Aran Islands

Travel Guide Europe Ireland Aran Islands

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Introduction

cliffs on inis mor.

cliffs on inis mor.

© ofthesea

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.

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Geography

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.

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Weather

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.

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Getting There

By Plane

Aer Arann is the only airline that flies to the Aran Islands. You are able to fly from Connemara (NNR) airport to all three of the islands (Inishmor, Inishmaan, Inisheer). Flight time in a region of 7 minutes. The flights can only operate during the hours of daylight hence this reflects the timetable.

The 'scenic flights' can be arranged but need to be booked by contacting the office. Fly south-east to the Co. Clare Coast, along the Cliffs of Moher for the best possible views, then north-west along Galway Bay to see the three Aran Islands including views of the Dun Aengus Fort on Inis Mór before returning to Connemara Airport.

Charter scenic flights also provided taking in the Aran Islands and the Cliffs of Moher. This trip take approximately 35 minutes – 8 passengers maximum.

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.

  • Aran Island Ferries only services that operates all year round to Inishmore, Inishmaan and Inisheer. Sailing is from Rossavell, Co.Galway which is one hour driving from Galway city. The shuttle bus operates from Queens St in the city to the port and need to be pre-booked in advance. Passengers are advised to allow one hour driving time from the City to the Port and must check in ½ an hour prior to sailing time. When using the shuttle bus please check in with their office at 37-39 Forster Street or Kinlay Hostel (ground floor) 1½ hours prior to sailing time.
  • Doolin2ArranFerries operate out of Doolin, Co.Clare to all three islands. Due to difficulties in crossing the sea they operate only from mid-March to end of October. Doolin port can be reached by a car in 1hr 20min or alternatively by a public bus #350 (Galway-Kinvarra-Doolin-Cliffs of Moher-Ennis).
  • Doolin Ferrie Co operate out of Doolin, Co.Clare to all three islands. Doolin port can be reached by a car in 1hr 20min or alternatively by a public bus #350 (Galway-Kinvarra-Doolin-Cliffs of Moher-Ennis).

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Getting Around

See individual island pages:

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Sleep

The Aran Islands have plentiful accommodation options that suit any budget All three Islands (Inis Mór Island, Inis Meáin Island, Inis Oírr Island) have high standard Bed and Breakfasts, Hotels, Hostels as well as Ireland’s newest Glamping & Camping facilities. It is wise to book in advance over the summer months.

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Accommodation in Aran Islands

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This is version 42. Last edited at 10:00 on Feb 18, 19 by ToddP. 5 articles link to this page.

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