Cill Rónáin is the largest settlement on the islands, but there may well be more roosters than people there.
Cill Rónáin, also spelled Kilronan, is the largest settlement in the Aran Islands, but it is still little more than a hamlet. You can find most amenities here, including a grocery store, the ferry port and several hostels and B&Bs.
Inis Mór was once little more than a lifeless rock on the edge of the Atlantic. Its inhabitants have, over the years, created life where there previously was none, making things grow in their fields using dirt dug from cracks in the rock, combined with composted seaweed. Now all the fields are green, with low stone walls both dividing the fields and keeping the thin layer of soil from blowing away.
Today, tourism is a major industry on the island, but, unlike some parts of the country, it doesn't seem to override the local culture.
All three islands are Gaeltachtaí, areas of Ireland where Irish is still the primary language. English speakers will have no problem, as almost all islanders are fluent in English. However, very few signs are in English, so it's best to know the Irish name of your destination.
For those short on time, but not on money, Aer Árann operates flights from Minna Airport in Connemara.
Iarnrod Eireann (Irish Rail) currently offer a 2-day package including train, ferry or plane and accommodation starting at €109.
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. If you cycle, wear a helmet.
Dún Aonghasa (Dún Aengus) is the only stone fort where admission is charged, and is, on reflection, the least worth seeing. The only feature unique to this fort is its "cheveaux de frise", an area of upturned rocks similar to defenses used by the Friseans to defend against cavalry charges.
More interesting is Dún Dúchathair (The Black Fort), a walled enclosure surrounded on three sides by cliffs with intricate designs in the stonework. This, more than any of the others on Inis Mór begs the question of whether its use was defensive or ceremonial. When you get off the ferry most tourists head straight for Dún Aengus, which makes the Black Fort a much more enjoyable experience.
There are two other stone forts on the island, Dún Eochla, is made up of two almost perfectly circular walls standing at the highest point on the island. You'll have to hike through some fields to get up to it. The final fort is Dún Eoghanachta, located south of the main road near Sruthán, most interesting for the remains of the clocháin (dry-stone, beehive huts) that it encloses.
Na Poill Seideáin (The Puffing Holes) are two large, circular holes about 100 yards from the cliff edge, where the sea water will "puff" up through frequently as waves crash into a cave beneath the cliffs.
Na Seacht dTeampaill (The Seven Churches) is an ancient monastic site, with two churches and several out buildings. The Aran Islands have long drawn religious people seeking solitude and isolation.
Poll Na bPéist (The Serpent Hole) is a perfectly rectangular shaped pool, located near the village of Gort na gCapall, which is connected to the Atlantic by an underground channel.
Bike out to the far end of the island for a view of the lightouse, wild waves and barren rocks.
Hire a bike near the docks; the charge is about 10 euros for up to 24 hours. Dún Aengus is about a 30 min ride from Cill Rónáin. (The coastal road, which runs along the northern side of the island, takes slightly longer but offers ocean vistas with less traffic than the main road.)
Ionad Árann, (To the right of the main road as you head north out of Cill Rónáin.), 099 61355 (fax:099 61454, email@example.com), , is an interpretive centre focusing on the island's geological and human history. There is a separate admission charge to see Robert Flaherty's 1934 movie Man of Aran.
Swim at any of the quiet, sheltered Atlantic beaches. There are several in Cill Rónáin and one in Cill Mhuirbhigh, all free and open to the public.
Several shops by the pier sell Aran Island handmade wool sweaters for about $100. They come in a variety of styles particular to each clan.
Mainister Hostel, (10 minutes north of Cill Rónáin on the main road), 099 61169, serves a "Vaguely Vegetarian Buffet" nightly at 8pm. Cost (in 2004) is €12 for the main course plus €3 for dessert, and is worth every penny. You must sign up for dinner in advance, but can opt into dessert when it comes around. This is, quite simply, the best food I have ever tasted. The seating arrangement also allows for a lot of socialization, so this dinner is really more of an event.
Pier House Within 100 yards from the Pier, Excellent Irish breakfast, Open Year Round.
O'Malley's at Bayview North of Pier near Aran Sweater shop. Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner. Excellent pizzas, pastas, and other irish fare.
American Bar, (Visible north of the pier) serves american-style food (at ridiculous prices), good for rich homesick Americans. (Currently Closed)
Tigh Nan Paidi, on the northern edge of Cill Rónáin, is the best bet for vegetarians.
There's a Spar supermarket up the road past the American Bar (adjacent to Tigh Nan Paidi).
Tigh Fitz, Killeany, (20-30 minutes walk south around the bay from the ferry port in Cill Rónáin) is one of the best pubs in Ireland. It doesn't try to be anything it's not, and is a place where young and old, local and tourist, mingle and everyone has a good time. There is occasionally live music, and includes not only some traditional music, but a lot of more modern but still uniquely Irish music, including some that can only be described as Irish Country Music. The dancing, while not "traditional" was nonetheless unique and made for a memorable experience.
Tigh Joe Watty, Kilronan, (10-15 minutes walk along the main road towards Dun Aeongus) is a comfortable Irish pub where you are likely to meet some locals who are keen for a chat. There is live music every night (sea conditions permitting!!!) impromptu sessions are not unsual. A few picnic tables at the front of the bar make for an enjoyable al fresco drinking experience in good weather. After a few nights in Tigh Joe's you start to feel like a local.
Artists Hostel, This small intimate and cozy 10 bed Hostel and self catering, hosted by Marion and Jonny it has a distinct creative energy about it. It is located just metres from the Islands most popular traditional music bar and three minutes walk from the main village of Kilronan. A generous self serve breakfast is included and the general level of service is first rate. Tel: ++ 353 (0) 872079383 Web: [www.artistshostel.com]
Mainister Hostel, Mainister (10 minutes north of Cill Rónáin on the main road), 099 61169, offers standard hostel accommodation at a standard hostel price (€11 in 2004). Inis Mór Ferries has, at times, had promotional deals that included a reduced rate for one night here. What makes this hostel stand out is its included breakfast, which is vastly superior to that of any other hostel. Includes, cereal, toast, and, most importantly, hot oatmeal. See "Eat" for details on their even better dinners.
Kilronan Hostel, Cill Rónáin (1 block west of the pier), 099 61255 (firstname.lastname@example.org) is in a very convenient location, less than two minutes walk from the pier where you will most likely be arriving. Beds start at €11.
An Aharla Hostel, Cill Rónáin (To the right of the main road, at the north end of town.), 099 61305, is a small hostel, with space to sleep only a dozen people in a converted farmhouse. Beds start at €12.
Bed and Breakfasts
Tigh Fitz, Killeany, (1.6km south around the bay from Cill Rónáin), 099 61213 (fax 099 61386, email@example.com), , a small guesthouse and bar, is located close to the airstrip for those flying in.
The island is covered by hundreds of miles of rock walls, some up to 4 feet high, so it is possible to hike unnoticed into the fields and camp for a night. Be aware that if you leave anything outside, it will be damp in the morning. There is also an official campsite, which is limited in facilities but not in character.
This is a usable article. It has information for getting in as well as some complete entries for restaurants and hotels. An adventurous person could use this article, but please plunge forward and help it grow!