opportunity to go there and celebrate this milestone in my Irish life.
The Aran Islands are a group of 3 islands located on the west coast of Ireland, in Galway Bay, between Galway and Clare. The biggest island is called Ínis Mór (Inishmore), the middle is Ínis Meáin (Inishmaan) and the smallest is Ínis Oírr (Inisheer).
These islands are well known for their proud preservation of Irish culture. The Irish language is still spoken there and the islanders are bilingual in Irish and English. Besides that, the islands are incredibly beautiful, also known for their high cliffs, breath taking views, ancient forts and pre-historical relics. You definitely need to put these islands on your list when you come to explore Ireland.
To get there, you can take a boat, with two possible departures: Connemara, in Galway and Doolin, in Clare (next to the Cliffs of Moher). But, it depends on which island you would like to visit. Ínis Mór is closest to Galway, and I recommend you take the boat from there. However, if Ínis Oírr is your choice, Doolin is the best place. To Ínis Meáin it doesn’t matter as the island is literally in the middle.
There is also an option to take a flight from Connemara.
I wasn’t sure which island I wanted to explore first. We only had one day and, because of this, we didn’t include the big island in our plan. You need more time there and, also, it’s very touristy this time of the year and quite crowded.
We headed to Doolin Pier to check if there was any place available on the boats. We were told that it was all booked for the other islands due to the high season and they had only places to go to Ínis Oírr. As this island is very close to Doolin, it is easier to go and to come back, so they have more boats available for this trip.
So off we went to explore Ínis Oírr!
Return tickets are around 20 euros. But, as locals, we didn’t pay. I love this about Clare, they don’t charge locals (and their guests) or provide a good discount for tourist attractions such as this. Local help and knowledge is abundant and valued.
From Doolin to Ínis Oírr takes aprox. 30 to 40 minutes. Keep in mind that the boats only operates if the weather is good. So, you can imagine during Summer time these islands are extremely busy!
(An Ghaeltacht = Irish speaking region)
As already mentioned, Ínis Oírr is the smallest island, with less than 300 people living in there. This island is an extension of The Burren, having the same landscape, very rich fauna and flora, and bird nests. Definitely a paradise for nature lovers!
They are very proud of their Irish roots, emphasizing its language and music. And of course, to boast their title of having one of the most beautiful beaches in the west coast.
Some of the most interesting places on the island: A castle from the 15th century, graves from the Bronze Age, a wrecked ship and a lighthouse built in 1857.
The best option to explore the island is hiring a bike, there are a lot of trails around the island, and cycling is much better, unless you are very sedentary and prefer taking a horse and cart (Yes, you have that option too). We hired our bikes and, with map in hand, we set off to explore Ínis Oírr.
(Map of the island and main attractions)
First stop was the graveyard, and inside here you can find the ruins of the Saint Caomháin church, the island patron. I love ruins and I am forever fascinated by them. It’s very common to find graveyards at a church, but ‘buried’ in this manner is unusual for me. Stunning!
What a beautiful day that was; very sunny, enhancing even more the island’s beauty. The colour of the North Atlantic ocean in contrast with the green fields. I guess I couldn’t have choose a better place to celebrate my third anniversary in Ireland.
We forgot to bring sunscreen and it was a disaster. I got sunburn and later on it gave me sunstroke. Donal wore long sleeves the entire time. If he stays in the sun with no protection he can be burned pretty bad. In the end, I was more screwed than this ginger of mine. I would say it is in making mistakes that we learn, but I know I am very good at forgetting sunscreen.
So please, my friends, don’t forget the sunscreen and never underestimate the Irish sun in the Summer.
From there you can see the Cliffs of Moher, the views are just amazing. ♥
Next stop was the wrecked ship, the MV Plassy. This ship was carrying Whiskey, stained glass and yarn when it got hit by a heavy storm in 1960. The locals saved the crew and weeks later another storm hit that part of Ireland, bringing the ship ashore to where it lies now.
As soon as I saw the ship this song started to play in my head: ”to wreeeeck, did I build this ship to wreck?”… Anyone?
By that time my legs were sore from cycling, mainly because we had faced some challenging hills. But, we still had to see the Lighthouse. I love lighthouses and I couldn’t just not go to see this one.
The way to the Lighthouse was very enjoyable, just downhill. Unfortunately, we didn’t have a good surprise when we got there to see the gates closed with a notice: Private property – Do not trespass. Ohhh, nice!
I thought we could see the lighthouse from the inside and get closer. It was disappointing I have to say. I had to to look from the gates, and try to imagine how it looked like from the inside and the view from the top.
More and more cycling later, we returned to the beach area. Here we went up hill again to see the ruins of the castle from the 15th century and the stone fort.
We stayed a long time up there resting and having our ”lunch break”. The island has a good infrastructure, with great family run restaurants with fresh seafood for those who wish to sample local cuisine. But we brought our own food (I mean, snacks).
The view from here is astonishing! Look at the sea, this beach.. these houses… what a wonderful island! How can we not fall in love with you Ínis Oírr?
The islanders have reasons to be proud of their title for having one of the most beautiful beaches in the country because, in fact, it is! The water was freezing cold, and I didn’t feel like getting into it, even if it was a really hot day. Maybe next time; I am not totally Irish yet to swim in such cold waters.
The west coast is the most rainy part of Ireland but, if the sun comes to play, well you can notice with these pics how stunning is! I already heard from Irish people here saying if they have this weather frequently they would’t have to go every year to the Mediterranean. Oh, Ireland, you are a paradise!
I am always fascinated by these islands and remote places (I want to visit them all); how is life there; and how they preserve so much the Irish language and culture. Apparently, the Irish spoken here is slightly different; they have their own dialect. And I think this is wonderful and it makes the whole thing more unique.
We didn’t make it to the other side of the island, the sun was killing us and we were very tired. We rested a bit around the castle and it was nearly time to head back to the boat. So, we finished our island adventure at this gorgeous little beach.
The Aran Islands have all the facilities you need, accommodation and places to eat. It is a good option to spend a weekend or a few days if you wish.
This is the 4th island I visited in Ireland, and soon I will be translating the posts about them from my Portuguese blog. Stay tuned!
>>> Do you like islands and remote places? Would you like to live in one of them?
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