Your ultimate guide to the Aran Islands
Fly to the Edge of the World
Enjoy the spectacular scenery of the Aran Islands.
Head west to Galway Bay and explore the rugged beauty of the Aran Islands, where the limestone walls, golden beaches and jagged sea cliffs transport you to another world. There’s nowhere on earth like Inishmore (Inis Mór), Inishmaan (Inis Meáin) and Inisheer (Inis Oírr) and once you experience the magic of Aran, you’ll keep coming back for more.
Discover all the great things to do on the Aran Islands.
To see the stunning coastal views by air, check out Aer Arann Islands.
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.
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.
Hit the beach
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.
Go scuba diving
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 pony and trap tour
Book a traditional pony and trap tour on any of the islands. Along the historic routes, you’ll see monastic sites, the island’s famous stone walls, and magnificent views. 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.
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.
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.
The Seven Churches
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.
Plan your trip to the Aran Islands
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?
Inis Mór is the largest of the three islands. It’s principal village is Kilronan where there is a good, deep harbour. An excellent Visitor’s Centre, Ionad Arainn, for the history and culture of the island.
Inis Meáin the middle island. There is one pub which is thatched and kept in the old traditional style. There is no bank on the island, so the bank flies in with Aer Arann once a month for business.
Inis Oírr, the smallest island, contains the ruins of St. Kevin’s Church, or Teampal Chaomhain, now sunk deeply into a sandy hill close to the shore. The saint’s feast day is June 14th.