The rugged west coast of Ireland is a breathtakingly beautiful part of the world, and the Aran Islands in Co. Galway are genuinely stunning.
If you’re heading to Ireland, the Aran Islands offer some of the most dramatic scenery. Fans of Father Ted might recognise the smallest of the islands, Inis Oirr, from the title sequence of the ever popular TV show (if you’ve never heard of it, look it up, and thank us later). When planning a trip to the Aran Islands, there are some things that any local and international tourists should definitely add to their to do list.
Innishmor (also known as Innis Mor in Gaelic) is the largest island, and the furthest from the mainland. Innish Man (Innis Mean) sits in the middle and Innisheer (or Innis Oirr) is the smallest and is home to the Plassey Shipwreck, also seen in Father Ted.
If you’re wondering which Aran Island to visit, the largest, Innishmor has the most things to see and do. However, Innisheer (Innis Oirr) is smaller but still has lots of iconic scenery. If you’re looking for less tourists, pick the smaller Innis Oirr.
The Galway Tour Company has been organizing trips for travellers looking to explore this wild and windswept region, so these are some of our recommendations for the best things to do in the Aran Islands.
- Rent a bike
The Aran Islands are a great place to experience a real Irish landscape and lifestyle. The islands are still quite pastoral, with lots of live stock and very little car traffic. That said, bikes are the easiest way to get around as it allows travellers to enjoy the open air and to stop off in the many small villages to chat with the friendly locals. You will also experience the island at your own pace as you enjoy the stunning scenery.
Cycle through the island’s narrow roads as you whiz past ancient stone walls, quaint villages, panoramic ocean views and flocks of sheep as well.
- Listen to some Irish language
The Aran islands boast of the highest percentage of native Irish speakers compared to all regions of Ireland. Walk around the Aran villages to enjoy some well-spoken Irish language, even if you don’t understand. If you’re a student of the language, this is definitely one of the best places to come and practice speaking Gaelic.
- Enjoy a meal at the Teach Nan Phaidi
After a hard day riding your bike or enjoying a clifftop walk you’re sure to work up an appetite. Make sure that you take a rest at the village of Kilmurvey on the largest island Innis Mor. It is here that you will find an idyllic Irish café, Teach Nan Phaidi, which serves authentic Irish fare.
- Check out the Worm Hole
If you love swimming, don’t leave the Aran Islands without passing by the Worm Hole. This rectangular shaped pool located a short walk from the Dun Aonghasa fort on Innis Mor is a popular spot for a cooling swim in the summer months. If the tides are high, the pool floods with water. However, if the tides are low, its beauty is a must-see. Depending on the season at which you visit the Island, you can find some used-to locals diving in.
- Listen to some traditional Irish music at Joe Wattys
The islands hold on to a lot of traditional Irish history. Joe Wattys near the ferry docks in Innis Mor is a good spot for some traditional Irish music. It’s one of the most lively bars on the islands, with regular live music, great food and, of course, Guinness on tap.
- Watch the seals
There are several lookout points on Innis Mor between Kilmurvey and Kilronan. From the various stoppage points, you will likely spot some seal colonies enjoying their baths. Wildlife photographers will certainly never get enough of close-range photos from these spots.
- Stroll along the Kilmurvey beach
Before leaving the Islands, ensure that you take some time for a simple stroll along this white-sandy beach. The sand resembles and feels like those from the Caribbean and not Ireland’s west coast. The natural beauty of this area makes it a good place for strolling, hiking, or picnic. On a warm summers day, why not take a swim to cool down. Although, be warned… That Atlantic Ocean never gets that warm!
- Innis Oir
Although it’s small, Innis Oir packs in lots of things to see and do. Check out the Plessey Shipwreck, explore some of the historic sites and ruins and even take a swim on the beach at Caherad. And then, when the sun sets, head to Tigh Ned pub, for food, drink and live music.
How to get to the Aran Islands
The closest international airport is at Shannon, near Limerick, which has good connections to Europe and the USA. You can book your trip to the Aran Islands or other locations in the West of Ireland with The Galway Tour Company.
Find flights to Shannon and the Aran Islands with our handy widget below.