The Aran Islands lure visitors with their combination of spectacular landscapes, historical monuments, and a rich cultural heritage. These three islands off the coast of Galway are called Inis Mor (Big Island), Inis Meain (Middle Island), and Inis Oirr (East Island), though the names are typically Anglicized as Inishmore, Inishmaan, and Inisheer. If you want to visit one of the Gaeltachts, the parts of Ireland where Irish is still spoken every day, then plan a trip to the Aran Islands. Popular for bicycle tours, a World Heritage Site, and amazing cliff views, the Aran Islands are a glimpse into Ireland’s past.
The islands can be reached by plane or by ferry. Aer Arann connects Connemara airport to the islands. Alternatively, Aran Island ferries depart from two different areas of Galway: Rossaveal and Doolin. Both can be reached via buses from Galway. From Rossaveal Harbor, the ferry ride to the closest island, Inis Mor, is only 30 to 40 minutes. If you plan on taking the ferry to Inis Meain or Inis Oirr, the journey will be slightly longer, at about 70 minutes. If you’re eager to get to the Aran Islands quickly, book a flight from Connemara airport: The flight is only ten minutes long.
Aran Islands hotels make it simple to spend a few days exploring everything the islands have to offer, which is among the best things to do in Ireland if you're interested in history and traditional culture. Visitors can choose from hotels, guesthouses, and hostels depending on their budget. On Inis Mor, travelers can choose from the Man of Aran Cottages Bed and Breakfast, the Mainistir House Hostel, Kelly House, Cregmount House Bed and Breakfast, Ard Mhuiris Bed & Breakfast, and more. There are also Aran Islands hotels on the other islands. On Inis Meain, you can choose from The West Village Thatch Cottages, Tig Congaile Bed & Breakfast, Ostan Inis Meain Hotel and more. Lastly, on Inis Oirr options include Fishermans Cottage, Bru Radharc Na Mara Hostel, Maire Searraigh Bed & Breakfast, and Ona McDonagh Bed & Breakfast, among others. You will have a wide choice of Aran Islands hotels during your stay.
As the largest island, Inis Mor probably receives the most visitors. It is also home to a famous World Heritage Site, Dun Aengus (also spelled Dun Aonghusa). This stone fort was built on a cliff and overlooks the Atlantic. The first walls date back to 1100 BC, but indications suggest that people have been living here since 1500 BC. The views from the fort are spectacular and guided tours are available. Other attractions on Inis Mor include Killronan Village, an Old Lighthouse, the Seven Churches, and the beaches. One of the most popular ways to explore the landscapes is by bicycle. At many places throughout the island it is possible to rent a bicycle and explore at your own leisure.
Inis Mor is the most-visited of the three islands, so if you’d rather get away somewhere even more remote, head to the other two islands. Inis Meain is known for its Irish cultural traditions. These traditions will be on display whether you decide to go cliff climbing, fishing, or listen to traditional music in one of the pubs. The smallest island is Inis Oirr, and it is known as the most charming of the three Aran Islands. From surfing to beaches to lighthouses to castles, there’s plenty to explore even on this small island. After your visit to the Aran Islands, you might want to explore Achill Island in County Mayo. These western islands, along with destinations like Sligo, Killarney, and Galway, are ideal for experiencing Irish culture.