How to get to the Aran Islands
A picturesque, 40-minute crossing takes you from Rossaveal in Galway to Inis Mór, Inis Meáin and Inis Oírr. Travel with Aran Island Ferries, an all year round service, and enjoy the fresh sea air and epic views. If you’re driving or using the coach service from Galway City, allow an hour for travel time and an extra half hour to check in for your sailing. Ferry timetables can change depending on weather conditions so always plan ahead.
Set sail on the Aran Island Ferries service straight from the docks in Galway City to Inis Mór on board the Saoirse na Farraige. The 90 minute sailing departs from the heart of the city, through majestic Galway Bay and on to your port of call on the Aran Islands. Book a return trip and enjoy seeing the Cliffs of Moher from a unique viewpoint from the water.
Alternatively, sail from Doolin in Clare to the Aran Islands. Book in with Doolin Ferry and enjoy your journey across the open water. If you have time, you can opt to take in the Cliffs of Moher on the way.
To see the stunning coastal views by air, check out Aer Arann. Flights depart from Connemara Airport in Inverin, a 40 minute spin from Galway City, and you can choose which island you want to visit when you book.
Aran Islands accommodation
Arrive on Inis Mór, the largest of the three islands, and you’ll see the welcoming Aran Islands Hotel (Óstán Oileain Arainn). With spectacular views over Kileaney Bay and Kilronan Harbour, it’s a great base to explore the island. Stay in one of the hotel’s cosy rooms or book into a stunning seaview chalet and wake up to the sound of the Atlantic.
A short walk from the ferry terminal, overlooking Frenchman’s beach, experience camping on the Aran Islands. Admire the wide expanse of Galway Bay and pitch your tent in the organic grass fields at Aran Islands Camping & Glamping. Or choose the luxury of a self-catering glamping unit, complete with a shower, toilet and double bed. Cook and eat with fellow guests in the large communal kitchen, this is what you call a unique Aran adventure.
Across the island at Gort na gCapall, Aran Walkers Lodge is ideal for groups. Close to all the sights, this is the perfect place to base yourself for a weekend packed with wonderful walks and hiking adventures. This friendly part of Ireland has a fantastic amount of family run guesthouses and B&Bs to choose from - you’re never too far from a home away from home.
If you’d like to stay on Inis Oírr, the smallest of the islands, check out Óstán Inis Oírr. Take a walk on the beach, order some delicious seafood, and settle in for a live music session. Enjoy dinner and an overnight in South Aran Restaurant and Rooms or book into Brú Radharc na Mara Hostel and get to know the locals who can tell you everything there is to know about the islands.
On Inis Meáin, the quietest island, indulge in the ultimate luxury experience with an overnight stay at Inis Meáin Restaurant & Suites. The luxury retreat’s five suites are tastefully furnished to echo the windswept island with natural elements of wood, stone, and glass. With panoramic windows and your own private outdoor seating area, this is immersive island magic at its best.
Things to do on the Aran Islands
Cycle around the Aran Islands
Cycling is a fantastic way to explore the Aran Islands, and bike hire is available on Inis Mór, Inis Oírr and Inis Meáin. It’s a good idea to book ahead, particularly during July and August. Try Rothar Arainn Teo on Inis Mór or Rothaí Inis Oírr on Inis Oírr, and get ready to feel the wind in your hair as you cycle along the island’s winding country roads.
On the northern coast of Inis Mór, Kilmurvey Beach is one of Galway’s most stunning beaches. Walk barefoot along the strand to feel the powdery white sand between your toes and bask in the magic of this special place. It’s a popular place for birdwatchers with abundant birdlife, see if you can spot the cormorants. The Blue Flag beach has a lifeguard on duty during high season, so it’s a safe and scenic spot to take a dip.
Walk scenic trails
The Aran Islands is a must visit for avid walkers. Discover scenic hikes and leisurely walks with incredible views of land and ocean. On Inis Mór, Lúb Dún Eochla is a 10km looped walk that kicks off at Kilronan Pier. Follow the green arrows for a challenging, walk across rich green hills and stony roads. Over on Inis Oírr, Lúb Ceathrú an Locha begins and ends at the pier. Look out for An Loch Mór, the Big Lake, and the Plassey shipwreck along the way.
Check out the Dive Academy on Inis Mór and book in for a lesson with an experienced diver. With its vibrant underwater life, the Aran Islands have a reputation for being one of the best places to dive in Europe. Spot vibrant sea anemones, colourful coral, and spiny dogfish as you explore life on the seabed. Depending on when you visit, you might even spot friendly dolphins and seals. Whether you’re a beginner or a diving pro, the academy has courses suitable for all abilities.
Book a traditional pony and trap tour around Inis Mór. You can call ahead so that you’re ready to go once you arrive on the island. Along the historic route, you’ll see monastic sites, the island’s famous stone walls, and magnificent Dún Aonghasa. Stop off for a spot of lunch and a trip to the local craft shop. The covered carriage means you can enjoy your tour, whatever the weather.
Take the road less travelled in a rugged Land Rover Defender jeep through the wild landscapes of Inis Mór with Aran Off Road Experience. This off road machine reaches parts of the island that no other vehicle can, treating you to magnificent views of the Atlantic Ocean along the way.
See the Aran Islands from the comfort of a minibus with Adventure Tours Inis Mor. The guided tour brings you to some of the major sights including the seal colony, and the Seven Churches. The expert guides have great knowledge of the area and its history, sharing local tips on all the best things to see and do with insider information you won’t get anywhere else.
Things to see on the Aran Islands
The most famous of the Aran Islands’ historical sites, spectacular Dún Aonghasa is an ancient stone fort that sits on a towering 100-metre cliff on the edge of Inis Mór. Visions of ancient druids and mythical High Kings come to mind as you explore the rocky landscape and mysterious ruins.
Jutting out into the Atlantic Ocean, you can see the undulating Irish coastline as roaring waves crash against the base of the sea cliffs. Wear suitable footwear for uneven terrain and depending on what time of year you visit, don’t forget to wrap up warm. The wind whips at a ferocious pace around the sea cliffs, and you’ll want to stay cosy as you discover the delights of the islands.
The Seven Churches, or Na Seacht Teampaill, was an important pilgrimage site on Inis Mór during the Middle Ages. Today, only two churches remain including Temple Brecan which was built around 1200 and is flanked by several houses believed to be the only pilgrim hostels left from medieval Ireland. Take time to visit these ruins, read the inscribed stones and look out for fragments of intricately decorated church crosses.
Visit Teach Synge, a 300-year-old cottage in the gloriously picturesque setting of Inis Meáin. The cottage is now a museum dedicated to the life and work of Irish playwright John Millington Synge. Synge, who wrote The Playboy of the Western World, first stayed at the house in 1898 and it has recently been restored to its original glory. The islands provided inspiration for Synge’s work, leading to his series of essays entitled The Aran Islands, featuring the famous line “some dreams I have had in this cottage”.
Open to the public in the summer months, the vast memorabilia on display includes photographs, drawings and letters. A converted stone outhouse holds a reference library of relevant publications by Synge and other well-known literary figures including W.B. Yeats and Lady Gregory.
Built sometime between the 1st and 7th centuries AD, the incredible stone fort of Dún Chonchúir sits on the highest point of Inis Meáin. From here, soak up unrivalled views of the island’s limestone valleys and intricate maze of stone walls. Check out the 8km Lúb Dún Chonchúr walk, a looped route which takes you around the island.
The Plassey Shipwreck
The Plassey was an Irish Merchant Service cargo vessel that ran into difficulty off the coast of Inis Oírr in 1960. Thanks to quick thinking from local islanders, the entire crew was brought safely to shore. It’s best known as the shipwreck viewed during the opening credits of the iconic TV show, Father Ted. Although this gives Inis Oírr official Craggy Island bragging rights, the annual festival dedicated to the show, Tedfest takes place on Inis Mór each February.
The Inis Mór Seal Colony
Take a cycle along the coastal road east of Kilmurvey Beach and with the tide in your favour, you’ll see the island’s seal colony bathing. Time this expedition for a clear day and watch the magnificent mammals, sometimes 15-20 at a time, recline on the rocks. Look out for wild swans in the nearby lake and bring your binoculars for a truly special view.
Where to eat on the Aran Islands
Head to Tí Joe Watty’s Bar & Restaurant on Inis Mór for hearty pub grub and rousing trad music. Try tasty locally caught lobster and crab and after a delicious meal, settle in for a great night’s craic.
For fine dining, book into the restaurant at Inis Meáin Restaurant & Suites on Inis Meáin. A carefully considered meal created with local produce, dinner is served at 8pm to a maximum of 16 guests. Using customised earthenware and glassware, the taste-the-view dining experience is one you’ll remember long after your visit. The seating arrangements are perfectly positioned to see the rugged island and turquoise waves through the glass-fronted exterior, this is a true bucket list experience.
Enjoy traditional Irish dishes including Beef and Guinness stew and baked ham at Teach Nan Phaidi on Inis Mór. Possibly Ireland’s cutest café, you can’t miss a visit to this charming cottage where there’s always a warm welcome from the friendly staff.
Pubs on the Aran Islands
Hang out in the beer garden of Tí Joe Watty’s on warmer days and cosy up inside by the open fire on chilly evenings. In the summer season, Wattys has live music seven days a week and sometimes, three times a day. In the quieter season, there’s music several times per week. Call ahead to make sure you don’t miss one of their famous trad sessions.
On Inis Oírr, visit Tigh Ned’s stone garden overlooking the ocean for seafood and a creamy pint. Over on Inis Meáin, Teach Osta is a traditional bar set in a white stone cottage. Make sure you get a table outside to appreciate the amazing views.
Souvenirs from the Aran Islands
Pick up an Aran knit as a keepsake from your trip to the Aran Islands. At the pier on Inis Mór, you’ll find Aran Sweater Market renowned for its handmade sweaters, created by talented craftspeople who live on the island.
Over in Inis Oírr, make time for a visit to Man of Aran Fudge, between Inis Oírr pier and the island’s beach. Savour the sweet treats and meet Tómas, the latest generation of the Póil family as he continues the longstanding family tradition of making fudge.