If you are making your way to Ireland and plan to discover some of the smaller islands which make up this beautiful land, a visit to the Aran Islands is a must.
There are three islands in all, and they can be found at the mouth of Galway Bay on the west coast with boats running to the islands from both Clare and Galway, with planes also available from Galway.
A continuation of the famous Burren region in Clare, the Aran Islands are named from the native Gaelic language, and Irish is still commonly spoken on the islands. The Anglicised versions of the islands’ names are, from largest to smallest, Inishmore, Inishmaan, and Inisheer.
As you might expect, the summer months tend to be quite busy for visitors to the islands, with many tourists using the ferry services from Doolin in County Clare or Rossaveal in County Galway. Those staying in Galway City can board a shuttle bus to Inverin, where Aer Arann operates an air service to the islands. The planes are small however, and you’re weighed before boarding (yes you, not your bags).
Aside from the ancient Irish culture which is still much in evidence on the islands and beautiful landscapes, many visitors are also interested in the islands’ historic landmarks. Dun Aengus, a fort on Inishmore, is the most famous of these and is located right on the edge of 100 metre high cliffs on the Atlantic shore. This Iron Age citadel measures an area of 50 metres enclosed and consists of a series of circular walls.
Inishmore is also home to Teampall Bheanain, which is believed to be the smallest church in Ireland, and possibly the world. It’s also notable for its north to south orientation rather than the traditional east to west (this was due to the church’s exposed location).
Another historic location you may wish to explore is O’Brien’s Castle on Inis Oirr. This castle was built by the O’Briens in the 14th century before being captured by the Flaherty family of Connemara in 1582.
If you can, try to spend a night on one of the islands in a B&B or with a local family, you’ll not only meet some lovely people, you’ll also get to experience a life away from the hustle and bustle or the mainland in a truly spectacular place where age-old traditions still live on.