I had no idea what to expect from the Aran Islands, and it turned out to be my favorite part of our Ireland trip. It felt like a mini-vacation within a vacation. Maybe because it’s remote, or because there isn’t much to do once you get there. Maybe because I was chauffeured around the island in a horse-drawn carriage.
Whatever it is, it was awesome. I highly recommend the trip.
The Aran Islands is comprised of three islands that can only be reached by boat. We took a ferry to the largest and most populated of the three, Inis Mor. The ferry leave from Ros a’ Mhíl, about an hour’s drive west of Galway.
With a total population of 840 (many of whom still speak Gaelic), you can really feel Inis Mor’s unspoiled beauty. Until not too long ago, cars were banned on the island – something we heard a lot about from our carriage driver.
The island boasts several interesting, historical sites which you can see by private minibus, rented bicycles, or carriage. The below map is compliments of the Aran Islands website.
Since the weather was cold and windy (and some of us were lazy), we hired a horse-drawn carriage much to the delight of our driver, John, who regaled us with a never-ending stream of stories.
I loved the tour. The island is stunning. Our driver was a comedian, who could not go five minutes without asking us how we were enjoying the tour. (“Is this a live Yelp review?” M asked.) And it was so nice to to sit back, snuggle under a fleece blanket, the Irish air nipping at our faces while we enjoyed the sites.
John took us across the entire length of the island, first along the southern most road, then circling around to the northern edge. As you can see from the above map, there aren’t that many roads, and it’s pretty hard to get lost.
Self-portrait here, with Mark peaking out of the corner.
Our first stop was Dun Aoghasa World Heritage Site, perhaps the most famous site on the island. John dropped us off, and we hiked 20 minutes up a gravel path to the remains of an ancient fort, dated to 1100 BC.
This is how you take a picture of a 300-foot cliff without falling over the edge.
This is what the view looks like from said cliff.
John picked us up at the bottom and showed us the remains of a seventh century church.
As we turned around and rode along the northern edge of the island, we were rewarded with beautiful coastal views, seals in the distance (!), and what counts for a traffic jam on Inis Mor.
I asked John why they built so many stone walls and he told us that the walls served no specific purpose. It was merely a means of clearing the fields of the layers upon layers of rock.
Oh oh… traffic jam. We got an earful from John about the proliferation of motor vehicles on the island.
That night, we slept in one of the small inns on the island (there aren’t that many to choose from) while M and Mark did more than their share of drinking. The next morning, we packed our new Aran sweaters in our suitcases, and took the ferry back to the mainland.
Have you been to the Aran Islans? What are you waiting for?!?!