How to get to the Aran Islands
A picturesque, 40-minute crossing takes you from Rossaveal in Galway to Inishmore, Inishmaan and Inisheer. Book in 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.
If yours is a flying visit, take a one-day tour with Faherty Tours, departing from Galway City via Rossaveal to Inishmore. Alternatively, sail from Doolin in Clare to the Aran Islands. Book in with Doolin2Aran Ferries as the cheerful crew share their knowledge and love of the islands. Or check out 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.
Aran Islands accommodation
Arrive on Inishmore, 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.
If you’d like to stay on Inisheer, 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 Inishmaan, 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 Inishmore, Inisheer and Inishmaan. It’s a good idea to book ahead, particularly during July and August. Try Rothar Arainn Teo on Inishmore or Rothaí Inis Oírr on Inisheer, 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 Inishmore, 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 Inishmore, 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 Inisheer, 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 Inishmore 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.
Take a traditional pony and trap tour around Inishmore. You can book in advance 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.
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 Inishmore. 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 Inishmore 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 Inishmaan. 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 Inishmaan. 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 Inisheer 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 Inisheer official Craggy Island bragging rights, the annual festival dedicated to the show, Tedfest takes place on Inishmore each February.
The Inishmore 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 Inishmore 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 Inishmaan. 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 Inishmore. 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 Inisheer, visit Tigh Ned’s stone garden overlooking the ocean for seafood and a creamy pint. Over on Inishmaan, 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 Inishmore, you’ll find Aran Sweater Market renowned for its handmade sweaters, created by talented craftspeople who live on the island.
Over in Inisheer, make time for a visit to Man of Aran Fudge, between Inisheer 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.
Mysterious ancient ruins and traditional island pubs, bracing sea swims and energetic hikes, there’s so many things to do on the Aran Islands. The only question is, when will you go? Check out our Aran Islands destination page now for even more inspiration.