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Aran Islands

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From the walls of Dún Eochla, looking over Inis Mór and Galway Bay.

The Aran Islands, in County Galway, Ireland, are an archipelago of three small islands, the largest of which - Inis Mór - is only 12km by 3km in size. All are barren, rocky islands with some of the most beautiful scenery in the world.

Islands

  • Inis Mór (sometimes called Árainn) is the largest and most visited of the three islands.
  • Inis Meáin, the middle island, also the least touristed.
  • Inis Óirr (Innisheer), the smallest and southernmost island.

Understand

The inhabitants of these three rocky islands not only built incredible stone forts that have stood for thousands of years, built walls that crisscross every last inch of the islands, but also brought greenery to lifeless rock through centuries of digging dirt from cracks and composting seaweed from the oceans.

Though by no means the most popular tourist destination in Ireland, due to the small size and permanent population - only about 900 people on the largest island - it can seem like there are tourists everywhere. Surprisingly, this doesn't seem to spoil the place the way it does in other parts of the country, and the place is surprisingly relaxed and retains a very rural and isolated feel to it.

Talk

All three islands are Gaeltachts, areas of Ireland where Irish Gaelic is still the primary language. English speakers will have no problem, as almost all islanders are fluent in English. However, surprisingly few signs are in English, so it's best to know the Gaelic name of your destination.

Get in

Aran Island Ferries and Inis Mór Ferries operate from Rossaveal, in Connemara with bus connections to Galway City. Doolin Ferries run boats from Doolin in County Clare.

For those short on time, but not on money, Aer Árann operates flights from Minna Airport in Connemara.

Get around

Though there are mini-bus tours and taxis available on the islands, the best way to see the islands is on foot or by bike. Wear good hiking boots though, as once you leave the paved roads, you are on very rough rocks.

Inter-Island

Aran Island Ferries supposedly runs inter-island ferries during the peak season, but for most of the year the only way to get between islands is to return to Rossaveal and take a different boat out. Reportedly, a fishing boat takes the island priest between islands on Sunday, so you may be able to sweet talk your way onto that. Aer Árann flights do operate between the islands, though they run a circular route and may not go directly where you want to.

Buy

Though you can change money on all three islands, be aware that only Inis Mor has an ATM (Bank of Ireland), so be sure to plan accordingly.

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