In the summer, there are hundreds if not thousands of visitors to the Aran Islands and its largest island, Inishmore each day. Many Irish people have yet to make it over and when I did finally visit, it got under my skin and I was very happy that a return trip came up not too long after!
If going for a day trip then I strongly suggest that you either rent a bike at the pier, or arrange a jarvey or taxi tour for the few hours that you are there. But I don’t recommend you just make a day trip! Really do try and stay a few nights or at the very least one night. Early morning or late at night is just magic on the island!!
Inishmore is full of inclines – I am a little hesitant to call them hills, but I’ll put it like this, you will be getting to know your gears if you do hire a bike! While out exploring you will come across plenty of photo opportunities with the resident donkeys and goats along with the sheer overwhelming sight of rock, after rock, after rock!
Dun Aonghusa is a prehistoric stone fort believed to date from c. 1500B.C. It is considered to be one of the best examples in Europe and so it is a popular visitor attraction. One of the advantages of staying on Inishmore overnight is that you can visit Dun Aonghusa early in the morning before the first boat arrives and virtually have this amazing site all to yourself, while taking in the panoramic views across the island, realising the precipitous nature of the south end of the island and enjoy the morning sun rising in the east.
After being wowed at Dun Aonghusa, you could continue down to the west end of the island to see the lighthouse on Rock Island. You might spot some sheep out grazing on this and Brannock Island. Cycling is definitely the most fun way of getting down here as it is a very quiet country road and you are cycling parallel to the mainland, looking across to Co. Galway. There are some sharp steep hills (inclines!) to get over first but once the lighthouse comes into view it is downhill, wind-in-your-face, legs-dangling-freely all the way to the water! So then you will have to face the return uphill… but! – let me just say that the hill is forgiving on the way up – more gentle and not as steep as it seems, plus, once you see the Man of Aran thatched cottage, it will be the same wind-in-your-hair whizz downhill straight to unspoiled Kilmurvey beach.
Having now explored the west end of the island, if you have worked up an appetite, be sure to make your way back to Teach Nan Phaidí near Dun Aonghusa. Just look! How cute is it??! As the advertisement says “If Carlsberg did cafés… probably the best café in Ireland at least!
Here, Catherine Concannon together with her sisters and neighbours serve the most delicious food in the cosiest of surroundings. Do not leave without tasting the Guinness cake! And the lasagne and potato gratin are worth the boat ride out to the island alone!
After re-fuelling, hop back on the bikes and cycle past Kilmurvey beach, take the next right turn and cycle towards Gort na gCapall village to see the Worm Hole or bPol na bPeist as it is known in Irish. A word of warning: if you do decide to visit this, be sure to say it to a local beforehand to check the weather is ok and they recommend it is safe to visit. To me, this is the most awesome sight and part of the wonder of this site is the journey to get there! Cycle until you reach a gate and leave the bikes against the wall. Now wander down this lane and you will soon come to the end of the walled lane and just be surrounded by lots (and lots) of stones. Just keep walking towards Dun Aonghusa, keeping the sea on your left. Walk out towards the very flat rectangular boulders but keep a safe distance from the ocean landing close by. You should see cliffs in front of you. Walk towards these and it is just a matter of following these cliffs around until you come to the worm- hole. This walk is so surreal! There are so many different types of rocks, they are all the same sort-of colour but there are lots of different sizes, and all of them weathered from the relentless Atlantic pounding down on them. These cliffs are popular with rock climbers and the Red Bull cliff diving contest was held here at the Worm Hole. For me, what is most remarkable about this site is that this is completely natural. No planners, bulldozers or project managers played any part in creating this feature, just years and years of nature living on the edge of a wild ocean!
Returning back, a late afternoon swim (or snooze on the sand) at Kilmurvey beach is perfect to while away the afternoon, even nicer if you have decided to stay over night and have a sunset swim with virtually no-one else to share the water with.
A real treat when staying overnight on Inishmore is to go outside onto the still lanes and look up to see the stars. The sky is so clear and if you are good at recognising constellations you will be delighted at the clarity of the sky. I saw a really magical shooting star while there one night! It is also a lovely sight to look across the water and see the lights twinkling throughout Co. Galway.
Kilronan is the main village where the ferries arrive and there are a number of spots to eat and drink. I had a really fresh seafood board from The Pier House, upon arrival one afternoon and you get to watch all the comings and goings of the ferry terminal while enjoying your lunch. For music in the evenings pay a visit to Ti Joe Watty’s on the Main road and there is also music in the American Bar, again at the top of the Pier too. Being Galway owned, Supermac’s have an outlet next to Spar on the island too, so you won’t have to go without a Mighty Mac while off the mainland!!
Ferries depart from Doolin, Co. Clare & Ros a Mhíl in Galway. The Galway ferries are direct, but the Doolin ferries usually pull in at Inis Oirr & Inis Meain along the way – you will also get a great view of the Cliffs of Moher as the boat is crossing the water!
If you do travel over from Clare, travel down along the coast & take a break at Spanish Point beach, the sandy beach is well worth a good bracing walk at any time of year! More detail here: