Aran Islands

Travel Guide Europe Ireland Aran Islands



cliffs on inis mor.

cliffs on inis mor.

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The Aran Islands were once described as 'Ireland Squared' by author J. M. Synge. This couldn't be more true of the gaelic-speaking, ceilidh-dancing, Guinness-drinking people, or of the rocky, windswept islands themselves. Every summer thousands of visitors flock to the islands, drawn by the friendly people, the dramatic cliffs, the surreal rocky landscape, the pure irish culture. Many of them stay longer than planned, finding summer jobs at hostels, bars, and restaurants, learning a bit of gaelic, and enjoying the craic.

The Aran Islands are part of a region known as a 'Gaeltacht', meaning islanders are all fluent in Irish Gaelic. In fact, in order to own land on the island, one must have a certain degree of fluency in the language! The preservation of this language, which is dying in other parts of Ireland, is one reason why the islands holds such a reputation for being a stronghold of true irish culture.

The islands are Inishmore (aka: Inis Mor, literally 'big island' in gaelic, or Arainn), the biggest and most popular, Inishmaan (aka: Inis Meáin, literally 'middle island' in gaelic), the middle island both geographically and in size, and Inisheer (Inis Oírr, literally 'small island' in gaelic), the smallest.




The islands lie on the very edge of Europe, at the mouth of Galway Bay in western Ireland. Inishmore is roughly 14 kilometres long and 4 kilometres wide. 1.5 kilometres away from Inishmore is Inishmaan, which measures 5 by 3 kilometres. Finally Inisheer, the most eastern island, is 9.5 kilometres away from Inishmaan, and is 3 by 3 kilometres[1].

All three islands are considered outcrops of an area known as The Burren, which is found in County Clare. This means the islands are made of karst limestone, and throughout the islands you can see areas with karst pavements with large, horizontal crevices called 'grikes'. The resulting long slabs of limestone are called 'clints'. [2] Because the islands are so rocky, early inhabitants dug many of the rocks up in order to clear the soil for farming, and used these rocks to make the hundreds of crisscrossing dry stone walls which are found on the island today. In fact, Inisheer has so many walls, and is so small, that the island is said to look like it is draped with a fishing net when seen from afar.




Sitting on the edge of Europe with their backs to the Atlantic Ocean, The Aran Islands are not exactly tropical. The winter is downright miserable, cold and lots of rain. It rains a lot in the summer, too, but not as much, and when the sun shines, the islands are breathtaking. Be prepared for unpredictable, wet weather. There is also a constant wind, as the island are rocky and almost treeless. That said, snow or frost is almost unheard of.



Getting There

By Plane

Aer Arann is the only airline that flies to the Aran Islands, and offers flights to all three of the islands, as well as a new 'scenic flight' option. The flight is from Connemara, and is very fast and comfortable!

By Boat

The only way to get to the Aran Islands other than by plane is by passenger ferry. Keep in mind you cannot bring your own vehicle over, so there is longterm parking at the docks. In order to get to Rossaveal from Galway, there is a chartered bus which you can buy a ticket for at any Aran Direct or Island Ferries outlet in Galway. The bus leaves from in front of Kinlay House Hostel by Eyre Square. These are the three ferry companies:

  • Aran Direct - Aran Direct ferries are owned and operated by islanders, and leave from Rossaveal. They have one ferry going to Inishmore and one ferry going to both Inishmaan and Inisheer.
  • Island Ferries - Island Ferries also leave from Rossaveal, and have one ferry going to Inishmore and one ferry going to both Inishmaan and Inisheer. Their schedules usually match that of Aran Direct.
  • Doolin Ferries - Doolin Ferries operate out of Doolin, which makes it more accessible to Inisheer. A word of advice: they tend to be a tad unreliable, and will often cancel the ferry if they believe they will have bad weather.



Getting Around

See individual island pages:


Accommodation in Aran Islands

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as well as Lavafalls (2%)

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