A Day on the Aran Islands

Ruins of the Seven ChapelsThis summer we took time out for a trip to the Aran Islands off the west coast of Ireland.

There are three islands located off the coast of County Galway — Inis Mor, Inis Mean and Inis Oirr. Inis Mor is the largest of the three and we chose it as our destination because it is the most developed and in a week when the weather looked unreliable we wanted to be able to shelter in a pub for the afternoon if it turned out to be a wet day.

In the event, it was a glorious day of sunshine and a light breeze making for an excellent crossing and pleasant walking conditions.

We stayed in Athlone, about a hour and a half from Galway, the night before the trip. Hotels were much cheaper in Athlone and we got an excellent deal at the Sheraton. From there, we set out at 7.30 am to drive to Galway where we parked in a city centre car park before picking up our ferry tickets. We had booked a bus transfer with the ferry tickets to take the stress out of trying to find the terminal and park there if we were pushed for time. The bus trip was just under an hour travelling through Salthill and on to Spiddal before arriving at Rossaveal for the ferry connection.

We were booked on the 10.30 am sailing on the way out and 4.00 pm on the return. The trip out to Inis Mor was lovely — the ferry was comfortable and the sea was calm. When we arrived at Kilronan — the ferry terminal on Inis Mor — there were coaches and horse-drawn carriages available for hire. We made the mistake of taking one of the minibuses that met the ferry and later realised that we could have picked up a more comfortable tour if we had walked to the tourist office and gone from there. That said, our driver delivered an interesting trip around the island with plenty of chat along the way.

We stopped to see a seal colony before travelling on to the famous Dun Aengus fort where we had almost two hours to take in a walk to the summit and to have some lunch. It was extremely busy when we visited — there was a long queue for the ladies’ room which meant we lost about 20 minutes of our two hours and the upshot of that was that because we prioritised walking up to the fort, we didn’t have time for lunch. The walk was worth it, however, as the views are stunning. Dun Aengus is a stunning prehistoric fort on the edge of a cliff overlooking the broad Atlantic. The walk up to the summit is steep and stony so comfortable walking shoes are a must.

By the time we returned from our walk, it was almost 2.00 pm and our mini-bus driver was waiting to bring us on to the next point of interest — the ruins of the seven chapels where we stopped for a brief wander around and to take some photos. Then it was on to see the cottage used in the filming of Man of Aran and various other landmarks including a brief walk on the beach before we were dropped back to Kilronan at around 3.30.

We were booked to return on the 4.00 pm sailing and were starving having missed both breakfast and lunch but with a long queue already waiting to board the ferry we didn’t risk taking time for a quick coffee — and we were glad we didn’t as we might not have got seats on the rerun if we hadn’t boarded promptly.

By the time we got back to Rossaveal, we were regretting having left the car in Galway. Instead, it straight back on the bus and another hour before, finally, around 6.00 pm we were able to get coffee and a sandwich in Galway.

All in all, it was an enjoyable day out but if I was to do it again, I would definitely bring a pack lunch!