Wanderlust Journey

Wanderlust Journey

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Visiting the Aran Islands

August 10th · No Comments

The Aran Islands are a series of three islands sitting in Galway Bay.
Inis Mór is the largest and most westerly island, Inis Meáin is the second largest sitting in the middle, and Inis Oírr is the smallest and located closest to Galway. The Aran Islands are best known for their breath taking views and the “Aran Island Sweater.” Within Ireland, the Aran Islands are known as one of the best locations to learn Gaeltacht, the native language to Ireland. Overall, they were my favorite sight during our trip to Ireland, a definite must-see!

Ferry to Aran Islands

The ferry to the Aran Islands is probably the best way to get there, though your other option is to fly, which is a seven minute flight. The ferry costs 25 for adults and 20 if you have a student ID (ISIC cards!), plus an additional 5 to park your car for the day. You might be able to get 10% off the tickets cheaper online here.

I recommend getting there at least half an hour because you might run into a tour bus (or six) and then getting a seat on the ferry could be tougher. At the time we rode it there were two ferries, so the first one left once it was full (which could be earlier than the departure time).

The seas were exceptionally choppy the day we went, so about a dozen people lost their breakfast on the ship. If you aren’t a fan of boats and get seasick easily, take something beforehand and try to get a seat in the rear of the boat where the rocking isn’t as heavy.

Tours on the Aran Islands

We had planned on renting bicycles and biking around the island but it was too windy that day, so we found a tour driver willing to take us around the island for 8 euros each. Originally the tour guide quoted us 10 euros each but we were able to negotiate with him since there were four of us. I don’t know if we happened to go at a low period or if they were really that cheap but prices varied between 8 – 10 euros per person.

For that, our driver took us around the island on a guided tour showing us about a dozen different things and stopping at three places. The first was the Seven Churches (Na Seacht dTeampaill), the second was the Dun Aonghasa, and the third was a spot to see the Seals of Aran (actual seals beaching on the rocks at low tide).

All along the tour he would explain the history of the island, points out some fun facts like where the three schools were, why there were so many rock walls, and other fun facts we wouldn’t have known had we biked around ourselves. If you’re on the fence on what to do, get the guided tour and you’ll be very pleased.

Aran Islands Life

Early life on the island must have been rough. The island is basically a rock upon which the settlers decided to build. They took up whatever they could from the ocean, mostly seaweed, to try to put a layer of dirt. Our guide said that in most places, you had at most 5 – 6 inches of dirt before you hit rock again.

One thing you can’t possibly miss when you go around the island, and many places in Ireland, is that there are a lot of rock walls. That’s because, to help clear a field, they took all the rocks and made walls with them. They weren’t so much concerned with dividing up land as they were just putting the rocks somewhere else!

The island was fun to drive around because it was so small and seemed like a time warp. They had one post office, one bank (open on Wednesdays only), and their only grocery store was a convenience store like 7-11. The area survived entirely on tourism.

Dun Aonghasa

There are several circular forts on the various islands and Dun Aonghasa is one that you’ll be able to visit on Arainn. Tickets cost 3 for students, 5 for adults, and you get access to a circular fortress that overlooks a three hundred foot sheer cliff that goes right into the sea.

It’s absolutely terrifying. The day we went, the wind was gusting so hard it nearly knocked us over, so the prospect of leaning over a 300 foot cliff was really unappealing… but I did it anyway to take a few of these pictures.

Galway Aran Islands Dun Aghonsa

Galway Aran Islands Dun Aonghasa

Martha Peering Over The Cliff

Martha Peering Over The Cliff


Galway Aran Islands Cliff View

Galway Aran Islands Cliff View

Aran Sweaters

The big claim to fame were the Aran sweaters. Spinning and weaving was a big deal on the islands and it is said each family had a pattern. Patterns would build upon each other as families married one another and the patterns were passed from generation to generation. Some of them were really intricate.

We thought about buying some but we were on the front end of a four week vacation so the thought of buying bulky sweaters wasn’t that appealing. You could ship them back home… at a low low price of thirty five euros!

Going Home

If you are ever in Galway, you must make the Aran Islands one of your stops. Ireland has lots of little islands, some in landlocked lakes, and those are probably one of the most famous.

We again took the ferry home and the ride back was much calmer, since the wind was at our back. It was nothing like on the way over, that’s for sure. After a drive back to Galway, we were ready for some dinner. It was perfect weather for some traditional Irish stew. Mmmm… 🙂

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