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Exploring Ireland’s West Coast: Travel Guide to the Aran Islands

Aran Islands Ireland - The Traditional Music Shop

My Journey to Ireland

The islands off the west coast of Ireland have captivated travelers with their awe-inspiring beauty for centuries. The three islands off the coast of County Galway, known as the Aran Islands, are no exception. 

As a wanderer, myself, with a make-up of Irish DNA, it’s been a dream destination of mine for a long time. And in June of 2023, I got to fulfill that dream with my partner and experience its old-world beauty and charming allure for myself. In just three weeks, I learned so much about Irish life, both historical and modern, that the day I left for home, I wasn’t ready to leave West Ireland.

See the Place for Yourself

Read on for more details, and for my readers with a heart for imagery, I filmed and photographed all of my favorite places and experiences from the trip, which we’ve included in this video:

The Aran Islands, Ireland

Nestled in Galway Bay, the Aran Islands consist of three rocky isles: Inis Mór (Inishmore), Inis Meáin (Inishmaan), and Inis Oírr (Inisheer). Accessible by ferries departing from the picturesque seaside village of  Doolin in County Clare as well as Rossaveal Harbour, just north of Galway City, these islands have become a sought-after tourist destination for as long as they’ve dotted the horizon.

Inis Mor - Aran Islands Ireland - Cliff Top View Looking Out to Sea
Inis Mór: Aran Islands, Ireland

From Doolin to Inis Mόr

After arriving in Ireland, we made our way to Doolin Pier, which rests on the west shore of the Irish mainland, and hopped aboard Doolin Ferries’ express ferry to the Aran Islands, which stops at all three islands with Inis Mór as the final destination. If you plan to take a ferry during your own Irish adventure, be sure to dress warmly against the wind and cool sea breeze!

Rolling smoothly over choppy waters, we passed by the Cliffs of Moher. An impressive and imposing sheer cliff face as seen from the water, these cliffs loom 702 feet (214 meters) above the sea, waves breaking constantly against their base.

Inis Mor - Aran Islands Ireland - Local Donkeys
Inis Mór – Local Donkeys

Inis Mόr

Finally, we disembarked in Kilronan harbor on Inis Mόr. Once you step foot on the Aran Islands, you’ll feel like you’ve entered a whole new world, far removed from the bustling cities of Ireland. Traditional cottages dotting the landscape and the islands’ remote locale evoke a sense of tranquility and old-world charm.

Inis Mόr, as the larger of the three, is brimming with local history that was fascinating to experience in person. We spent a day touring the island with local guide Cyril Ó Flaithearta. He shared his favorite spots with us, and we visited ancient sites like the Black Fort atop rugged, rocky cliffs.

We felt the wind wildly whipping around us and the historic site of Na Seacht Teampaill (The Seven Churches). There, the Holy Wells stirred a feeling of reverence for all those who walked this land, the pilgrims before us, and even for those who will walk these paths in years to come.

Inis Mor - Aran Islands Ireland- Ancient Church Ruins - 13th Century
Inis Mór – Ancient Church Ruins: 13th Century

Experiencing History for Yourself

Pictured above, the larger and more complete of the two church ruins is St. Breacan’s Church (‘Tempall Bhreacán) which bears the name of a saint that moved to the area in the 5th century.

For those with a penchant for adventure, cycling around the islands offers a fantastic way to soak in the breathtaking scenery. Take in the captivating Kilmurvey Beach, and the notorious colony of seals known in Celtic legend as Selkies. 

Exploring the Aran Islands promises an unforgettable experience. One connecting you with a time gone by and a sense of walking with the ancients. As you traverse these scenic lands, you’ll be immersed in a rich culture, encountering the local language, music, delectable food, and warm hospitality that define the essence of Ireland.

Inis Mor - Aran Islands Ireland - Ivy Growing on a Local Cottage Window
Inis Mór – Ivy Growing on a Local Cottage Window

Planning your own trip?

Whether you seek adventure, cultural immersion, or a peaceful retreat, the Aran Islands have something to offer every traveler. So, the next time you embark on the Wild Atlantic Way, make sure to take a detour to these captivating isles.

Your journey to the Aran Islands will undoubtedly be an enriching and unforgettable experience that will leave you with lasting memories of Ireland’s natural beauty and rich heritage as it was for us.Before you go, Meraki Travels offers free Downloads to help make your next trip easy. Download my free International Packing List so you won’t forget any essentials on your own journey to Ireland, or anywhere else in the world!

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