Sunday, January 17, 2021

Aran Islands Day Trip

Trip date: September 2019

I had emailed my hotel the Park House before arriving in Galway, to arrange a ticket on the ferry to the Inishmore. They had kindly let me know that it is best to book the day before as to know better what the weather will be like. The ferry goes daily but being out on the islands in a rainstorm would not be a pleasant way to spend a day.

Luckily the torrential rain I encountered on my first night in Galway lifted and I woke up to partly cloudy but dry skies. After breakfast I had a short walk to pick up my ticket at the Aran Island Ferries office and then on to the bus stop. My €50 ticket included the 1-hour each way bus ride out to the ferry in Rossaveel and the 40-minute each way ferry crossing.

The main town on the island of Inis Mór, Cill Rónáin, has just about 300 residents. It's here that you decide how you want to get around the island and see the sights. You've got three choices; rent a bike, hire a horse and cart (which is how residents use to get around the island), or pay for a seat in a minivan (which are used as taxis after the tourists leave). 

I chose the minivan for €15. There were 3 other passengers and our driver Tommy took us around while sharing information about the island with us. He is a local who is a retired fisherman and had a lot of great stories and information. All the van drivers charge the same price so you can just go with whichever color car you like best!

Our first stop was Dún Eochla, the stone ringfort that sits on the 300+ foot high cliffs of the island. It's a pretty hike up to the fort and once there you have some awesome views! 

The fort is thought to have been built around 600 AD, but no one knows for sure. There's a series of stone walls, the interior walls are about 16 feet tall and 9 feet thick! 

The fort is also protected on one side by a fence of ragged stones. It's all pretty incredible! We spent about an hour here which was plenty of time to explore and take in the views.

We had a quick lunch at the cafe near the base of the fort in the village of Cill Mhuirbhigh. The cafe had a really nice selection of sandwiches, quiche, etc. and the sun was out making it perfect to sit outside and enjoy.

Back in the van we drove farther along the island. The scenery is so pretty, I had a front row seat again, and it was interesting to listen to Tommy tell us a bit about the three Aran Islands. There are about 1200 people total that live on the islands; Inishmore is the largest and about 7 ½ miles long. 

The islands are limestone and most areas have no natural topsoil; seaweed and sand were used to replicate when needed. The single story cottages with thatched roofs are typical, though many now prefer more modern roofs, and people work harvesting seaweed, fishing, and knitting. Aran wool sweaters are famous and very expensive. And of course all residents speak Irish (and most also English).

At the Seven Churches, Tommy pointed out the various ruins of this, one of the earliest, monastic sites. Pilgrimages here have been going on since the 7th or 8th century. The graveyard is the burial ground of both saints and locals.

Our last stop was to one of the beaches where a seal colony usually resides, unfortunately there was only one hanging out when we were there. There are quite a few sites we didn't make it to in our 3-hour tour, but it was nice not to rush around. We also passed a couple of bicycle riders and I have to say I would not want to do that! The roads are very narrow and most are quite rough. Even Tommy said he thinks it is dangerous.

As it was warm and sunny, I had Tommy drop me off at Joe Wattys bar, which is just a short walk from the main town, and had a pint of Guinness outside on their patio.

It was such a gorgeous day and I was so happy to have been able to see some of these incredible medieval sites. I wandered back to the pier where I caught the 4pm ferry and sat upstairs in the open air.


All photos from Aran Islands here.

Other posts from this trip:

Country Count #50: Ireland

Out and About in Dublin Town

Michelin Stars and Cocktail Bars in Dublin

24 Hours in Belfast

Ireland Road Trip: County Kilkenny

Ireland Road Trip: County Cork

Ireland Road Trip: Kenmare and the Ring of Kerry

Ireland Road Trip: Dingle Town

Dingle Peninsula Archeology Tour

Ireland Road Trip: Cliffs of Moher and Galway

Ireland Road Trip: County Mayo

Ireland Road Trip: End of the Road; Sligo to Dublin

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