6th Stop in Ireland: Inishmore
Updated: Feb 19, 2020
There is something very special about the Aran Islands. There are three islands in total, but I have only ever been to one; Inis Mor (Inishmore).
There are two ways that you can get to the islands- by ferry or by plane. I have done both, and although the plane is quick, the ferry gives you a chance to see each island up close. If you choose to go by boat, some good companies to check out are:
Doolin 2 Aran Ferries if you plan on leaving from Doolin
Aran Island Ferries if you plan on leaving from Galway.
Our plan was to take the ferry from Doolin to Inis Mor, but the bad weather the day prior had caused quite a stir in the ocean. We went to check in and quickly found out that our ferry had been canceled. Luckily, the people working called around and found that Galway was still sending ferries out. We learned that traveling the path southwest from Galway to the Islands was much calmer than traveling northwest from Doolin. The Doolin staff were incredible and not only reimbursed our tickets, but went out of their way to book us new tickets on the Galway ferry.
We had just enough time to drive 1.5 hours north to Galway before boarding our ferry. Although our morning hadn't gone as we planned, the remaining trip went smoothly, and Ash and I arrived on the largest island early afternoon May 10th.
The year-round population of Inis Mor is very small. I have found that I see the same faces each time I come to the island, which is pretty cool and gives you a bit of comfort. Every time I've stayed on the Island, I've booked accommodations with a wonderful family who owns land about a mile in from the main port. The first time I stayed with them, I rented a en-suite room inside of their house, but since it was our special engagement trip, Ash and I wanted more privacy and decided to rent out their chalet home next door. If you plan on staying overnight at Inis Mor please, please, please check out Cliona's place. You can find information on all four of her Airbnb rentals by following this link!
Like my blog post on Doolin, I could spend hours going over each and every thing that can be done on Inis Mor, and let me tell you, we stayed two nights here and still couldn't fit everything in. So I am going to do my best to bullet point all of the things we did (with minor descriptions!) to give you an understanding of each highlight.
Renting Bikes: Unless you plan to walk everywhere, which would be impossible to do in a short period of time, biking is the way to go. You don't need to book bikes ahead of time, there are plenty to rent, but if you are interested in taking a sneak peek check out the place we rented from: Aran Bike Hire. Be aware that these aren't your most "high tech" bicycles, but they will get you from point A to point B.
Dun Aonghasa: One of the best known forts on the island is Dun Aonghasa. The ancient settlement sits on the edge of a cliff that overlooks the crashing waves of the Atlantic Ocean. It is a sort of "explore at your own risk site," so we were able to hang our legs and arms off the edge just long enough for our hearts to race up into our throats. One of my favorite things to do at this fort (on a nice day) is to lay on the grass right outside the inner circle. It is quiet and you have great views of the cliffs in the distance. There is a small fee to visit this site.
The Black Fort: The Black Fort is another ancient stone fort that sits on the same cliff edge as Dun Aonghasa, but it has a very different feel. It is located closer to the main harbor town of Kilronan. We did the first half of the journey by bike, but as the road slowly turned to gravel, and then loose rock, we had to set our bikes aside and continue the journey on foot. The Black Fort is not as preserved as Dun Aonghasa, but the ruins are incredible. There is no cost to visit this fort.
The Worm Hole: Try your best not to get lost when finding this place. Like the forts, the worm hole sits on the cliff side between Dun Aonghasa and the Black Fort. We biked through a small village and parked our bikes by a "do not enter" sign, which we were told was just there for fun and that we should pay no mind to it. We then climbed over massive rock beds while simultaneously looking for little red arrows painted on random stones pointing us in the direction of the site. Slowly, we found our way. The worm hole is well known for its Red Bull cliff diving event that is held every couple years. Divers will stand on the top of the cliff's edge, and then catapult themselves into a small, deep, and perfectly rectangular pool below. We were told to stay away from the pool on the day we went due to the weather (people have been seriously injured hanging out by the pool from incoming waves), so we stayed on the upper level deck and took photos from above. This area also serves as a beautiful spot to grab pictures of Inis Mor's cliff side from below, since the forts only give you the opportunity to see from above. One big recommendation- remember where you parked your bikes. It is incredibly easy to get lost on the way back, and both times I have been here I have had difficulty finding my point of origin. If you are up for the hiking challenge, please visit the worm hole!
Pubs/Restaurants: Ash claims to have eaten the most amazing burger of their entire life while on Inis Mor. I don't eat land meat, so I stuck to the veggies and seafood. The restaurants had amazing selections for us both. Below are a couple of places we recommend-- for food AND music!
Joe Watty's Bar and Restaurant: Here is where to get the burger my friends. This pub is great, and I tend to see the same people here every time I visit. Ash and I sat at the bar and chatted it up with some of the locals who would go in and out of speaking Irish to include us in the conversation. They were incredibly welcoming. The music here is great too, so this definitely is a must-see place.
The Bar: The Bar is right in Kilronan and has some really delicious seafood chowder. It is an old style pub that overlooks the port. A great place to relax and have a pint.
RUA caifé: Ash and I came here for coffee and toasties. The cafe is small and quiet, and I felt myself wanting to just hang out there for its quaint ambiance.
Teach Nan Phaidi: Near the entrance of Dun Aonghasa is a small cohort of shops and a lovely restaurant. We didn't eat here this trip, but I have been a couple of times before. The best thing to order here is a goat cheese salad with lox (smoked salmon). Their Guinness cake is pretty amazing as well.
A few things we didn't have time to see, but I recommend from past visits include the Seven Churches and the lighthouse at Dun Eochaill.
The people living on Inis Mor will welcome you with open arms. When shopping one day in Kilronan, we mentioned to the owner that we had just gotten engaged. His face lit up at the mention of this, and he shook both our hands and said that people on the island love engagements. There was not a time during this trip where we felt out of place being a same sex couple. Between our lodging, the people we chatted with at pubs, and those we met randomly in shops, we felt that the locals were authentically kind and wanted to know about us. I love Inis Mor, and although I want to visit the other two islands at some point, I think the large one will always have a special place in our hearts.
Have you been to the islands? Do you have a favorite, or a recommendation of things to see on the other two? We are always up for learning and would love to hear about your adventures. Drop us a line!
I do ask that this stays a positive and safe space for readers, so please, no hurtful language or remarks about other's experiences. Thank you.