With any foreign travel off the cards up to now, I decided the closest thing I could get to leaving the country was a trip to the Aran Islands. And so, both last summer and this summer I went to Inishmore (Inis Mór).

That in itself tells you exactly what you need to know. A return trip is always a good sign. I was blown away by the island in 2020 and decided to come back again this year.

I genuinely find it hard to quantify what exactly it is about the island that appeals to me. Maybe it’s the Gaeilge element, even though mine is go huafásach. I think, really though, it’s how different it feels to the “mainland”. Several times going around the island we remarked: “This is another world out here.”

What struck me about Inishmore is the sheer variety of people that visit. You have families, groups of friends and everything in between. So, I can safely recommend it to all.

Get on your sun cream, get on your rain jacket and most importantly, get on your bike; we’re going to the Aran Islands.

Getting there

First thing’s first, getting to the Aran Islands. This year we took the new Aran Island Ferry route from Galway city to Inishmore. This ferry only goes to Inishmore, it doesn’t go to the other two islands. Last year we went from Rossaveal (Ros an Mhíl/Ros a’Mhíl). This route goes to all the islands.

There are pros and cons to both. The drive out to Rossaveal is lovely, but it’s approximately an hour outside the city. The Galway city route is two and a half hours coming home, as it goes by the Cliffs of Moher, which is lovely. But at the same time, if you’ve seen the cliffs several times before and want to get home after a long few days, Rossaveal might just shade it.

Plus, if you’ve had a few pints in Joe Whatty’s the night before, you’re going to want to minimise ferry time (and also possibly buy anti-nausea tablets in the chemist before you go!). However, if you’re going on a day trip, I would definitely go from Galway city to see all you can.

Doolin 2 Aran Ferries run a service to all of the islands also.

From Galway city the ferry costs €49 return for an adult and €25 for children. The ferry from Rossveal is €30 return. The Doolin ferry is €35 return.

Getting around

One of my travel companions, who won’t be named, thought you could go to the Aran Islands on a car ferry. It was quite a shock when the realisation hit that we’d be lugging our bags around and cycling everywhere. That’s all part of the charm though.

Bike rental on the island costs €15 a day and I would say is essential. There’s a few different places and you’ll see them as soon as you get off the boat.

Cycling is the best way by far to get around. Be prepared for a sore derrière. If your mobility is very poor, I would suggest availing of one of the many bus or pony-and-trap tours around the island. We did last year out of laziness and it was a good way to get around. The bikes shade it for me if you’re able and the weather behaves.

Top tip: Get a map from the bike rental and stick by it. My other travel companion, who also won’t be named, knew a “shortcut”, which turned out to be a “long cut”.

Stay, eat and drink

It’s no secret that accommodation is hard got on Inishmore. I booked this trip a while back. This year we stayed in the Claí Bán B&B. It was nothing short of ideal. The owners are welcoming, the rooms are nice, the breakfast is tasty and it’s located smack-bang in the middle of Kilronan, the main village. It’s right beside Joe Whatty’s bar and cost €135 per night for a triple room.

Last year, we stayed in the glamping pods, Aran Islands Camping & Glamping (€125-€180pps depending on the season). Definitely not being an enthusiastic camper, this was right up my street. I loved the pods, we stayed in the six-person Tígin. It was spacious. There’s a four-person Clochán available as well. I would definitely recommend this too. However, it’s currently sold out for August and only very limited availability in September. Last year, we got a last-minute cancellation online. So keep an eye on the website or else book now for next year.

I’ve alluded to Joe Whatty’s bar twice already in this article. So let’s get down to business on that front. It’s a lovely pub and has a great atmosphere. If you’re looking for a drink in the evening, it’s definitely the place to go. I’m a big fan. There is also The Bar down by the pier which is another nice spot. We booked the Aran Islands Hotel for dinner, the food was great. Book in advance here. Joe Whatty’s only takes walk-ins.

Things to see

As well as stopping off at the beaches for a dip, we had two main things we wanted to get around to; Dún Aonghasa and the Wormhole.

Dún Aonghasa, that was easy found. It’s stunning. I don’t use that word lightly, but it’s just an astounding view.

The Worm Hole now on the other hand, that wasn’t easy found. It’s where the Red Bull Cliff Diving took place. Two we got chatting to at Dún Aonghasa informed us: “You’ll be there in 20 mins.”

Two hours later, we were still walking around a field. We did get there in the end but it does come with a safety warning, however. I myself, wouldn’t swim there and wouldn’t advise it (in a past life I was a lifeguard). If the sea is anyway choppy, I would definitely give going to see it a miss too. CL

The other islands

Inishmore and Inisheer are the most popular of the islands with tourists. I haven’t been to Inisheer yet, but it’s supposed to be lovely. My parents swear by Inismaan though. It’s the least touristy and they love it.

Just so you know….

There’s a Spar on the island with an ATM.

Read more

Escape to Achill Island

The wonder of west Cork