My friends and I were planning on taking a trip to Malta and thought, you know what, why not explore the Aran Islands off Ireland instead?! So with that in mind we ended up staying in Doolin, Clare for two nights and ventured out to the largest of the Aran Islands, Inis Mor on the Saturday that we were there.
Doolin in Clare is one of the cutest, most quaint villages that you will find in rural Ireland. With beautiful views of the Cliffs of Moher in the distance, fields with stunning horses and pubs bursting with traditional Irish music I don’t think there is anywhere that encompasses Irish country living the way that Doolin does. As well as being a short distance to The Cliffs of Moher, the town also lies close to the Burren, as well as Lisdoonvarna. We stayed in The Doolin Hostel where we got a private room for four of us and it only cost €50 each for two nights. The rooms were clean, we got our own bathroom and the hostel itself was central and quiet so I would definitely recommend it. Not even two minutes walk from the Hostel is ‘Gus O’Connors Pub‘ which is by far the best pub in Doolin (in my opinion, at least). There is traditional music played by locals and an amazing atmosphere that really can’t be beaten. We actually didn’t eat much while we were in Doolin, but we did have dinner in The Ivy Cottage Café which we found to be lovely and at a great price.
THE ARAN ISLANDS
The Aran Islands are accessible by both Rossaveal in Galway and Doolin in Clare. From Doolin, you can take the ‘Doolin2Aran‘ to any island of your choice. We decided to go to Inis Mór which takes 1 hour 30 minutes to get to, as you stop at both Inis Meain and Inis Oirr on your way. For a return ticket, this trip only costs you €25. The boat leaves at 10am from Doolin Pier and picks you up in Inis Mór at 4pm – giving you about four good hours to explore the island.
Personally, we found that four hours on the island wasn’t enough. Part of this was due to the weather being spectacular, which meant no outdoor activity was off limits. This being said, we were happy with what we got done in that time – and only took so long getting around as we chose to cycle.
Once you get off the Ferry there will be various different men offering services – be it bike rental or mini bus tours around the island. Inis Mór is only about 31 km² in size, so while it is by far the largest of the Aran Islands, it isn’t impossible to make your way around it. We decided to rent bikes for €10 each for the day as we wanted to keep our options open about where we visited and go by our own itinerary. That being said, it was a lovely day to be out on a bike – but I’m sure there are many a day when the mini bus is by far the better option. You also have no fear of missing your boat as they will always have you back in time! We wanted to have our starting point being the furthest away attraction which was Dun Aonghasa so we took the ‘high’ road to here and the low road by the Seal Colony on the way back. This meant we got to see more of the island, and we faced very little traffic.
What To Do On The Island:
For such a small island, there is actually tonnes to do. We didn’t get to see absolutely everything, but we did try our best! Renting bikes allowed us to visit the places that were specifically of interest to us as well, which was really nice.
Dún Aonghasa: is the best-known of several prehistoric hill forts on the Aran Islands. It lies on Inishmore, at the edge of a 100 metre high cliff, and is really stunning. Be warned that it definitely isn’t an easy walk up to the ruins and the cliff edge. It isn’t the worst, but I think I was caught for surprise as I definitely didn’t anticipate it being difficult at all to reach. The walk from where you leave your bikes to the main attraction is about a 15-20 minute walk, and is completely free to go and see.
Poll Na bPeist (The Wormhole): is a naturally made ‘swimming pole’ created by water coming in from a cave under the rocks to form the perfect rectangle for diving and swimming. I won’t lie, it is incredibly hard to get to. We definitely trespassed along fields upon fields when coming down from Dún Aonghasa. I’m nearly sure there is a slightly easier way than climbing over wall upon wall of carefully placed rocks but I have heard that even that route can be misleading as the only signs are red spray paint on the side of the cliffs and the ground. We actually ended up at the top of the wormhole looking down. This is exactly where the Red Bull Cliff Diving usually set up their board when they visit. It’s really a sight to behold, and I’m just waiting for the day I return and get to swim in it!
Kilmurvey Beach: is one of the most stunning beaches that can call Ireland it’s home. The water is crystal clear and the sand is some of the whitest I have seen on our lands. Honestly, if you saw a picture of this beach you would assume it was on a tropical Island. It is also home to a Seal Colony on the Aran Islands and is one of the most popular attractions on Inis Mor. Located about 10 minutes cycle before Kilmurvey Beach, on a good day you will manage to see these Seals in all their glory. Adjacent to this Seal Colony is a small lake which is home to many types of birds, including a few rare species.
If you do these three activities, on top of stopping for a bite to eat, you won’t even miss the time fly by while you are on the island. The cycle from the pier to Dun Aonghas which is the furthest away point takes roughly 25-30 minutes. This includes stops to take in the scenery, which means you spend quite a bit of time travelling. You will notice on your cycle home from these activities that the roads will be much busier, as many others on the island will also be heading towards the ferry to get home.
The boat gets you back to Doolin right in time to change, grab some dinner and head out to the pubs for a few drinks after your big day out. Honestly, I can’t remember the last time I felt as happy on a trip as I did visiting Inis Mór as there was just so much to do, the weather was amazing, and the views were absolutely stunning. I would highly recommend trying to get out there for a night, but if not a day trip is more than sufficient to get a lay of the land and really leave you wanting more. While I was there, I actually said I would never go back because the time I had was just so amazing I didn’t think it could ever be topped! I’m sure in years to come when those memories have faded I will make my way back out there again, and hopefully for longer than just a day trip.
Have you ever been to the Aran Islands? Is it somewhere you think you would like to visit?