If you like horse drawn carts and feeling like you have stepped back into another time then you simply must visit the Aran Islands. Located in the middle of the Wild Atlantic Way, you have two options for accessing the Islands; sea or air. We chose the sea route, and got on the ferry from Rossaveal near Galway. If you are short for time we recommend taking an Aran Islands tour with one of the many tour buses waiting to greet you as you leave the boat. Here our our tips for making the most of your Aran Islands tour.
We decided to visit Inishmore which is one of the most popular of the Aran Islands. We left from Galway and hopped on a bus that took us to Rossaveal. From here we got the ferry, and within 45 minutes we were on Inishmore. Admittedly the ferry ride is not all smooth sailing, especially on the day we travelled, we started to realise why it is called the WILD Atlantic Way. Partway through the trip Dave turned an unhealthy shade of green and I developed a newly found fear of boats and the ocean. We did manage to quickly get over it though on arrival.
What to do once you are on the Island
There are a number of ways to see Inishmore. You can rent a bike, travel by horse drawn carriage or get on one of the many tour buses waiting to greet you the moment you step foot on solid ground. Originally we wanted to cycle but the wind and rain (and probably more to the point our overall level of fitness) stopped us. Instead we opted for a bus tour.
Choosing your Aran Islands Tour
As I mentioned above as soon as you step off the boat you will be greeted with a host of people ready to welcome you on their tour bus. Most tours are the same, except for one, Martin’s tour. We first noticed his bus. It’s the one that looks kind of rickety and has the words TAKE THIS BUS written on the back in big letters. We squeezed on board and we are so glad that we did because Martin had the whole bus in stitches laughing. He had a story about everyone and everything and he really provided us with an insight into what life on the Islands is like. The visit to Inishmore was almost worth it just to meet Martin himself. You can read some of the hysterical reviews on Tripadvisor from other passengers.
Stop 1 Dun Aenghus
I should mention what makes the Islands unique is that Irish is the language of choice and English is only really spoken to tourists. It is also harbours a harsh, weather beaten landscape surrounded by a pretty vicious sea which is incredible to witness. Your first stop on the tour is to the main attraction on Inishmore Dun Aenghus. It is an ancient fortress located on a particularly rugged cliff. Unlike the rest of the modern world there are no barriers or fences stopping you from getting too close to the cliffs edge which is really part of the beauty of the place. Just make sure you exercise caution.
The bus pulled in next to the most charming cafe we have ever seen. We parked up next to a horse drawn carriage which is another popular way to see the island.
And so we made our way up to Dun Aenghus. It is a bit of a walk but a beautiful one at that and you get a real taste of the rocky landscape that the island is built on. Reaching the cliffs is incredible, you really could spend all day watching the waves crash against the base.
Where to eat
All that climbing makes for hungry work, so we made our way back down to the bus and stopped off at the quaint cafe for some homemade food. The home made soda bread is a must and a very Irish thing to eat. Some people were also ordering pints of Guinness with their lunch. Although I’m not sure how Irish this really is as in our experience pints are more for the pub in Ireland. We do recommend stopping by the cafe for some food, it is all home made and delicious, and will put you in good stead for the rest of the afternoon.
On with the tour
After having a good feed we clambered back onto the bus and continued with the tour. It was amazing seeing the island sort of conjures up this idea of an Ireland of yesteryear. It was only 1973 when 2 of the 3 islands had electricity! So you can imagine how different life was for people here then mainland Ireland. Driving throught Inishmore you will find it is full of unique farms and white cottages with straw like roofs, it is a real visual feast.
Na Seacht Teampaill (The Seven Churches)
The next stop on the tour is to Na Seacht Teampaill, the site of a graveyard and ruined church. The ruins date back to the 800’s which is amazing when you think about what this site has seen over the years. We had a bit of time to walk around and take photos, in this picturesque location.
Exploring the coastline
One of our final stops on the tour was to one of the islands very rocky beaches. It certainly is very beautiful and scenic. It is also a great reminder of how far from mainland Ireland you really are, when you look out and see only the ocean.
Ending the tour
The tour ends back where it started where the ferry dropped us off. Before leaving the islands we decided to visit the pub, because when in Ireland right?! All in all, we would highly recommend taking a tour around the islands. Whilst bike riding is nice, you do miss out on a lot of information these knowledgable guides have. For instance our guide had spent his whole life on the island and had stories to share about everyone and everything.