A trip to Ireland isn't complete without visiting the incredible Aran Islands. I visited Inishmore, the biggest Aran island on a day trip from Doolin and in this blog, you will find all the information, you need to know before visiting the island.
Aran Islands are 3 rocky Islands Inishmore (Inis Mór), Inishmaan (Inis Meáin) and Inisheer (Inis Oírr) in the Galway coast. Inishmore, the largest and Inisheer is the smallest. They are famous for their ancient sites, woolly Aran sweater and incredible cliffs. Irish is the main language on all the three Aran Islands but everyone is fluent in English. The population is very low but in high season it increases dramatically due to the big influx of tourists.
The islands are very small and only possible way to see the islands is either walk, cycle or take the minibus service on Inishmore. For cycling it is a paradise, you can bring your own bicycle on the ferry or just rent it on the Island.
It is easily one of the best day trips you can do either from Galway or Doolin by taking a ferry.
The fastest way to reach the Aran Islands is to take the 10min flight with Aer Arann from Galway.
If you are coming on a day trip then you will have a very limited time to explore, but here are few of the places which you can explore in the limited time you will have on the island
The best way to see the island is to rent a bicycle. There are a couple of bike rental shops next to the ferry pier (see the above map). It costs 10€ to rent the bike and extra 10€ as a security which you will get back by showing the receipt and giving the bike back. The bikes are not in very good condition but it will be all fine to explore the area for a day. If you have a backpack, better ask them to give you a bike that has a basket on the front so you can leave your backpack or camera etc inside, to take some pictures along the way.
Note down their telephone number in case anything happens to your bike just call them and they will pick you up.
As soon as I planned to visit Ireland, the Aran Islands were one of the destinations I wanted to visit. The only thing I knew about the islands was from the Red Bull cliff diving competition that took place on the natural pool of Inishmore showing Jaw-dropping cliffs of the island.
I stayed overnight at Doolin Hostel and decided to take the ferry from Doolin to Inishmore. I bought the ferry ticket at the Doolin tourism office and drove from the Hostel to the Pier. The return ticket costs 25€ departing from Doolin at 10 am and from Inishmore at 4 pm.
There is car parking at the pier and costs 5€ for up to 30 hours. The ferry departed the pier on time and after taking a brief stop in Inisheer, we reached Inishmaan, where we had to change to the different ferry and arrived in Inishmore around 11:30 am. The total sailing time was 1½ hours.
After arriving in Inishmore, I walked up to the first bike rental shop where I rented the bike. There are two shops, one near to the pier is pretty busy, almost everyone go there to rent the bikes but it's better to walk up to the next one to save some precious time. The bike shop will also give a map of the island or you can use google maps (see the above Google map for directions).
The first stop I took was at SPAR, the only supermarket on the island and bought some sandwiches and drinks for lunch.
As you cycle past the village, take the right turn, on the corner is Joe Watty's Bar and you will join the path along the coast which is relatively flat and easy. The other path is little hard, especially on these bikes.
There are few nice beaches along the way and the one that will catch your eyes the most is the white sand beach of Kilmurvey. I drove past it and decided to go to Dun Aonghasa (Aengus) first and visit Kilmurvey later. The distance to the fort is 8.5km and takes around 30 minutes. Leave your bike anywhere near the gate.
No trip to Aran Island is complete without visiting the ancient Fort Dun Aonghasa (Aengus). The entrance costs 5€ and from the entrance, a moderate hike to the fort at the top of the hill takes 15 minutes. You will be amazed to see this place which was built by hand thousands of years ago. The fort is lovely, but the cliffs are what this place is all about. The cliffs are spectacular and also frightening. Nothing between you and a sheer drop down to the ocean below. I spent around 1 hour here taking pictures. It was definitely a highlight of my trip to the Aran Islands.
I walked down the fort and went to get my bike but I was surprised to see so many bikes and finding the one I rented was impossible, so I took the one I thought was mine and cycled back to the main road to see the beautiful white sand beach of Kilmurvey, I didn't stop earlier. I sat there for a few minutes and had my lunch. The water is crystal clear and the sand is soft white. If you like swimming into the cold waters of Atlantic then definitely you will love this place. There is a toilet nearby in case you need it.
Time was running out so I had to hurry and cycled to the natural pool.
From the Kilmurvey beach, (see the above picture) take the second right turn, check the location of the pool on the google map it should take 5-10 minutes to reach the small entrance gate of the walking path leading to the Pool. There are red-painted signs for Wormhole on the road as well. When you reach the small entrance gate, leave your bicycle here and walk to the pool.
Follow the spray-painted red arrows on the ground across cut up limestone scarp, you will make it to the edge of the cliffs with small pools and the big natural pool. The whole walk from the entrance takes less than 15 minutes.
The views are breathtaking
I spent so much time here that I was afraid I might not reach the ferry pier in time, so I ran to get my bike and cycled as fast as I could. I was the last person to reach the pier. It was a relief.
It is one of the most beautiful places to visit in Ireland and if you have the time then consider staying overnight on the island instead of a day trip. I regretted not spending more time on the island. The last ferry to Doolin departs at 4 pm that gives you only 5 hours to explore. It is definitely not enough time to explore the island properly. You might be able to see the best of the island but it will be full of action, cycling up and down. I managed to visit all 3 places but I was exhausted at the end of the day.
Instead of a day trip, another option would be to take the afternoon ferry to Inishmore, stay the night and take the morning ferry back to Doolin or Galway. In summer, the days are long and you will have plenty of time to explore in the afternoon with fewer tourists on the island. Most of the tourists come here for a day trip.
If you consider staying the night, try the newly built camping or glamping (check their website) with great views over Frenchman's Beach and the ocean.