Visit the Aran Islands: a day trip from Galway, Ireland

Visit the Aran Islands: a day trip from Galway, Ireland

When my boyfriend and I were planning our 10 day Ireland itinerary, it was originally our plan to visit the Skellig Islands. However, it was not possible to get there using public transport. Therefore, I starting looking for other must-see islands in Ireland and stumbled upon the Aran Islands. We decided to take the ferry to Inis Mor (Inishmore), largest of the Aran Islands. In the end, the Aran Islands ended up to be one of our favourite activities in Ireland (also, the weather was great)! It deserves a place on your Europe bucket list. In this post, I will explain what the Aran Islands are, how to get to the Aran Islands, and things to to when you visit the Aran Islands.

What are the Aran Islands

The Aran Islands refer to a group of 3 rocky isles near the mouth of Galway bay in western Ireland. The largest island is Inis Mor (Inishmore). This island is 14 kilometers long and roughly 4 kilometers wide. Inis Meáin (Inishmaan) is the second-largest island, and Inis Oírr (Inisheer) is the smallest island. The inhabitants of the islands primarily speak Irish (don’t worry, they’re also fluent in English). This reflects in the place names (and signs on the road). The geology of the islands is similar to that of the Burren, on the mainland: there’s a lot of karst limestone.

Cliffs of Inis Mor
Cliffs of Inis Mor

How to visit the Aran Islands

Ferry to Inis Mor, largest of the Aran Islands

We booked our ferry with Aran Island Ferries from Ros a’Mhil to Inis Mor. During the summer months, there are three sailings to and from Inis Mor. Our ferry departed from Ros a’Mhil at 10.30am. We left Inis Mor at 6.30pm. We booked a shuttle bus from Galway to Ros a’Mhil (which is 40 kilometers away from Galway) as well.

Note: you can also sail to Inis Mor from Doolin. Click here for more information.
Cows on Inis Mor
Are there more cows than humans on the island?

Exploring Inis Mor by bike

There are various ways to explore the Aran Islands. You can join a guided tour, walk, or rent a bike. We decided to rent a bike for 10 euros a day. I recommend renting a bike, since it’s the perfect way to explore the island: you can stay as long as you want at each attraction, you can stop for photo stops wherever you want, and, since the island is small, you’ll be able to see a large part of the island by bike in one day. Even when you’re not used to riding a bike, don’t worry, it’s not very dangerous, since there are few cars on the island.

We were lucky that the weather was great on the day we had booked our ferry to the Aran Islands. If you happen to visit the Aran Islands on a rainy day, you might want to opt for a bus tour.

One of the best ways to visit the Aran Islands is by hiring a bike

Things to do on Inis Mor

Seal Colony

On the northern side of Inis Mor there is a seal colony. With low tide, you might see seals sunbathing on the rocks. At first, I was disappointed, because I couldn’t discover any seals. However, then we saw something moving: it was a seal! In the end, we could notice at least 5 seals sunbathing and relaxing.

Tip: check beforehand when it’s low tide, as you’ll be more likely to see the seals then.
Seal Colony
Seal Colony

Beehive hut (or “Clochán na Carraige”)

Off the beaten path (as if the Aran Islands aren’t off the beaten path enough), you can find Clochán na Carraige, a beehive hut. You need to park your bike and walk the last 500 meters. This tiny house is an old dry stone house dating from the early Christian period. It is one of the best examples of this type of hut in Ireland. The house has two very low doorways, and you can go inside.

Bee Hive
Beehive hut

The Seven Churches (or “Na Seacht dTeampaill”)

There is one thing very remarkable about the Seven Churches: there are definitely not seven churches on this site. For a long time, this site was one of the largest centres of pilgrimage along the Irish west coast. Actually, there are only two churches on the site. There are also some domestic buildings. One of the churches is the Teampall Bhreacain. Construction of this church started in the 8th century. The other church, Teampall an Phoill dates from the 15th century.

The Seven Churches
The Seven Churches

Dun Aengus (or “Dún Aonghasa”)

Dun Aengus is the main attraction of Inis Mor and is a must-see when you visit the Aran Islands. It is a very important archaeological site. The exact date of the fort isn’t known, although excavations indicate that the first construction on the site goes back to at least 1100 BC. It’s not possible to cycle all the way up to the fort. At the ticket office there’s a small museum. From there, it’s a 25-minute hike to the fort. However, the climb is certainly worth it, especially because the views are stunning.

The path to Dun Aengus
The path to Dun Aengus

The fort is built on cliffs, which are 100 metres high (the Cliffs of Moher are 214 metres high at their highest point). When the sky is clear, you can see the Cliffs of Moher in the distance. We didn’t only see the Cliffs of Moher, but we saw a mountain in the distance as well. A guide told us that this was Mount Brandon in County Kerry, some 260 kilometers away from Galway by car!

Cliffs of the Aran Islands
Cliffs of the Aran Islands

The Wormhole (or “Poll na bPeist”)

After Dun Aengus, we returned to our bikes and continued to the Wormhole. We knew we had to walk the last part. However, we parked our bikes at the wrong spot and ended up walking a much longer route.

How to get to the Wormhole (or “Poll na bPeist”): from Dun Aengus, head to Kilmurvey Beach. When you’ve passed the beach, take the next road right (don’t take the small road right opposite of the beach as you’ll have to walk longer). At the end of the road, leave your bike and walk 1km to the Wormhole.

I would classify the walk to the Wormhole as medium. Although I’ve seen families with kids on the path to the Wormhole, but be careful. There is no clear path, but you walk across limestone rocks on which red arrows point you the way to the Wormhole.

From an underground cave, water rushes into the Wormhole. When tide is high, sometimes water spills over the shore and fills the hole from above. The rock formation and the walk are stunning. You kind of feel like standing at the edge of the world. The Wormhole was the last sight we visited and certainly a must-see when you visit the Aran Islands.

Wormhole
The Wormhole

Other things to do on the Aran Islands

  • The Aran Islands are famous for the Aran Sweaters which you can buy almost everywhere in Ireland. When you cycle to Dun Aengus, you’ll pass a shop that sells these sweaters.
  • When you visit the Aran Islands, don’t forget to take pictures of the stone walls that you’ll find all over the island.
  • Visit the smallest church: Teampall Bhean’in (St Benan’s Church) is reputedly the smalles church in Ireland. We didn’t have time to visit this church, because the hike to the Wormhole took us longer than expected.
  • Like history and ruins? Make sure you visit Dún Dúchathair (The Black Fort). This fort is almost just as impressive as Dun Aengus. Unfortunately, we didn’t have time left to visit this fort.
Inis Mor is only 4 kilometers wide
Inis Mor is only 4 kilometers wide

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Visit the Aran Islands on a day trip to the Inis Mor (Inishmore), largest of the Aran Islands, near Galway, Ireland. Day trip to the Inis Mor (Inishmore), largest of the Aran Islands, near Galway, Ireland.

5 Replies to “Visit the Aran Islands: a day trip from Galway, Ireland”

  1. First time I’ve heard of the Aran Islands – the Cliffs of Inis Mor look fantastic! You got me hooked with that description of the Wormhole experience – I love how unique of an experience that seems to be. Saving this to my things to do in Ireland list – thank you!

  2. Beautiful photos! Galway is my absolute favorite city in Ireland and I couldn’t tear myself away to visit the Aran Islands as I’d originally planned, but now you’re making me regret that! Next time I definitely have to pop over!

  3. Wow, I had never heard of the Aran islands before but the landscape looks wonderful. Will have to look into it more and hop across at some point – I definitely don’t explore my own back door enough!

  4. The Aran Islands are one of my favorite places in Ireland. I was there a few years ago, truly a magic place where the rest of the world seems miles away!

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